Irl Shutts, Barber County, Kansas Barber County, Kansas.  

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Irl Shutts

A Few Stories He Told to David Massey


"I wish some of Irl's children or grandchildren could have recorded some of his stories, or myself for that matter. Irl lived to be over a 100, maintained a very keen mind, and loved to tell stories about his youth and especially his Uncle Louie Bissantz. He was neighbors to the East and gave me a lot of time after my dad died as his children were all grown. We spent a lot of time visiting, just wish my memory was as good as his." -- David Massey, email to Jerry Ferrin, 1 May 2006.

Mr. Shmidl's Cattle, Bulldog and New Steer

Irl used to like to tell the stories of when he was young and when the country was young and there wasn't but a few years difference between the birth of Sun City and his birth.

In the early 1900's the country was starting to mature a little, most of it was fenced, about all of the land that was tillable was broken out and the ranchers were improving their herds by introducing better breeding stock. Tommy Taylor an English rancher between Sun and Belvidere had imported some registered Herefords, Joe Gant down around Forest City had brought in some top Shorthorns and I am sure there were more who I do not remember. Some of the old ways did exist however; and there was considerable cattle rustling that eventually went away (literally).

One of the reasons Irl's stories were so funny was his ability to mimic the voice of the characters in the story. This story involves his uncle Louie Bissantz who emigrated from Bavaria and Mr. Shmidl who emigrated from Bohemia via Pratt County. The year this happened was probably around 1910 or 11.

Irl was courting his bride to be Althea Clawson who lived up close to Kling. The road to Kling-Belvidere ran pretty close to the North side of the river at that time and was just a wagon road. Irl would take this road and it went pretty close to Mr. Shmidl's who had a bull dog that was very territorial. The big old dog would try to get up in the saddle with Irl each time he would ride by and his old horse would turn it into a rodeo. This happened a time or two and his old horse got so skittish and Irl got so spooked the next time he went calling he took his little old hand gun sure enough when he was going by he got attacked. Some how he got a shot off and hit the onery old dog right between the eyes.

Apparently about this same time Mr. Shmidls bull had gone up the road aways and got in with a cow herd that was being upgraded, the rancher didn't think the visiting bull would be much of an improvement and sent him home as a steer. Also Mr. Shmidl's cow herd was shrinking proportionatly to the increase in his neighbors herd (not only Mr. Shmidl's but most if not all the ranchers between Sun and Belvidere.) I finally got all the background and now the story.

Mr. Shmidl came to town to do some trading at Louie's and the conversation went something like this:

"How chew lak dis kohntry pie now, Mr. Shmeedel?" "Nod too gute Mr. Bissantz." "Vas de madder Mr. Shmeedel? "Everyting, first somepoty steals all de tamn cows in de country, den somepoty shoots my tamn pull-dog, and den somepody cuts my chersey pull."

End of story. I'm afraid that is one of those stories that must be oral to be appreciated or funny, but it was sure funny to me as Irl told it. I never knew either Louie or Mr. Shmidl. However Mr. Shmidl's children Ed and Kitty were our neighbors until they sold the farm when I was about 17 I guess. Kitty was also my 8th grade teacher, and I doubt if there was a better teacher that ever taught.


Sam Helton, Louie Bissantz and the Cougar

E-mail: Kim Fowles & David Massey, 27 Oct 2005:

Kim Fowles: This page has photos of the Natural Bridge. Did you guys ever go there?

David Massey: Yes, we sure did, Kim. It was one of those places that you visited so regularly that you don't remember the first time. After you got to be high school age I think the Natural Bridge and Hell's Half-Acre were some of the more favored places to go to take snap-shots with your Kodaks (Brownies).

One other place the high school boys would oft times go was to Havard's cave. It was no place for girls 'cause you had to be real brave to go into them (because after you got inside it was more like a series of caves.) The tough part was the entrance as you had to lower yourself down into a sink-hole finally get yourself flat on your stomach and wiggle yourself in for several feet, then it would open up and finally you could stand up. It was fairly spacious and don't remember how big it was now, but I'm sure it was a lot less than I remember it. The first fellow that entered it had to have had nerves of steel as there is very little wiggle room at the beginning and its not easy to wiggle backwards if you met something that did not welcome you.

Sam Helton.  Photo courtesy of Beth Larkin Davis.


At left: Sam Helton. Photo courtesy of Beth Larkin Davis.

One of the oft told stories of the older guys was the story of Sam Helton, Louie Bissantz and the Cougar.

Irl Shutts told it to me last and he was a good story teller. Although Louie was a merchant, his heart's desire was to be a cowboy, or a hunter, trapper or most anything romantic. Sam hunted and trapped and Louie ever bothered Sam to take him with him to hunt coyotes, bob-cats and sometimes wolves or cougars.

There had been a cougar in the area and Sam had been hunting him, finally allowing Louie to accompany him. Sam tracked the Cougar to Havard's cave and determined to go in and check it out (that was a fellow with more than his share of nerve). Louie posted himself on the surface at the top of the sink-hole to shoot the critter if he got by Sam.

Sure enough that sucker was in there and Sam shot him right at the bottom of the hole and in his death throes the cat lept straight up Louie was so startled he fell over on his back and shot straight up in the air (this was the story according to Sam). The story according to Louie was that Sam went in, spooked him, took a shot at him, missed, the critter jumped out and Louie said "Pie Chinks, I shot the sonofapitch".


David Massey's Memories of Tull Balding

Hello, Jerry,

I didn't know much about Tull, nor did I hear people talk much about his early life. I knew his nickname was Skeeter but I never heard anyone call him anything but Tull. He died when I was in the 1st grade and I do remember going to his funeral. My first memory of him was when he was living in the bunk-house at Irl Shutts'. I sat on the steps while he was braiding a nose band for a latigo and he explained to me what he was doing, so I know he was nice to little boys. I visited with Irl (his nephew) a lot and I don't recall of Irl ever telling any stories about him. I always suspected that he may not have shared a lot about his life in prison and before. I sure enjoy all of your hard work and pull up both the Barber and Comanche county pages regularly.

Thanks again,
David Massey.

-- E-mail from David Massey to Jerry Ferrin, 6 Jan 2008.


Also see:

The Natural Bridge near Sun City, Barber County, Kansas
Photos courtesy of Brenda McLain, Kim Fowles and the Kansas Geological Society.


Thanks to David Massey for contributing the above recollections to this web site!

This RootsWeb website is being created by Jerry Ferrin with the able assistance of many Contributors. Your comments, suggestions and contributions of historical information and photographs to this site are welcome. Please sign the Guest Book. This page was created 7 May 2006 and last updated 6 Jan 2008.