Practical Jokes & Backfired Actions, Barber County, Kansas Barber County, Kansas.  

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Practical Jokes & Backfired Actions

Heh, heh, heh... What the...? Uuugh!  HEY!!!

A few stories from Barber County, Kansas

by Nate Massey and David Massey


"How Unc's Neighbor Got A New Mule" by David Massey

Marion McClain of Sun City, Kansas

Photo courtesy of Ruth Ann (Lott) Edwards. No one was a better neighbor than Uncle Marion McLain and he had a lot of them. The way his place laid he joined six or possibly seven different land owners and each set of fences were unique. There is an old adage that says "Good fences make good neighbors" which is pretty accurate. There was no one who had a better fence than Unc's who joined him, he just wouldn't let it happen. All his fences were five wire minimum, but if his neighbor had a five wire fence, with posts every 16 feet, Unc's posts would be 12 feet apart. You get the picture.

The following story was one I grew up with and don't really know when I heard it the first time. Unc had a neighbor who had one breechy mule. He was a critter who just wanted to be on the other side of the fence and, no matter how tight the fence was, he would patiently lean on it until he stretched it out and/or popped the staples, thus freeing himself to go over to Unc's to eat. Unc had talked to his neighbor about it but apparently the neighbor felt like the mule was just a little too good to trade off. After a little of this, every time Unc saw that mule, he would squall at him to get his attention and get him headed in the right direction, then he would shoot him in the hind-quarters with birdshot from his old double barrel. This would send him home and Unc would have someone fix the fence. This worked for a while but then every time the old mule would see Unc's vehicle leave, he would be right back on Unc's land and stay until he saw him return.

I don't know how long this went on but as Unc wasn't the most patient guy in the world it may have been a pretty short time. This particular day Unc had gone somewhere and after a little while here comes "Old Mule". Cousin Max (McLain), who was about 10 or 12 years old, and Cousin Joe (Massey) were about the place doing what young guys do when Old Mule shows. Max, being in charge, steps in the bunk house, picks up the double barrel and was going to give Joe a demonstration of how Unc sends Old Mule home. Max checks his weapon, all loaded, squalls at the mule just like his dad but the mule just looks at him instead of heading for home. Big mistake: Max fires and Old Mule goes down - hard. Second big mistake: someone else had been using the shot gun and replaced the bird shot with double 00 buckshot, and old Max had done got him a mule. Well, the mule finally was able to get up and tried to go home. He made it a ways before he ran out of blood and that's where Unc found him when he got home.

When Max and Joe were re-telling the story the last time we were together, they verified every thing. After Max had shot the mule, Joe said he thought of a lot of reasons he ought to go home and left old Max to face Unc alone. When Unc finally got home Max had already died a thousand deaths. He just shut his eyes when he saw his dad drive up and just hoped what ever happened would be quick. Unc squalled at him and wanted to know what happened to that mule. Max said he had been trying all afternoon to think of a good like and nothing would would so he just told him the truth. He said Unc just looked at him a little bit and said "I guess that thick-hided S.O.B. won't tear up another fence". He then loaded old Max up and took him to the neighbor's to apologize and told the neighbor to come over and pick out one of his mules to replace him.

(Unc was trading in horses and mules quite a lot and never got too attached to any of them except his personal riding horse.)

-- E-mail from David Massey to Jerry Ferrin, 4 June 2008.


"Bus and the Hobo" by David Massey

Marion McClain of Sun City, Kansas

Photo courtesy of Ruth Ann (Lott) Edwards. I was browsing the Comanche and Barber county sites, which always triggers many old memories, and noticed there was nothing on Uncle Marion McLain among the practical jokers and jokees. In my memory he had to have been one of the most prolific. He literally made a science of it and would spare no time or expense in manufacturing one, and even more when it came to a pay back. Though he would spend a lot of time in thinking of one, there were occasions when an opportunity would just fall in his lap. If you had a weakness or fear, it was "Katy, bar the door", because he had you. The story I am going to try to tell would be much funnier if you knew the times, the characters and if it was told with the skill of someone like your dad, Jerry. This story is one of the favorites of two of my cousins, Max McLain and Joe Massey, who could make a story come to life.

The time was in the early 30's right in the midst of the depression when there were more people without work than there were working. We were also in the middle of the drouth which compounded the problems everyone was experiencing. Hardly a day passed when there wasn't a hobo that stepped off the train, or just come walking up the tracks, and would stop and beg for enough work for a meal. Most people I knew would share what food they had, let them chop some wood or let them some some kind of little chore so they could save some of their pride. However, there were some that wouldn't and would run them off with the shotgun. Uncle Marion was an enigma, he was pretty onery but be wouldn't let anyone go hungry. I wouldn't guess how many full time hands that he had working for him that were working for board, room and Bull Durham during those times.

Unc lived about a mile and a half south of town I guess, and his neighbor and friend from youth lived between his place and Sun, his name was "Bus" Saunders. Bus had a reputation of being very frugal, maybe obessively so, and naturally Unc would exploit that trait any time he would pull something on him. Bus did have one indulgence in that both he and Unc would open up the care eery morning, drink some coffee and catch up on any news that had happened since they had closed the cafe the night before.

As Bus was tieing his horse up in front of the cafe this moring there was a hobo that had spent the night in someone's barn and was on the road again. He stopped Bus and asked him if he had any work that he could do for a meal; Bus never hesitated for a minute: "I sure do" (and don't you know that poor guy just knew Bus was going to take him inside and buy him a breakfast). "I'm not going to feed you here, but you walk out to my place and tell Bill, the cook, to give you some breakfast and I will be along in a little while to line you out with something to do." Bus gives him directions to the place, and introduces himself as Mr. McLain, "but people usually call me Mac". He went on to tell him that the hands would have already eaten but that was no problem (They ate at 4:00 a.m.).

Things were a little slow this morning and Unc was running a little late getting to town. As he was riding by the house he saw someone eating at the table, so he yells at Bill (Easlick) and asks him who he was feeding. Bill, who wasn't much of a talker, said "I don't know, some guy who said "Mr. McLain sent him in for breakfast and that you'd be by and give him something to do after while." That got Unc to scratching his head so he went in and introduced himself. Naturally the poor guy thought he was going to be killed or worse, and tried to explain, apologize, go to jail or whatever it took to make things right. Unc assured him he was in no trouble, but asked what this fellow looked like that introduced himself as Mr. McLain. Aha, Unc's friend Bus! Unc just sat there with this long, sad face going "Tsk, tsk". He then explains to the bum that Bus was the village idiot and oft times thought he was someone else, today he just happened to be Mr. Mclain. Unc told Bill to sack up the rest of the biscuits and whatever else they had for the man and got up to go.

By this time the hobo thought that Unc was surely an angel and was begging for something to do in repayment. Unc thought for a long time, and said, "I guess I have one little job over at my other place. I'll just ride over there and show you what I have." Well, Bus had a granary with several 100 bushel bins in it, two of the bins next to each other had his seed wheat and seed Kafir corn in them. I suppose 20-25 bushels each, maybe more. He explains that he was just going to use that grain for hog feed and if the would just scoop all the grain into one bin and mix it good they would be even. Now the man was kissing Unc's ring, bowing and nearly in tears for his good fortune. Unc wished the man God speed and started to leave but hesitated for a minute and said if "Mr. McLain" should show up and start raving, just ignore him.

"Gotcha", the hobo said, and Unc rode on into town, 2 hours late, but it had been a busy morning. He walked in the cafe, apologized for being late, and started talking about all the troubles and break downs they had this morning, "Just one of those days", a little coffee sounded pretty good. (As an aside, Unc drank his coffee out of a saucer, and it sounded like he really enjoyed it.) He kept talking about everything under the sun, never mentioning the hobo. Finally Bus could stand it no longer and asked if he had a guest for breakfast. Unc thought a little bit and said "No, don't think there was anyone there that wasn't there yesterday. I guess I did visit a little bit with the fellow you hired to clean out your granary."

It was Bus' turn to start asking for a description of his 'hired hand' but before Unc got done Bus was heading for his old pony like his shirt tail was on fire. Unc followed him home (along with everyone else in teh cafe) and there he found Bus screaming at the top of his lungs while the tramp appeared not to hear a thing but continued to finish his job.

Unc watched for awhile and then went over and asked Bus if something was wrong and offered to help in any way he could. Bus was speechless by now and was in mourning over his monetary loss. Unc was offering all kinds of good advice like calling the Sheriff or possibly instigating a civil suit against the hobo, etc, etc. By now Bus had no interest in living and was seeing and hearing nothing; Unc gave "the hired man" a thumbs up and a wave good bye, patted Bus on the shoulder and told him if there was anything he could do to let him know.

Unc let Bus grieve for a couple of weeks and then traded him some seed for his "hog feed". did Bus accuse Unc of this dastardly deed or retaliate with another joke? Probably not for awhile anyway.

-- E-mail from David Massey to Jerry Ferrin, 9 Jan 2008.


Anecdotes about Ralph Massey and Reverend Woods

"Dad was 26 and Mom was 23 when they were married by Rev. J.P. Woods in the Sun City Baptist Church. Dad was pretty ornery and one Sunday morning he had slipped a deck of cards into J.P.'s top coat pocket handkerchief. Usually about half way through his hell and damnation sermon he would whip out the handkee to wipe the sweat off his brow and when he did the cards come flying out all over the alter, and naturally cards were the handy work of the devil!!!!!! Woods calmly picked the cards and stated to the congregation that it was evident that Ralph Massey was present today.

Old preach got even with Dad on the wedding day (1916) by jacking the rear wheels of Dad's and Mom's get away car up so that it wouldn't move and the crowd gave them a gala shower of all sorts of produce and other items I guess."

-- Nate Massey, July 2005.


Nate Massey's Memories re: Lyle Bullock

He could sure drop off into lala land in a hurry when playing cards. Lyle wasn't too fond of domestic household games.

He acquired his gimpy leg by breaking it roping goats at Belvedere with the Easlic boys, naturally on Sunday so our grandma's Ella B. (Ella Bird Van Horn Lott) and Artha L.(Artha Lee Van Horn Massey)said it served him right for roping on Sunday.

Dad (Ralph Massey) got Lyle in trouble one time though. About 3 or 4 people in Sun had 1928 Chevy cars of the same model and color, Dad and Lyle being two of them. Lyle was mail carrier and returned from his route about 4:00 p.m. everyday.

There was a family by the name of Williams that lived east of Hully Hosses, north of Gregories, whose matriarch was pretty well endowed with football playing capabilities both in the physical and mental attributes and the vocabulary of a mules skinner. She drove one of the old model cars that you couldn't see out the rear view mirror. Well on this particular day she was heading west on Main Street to the Ora Adams’ corner which was a pure 90 degree turn with the option of going on west into a wheat field up and over about a 3 foot rise. Ralph came up behind her and started pushing her at a rate where she couldn't make the corner and ended up out in Monty's (Monte Ward) wheat field pretty well mired down in the sandy soil.

After several minutes she was able to get back on the street and promptly returned to the loafing benches in front of the old hardware where the usual spectators and loafers were sitting and walked straight up to dad and addressed him in a completely unladylike manner and threatened to stomp his rear quarters into the Sun City landscape. Well, Ralph calmed her down and let her know he would never do a thing like that and she had mistaken his car for little short Lyle Bullock’s, who had just then pulled up and parked.

Mrs. Williams stomped over and caught Lyle just as he emerged out of his car and recited 4 verses of a Calvary SSgt. requiem to a team of mules and lifted him off the ground about 6 inches to her eye level and shook him like a rag doll until she got tired. Lyle had a natural stutter anyway and never got to prove his innocence. I don't think he ever knew who set him up.

This was probably one of the least exciting of the Sun City recreation happenings.

-- Nate Massey, July 2005.


Ralph Massey's Car Trouble

Our dad, Ralph Massey, was a really fun guy who could take a joke as well as play them and someone was always trying to one up him. I was just barely 13 when he died so most of his antics I have heard rather than witnessed.

One of my favorites was told me by our neighbor, Frank Harrington.

The year was about 1932 or 1933, and Dad had come to Sun to do a little trading. He had all three of us boys with him. I was about 2 or 3 and the boys were about 7 and 9, maybe a little more. I don't know what kind of a car we had then, we had a 29 Chevy which is the first car I can remember, could have been it.

Anyway the old car apparently wasn't in tip-top shape. While we were all in the store dads friends (?) put one of those super car bombs on his old car. You know the kind: a real spark-plug buster, that howled, screamed, smoked and fimally exploded. Everyone in town was in on it and was waiting for the big moment.

Dad was a big strong guy so could really spin the crank. Starting the car was kind of a two person operation apparently, so he set the controls all up for one of the boys and he started to crank. The big old bomb done everything it was supposed to and took a long time doing it. Dad just stepped back and said "whoa", tipped his hat back, and never even opened the hood. Finally someone came out and said "Whats the matter with her, Ralph?"

Dad says "I don't know but I've been looking for that to happen for a long time. Come on boys, let's go get the team and drag her home."

Don't know what the rest of the story was but that was about as excited as he usually got and sounded about right.

-- David Massey, 6 August 2005.


A Ride in a Cat Wagon at Sun City, Kansas

One practical joke I recall is about a man in Sun City who bought a friend of his a "ride" in a cat wagon, waited until his friend and the professional were engaged, then he and another man drug the wagon down the main street of Sun City at full speed and unhooked it - some say overturned it - in front of the friend's mother's house. Of course, they were squalling at the top of their lungs to make sure everyone was awake. Honest, Jerry, that practical joker was merciless.

-- E-mail from David Massey to Jerry Ferrin, 2008.


Also see:

The Story of Mr. Shmidl's Cattle, Bulldog and New Steer
as told to David Massey by Irl Shutts

Recollections of the Past - The Festive Buffalo - Chapter 1
(A buffalo hunt that backfired.)

Practical Jokes and Backfired Actions: A Few Stories from Comanche County, Kansas

Court Back In The Old Days
(A humorous dismissal of a divorce case in District Court, 21 April 1885.)
Barber County Index, February 4, 1937.

Barber County's first newspaper had 'Sticky' beginnings
From www.cyberlodg.com.


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