Little Tragedies of the Prairie, by William V. Jackson, Comanche County, Kansas Hosted by RootsWeb, the oldest & largest FREE genealogical site. Click here to visit RootsWeb.
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The Western Star, August 18, 1933.

Just A Thinking

Little Tragedies of the Prairie

By W.V. Jackson

William V. Jackson
At left: William V. Jackson

Life is such a queer, elusive thing that most of us fail to see much of it as we go through it. We love to read stories of adventure, or rather, maybe one should say that we did until the movies came, and now we really can't take the time to read the story in a book, but would rather just see a little outline of the most dramatic events of the tale, not being interested in anything that does not bring a keen thrill to our feelings. There are still some of us who like to take our thrills in smaller doses, knowing that the ones we take are real life. There are many of these all about us, if we only care to look for them.

Not far from Coldwater on one of the roads leading to the city is a quaint little house that has been home for many years to a fine old couple of Comanche's pioneers. They were, industrious folks, whose small family grew to manhood and womanhood and went out to homes of their own many years ago. Now the burden of labor and of many long years has made these folks almost unable to care for their daily wants, and the various things that make so many of our farmers trouble have made it impossible for these fine old people to pay the debt on their home and soon it will pass to other ownership. I never pass that way but that I wonder how they fare and if they will get to live out their remaining days in their old home. I am so thankful that they still have each other, for they have had a long and beautiful journey together.

If you like to make up little romances of your own, there are many "texts" along our roads to give you a theme. All you need is to fill in the details. You will hardly be able to make them more pathetic or heartbreaking than were the originals, that lie buried under the mound that formed the crumbling walls of an abandoned home of the early days of our county.

Here and there, where the water is not too far down. You see stately groves of cottonwoods; in other places, a row of them along the road. Most often, just a twisted, broken little cedar, bravely trying to keep green the memory of those who planted it. Nearby, you will see a shallow depression, all rounded now and grassed over, but it tells of hopes that once burned brightly in the hearts of some young couple or in the breast of some young man as he visioned a home for his sweetheart from some eastern state. What happened to break the dream, few, if any, know. Whether they lived here for many years fighting the dry weather and hard times, as their faces lost the freshness of youth, the once smiling lips became marked by the cruel lines of pain and hope deferred, of which it is truly said, "Maketh the heart sick," or if some other turn of the wheel of fortune caused them to seek elsewhere for their happiness, who knows?

My I tell you of one of the cases that happened near here? Where the Nescatunga, coming down from the north, strikes the ledge of rock at the foot of the ridge and is turned east, some big flood of long-gone days washed out a hole and formed a near little lakelet. When I first knew it, 48 years ago, it was about thirty feet deep, but later filled in some. The water was clear, good and had lots of fish in it. I think it must have been this pond that induced Mr. Gard and his wife to settle there, for the quarter section of land on the north edge of which this pond was located, is totally unfit for cultivation, save a small strip west of the pond, in the bottom. This strip of land they put in good cultivation, planting it in garden stuff. They must have had experience in this line, for the work showed skill, but like the rest of us, he did not know the climate.

There was a large room partly dug back into the bank, and all built and roofed with the tough wire grass sod of the bottom land. Mr. Gard, a large, raw-boned man of about fifty years, was so deaf that we could hardly talk to him, and for that reason the neighbors learned very little about them.

When a teacher was needed for the new school, the lady made application, and her papers being good, she was hired, at $25 per month. A little later, the district clerk having moved away, some one had to be appointed in his place and it was in that way that I first saw the lady. I was batching in a sod house just north of my preemption, about a half mile from where these folks lived. Near the evening of one day I was surprised to hear a woman's voice calling to me. Going to the door, I saw a rather small young woman standing well back from the door, holding by the hand a little chap. Refusing my invitation to come in, she asked me to write her an order for her months' wages. When written, bringing it to hand to her, I had a look at her face. She looked so clean, the voice showed culture, the whole face expressed intelligence, but the eyes were so expressive of courage, yet of fear, likely because of the, to her, unheard of job of having to call on an utter stranger. That face and the rather uncouth figure of the much older husband were often in my thought, wondering, as you have often done, how such combination can come about.

Like many of the other settlers, they lost their team. They learned that a living could not be made by growing garden stuff in a country where no one had money to buy the things drouth and hail left them. The crowning sorrow came in the death of a babe. The grave was made on a sandy knoll south of the house. There, under the scant shade of the sage brush, the little form still sleeps.

Mr. Gard broke his four milk cows to work like oxen. After this, they put all their household stuff in the wagon and started east, leaving the land to the holder of the mortgage, for which they received little more than enough to pay Uncle Sam for the claim. Many times when riding by that little lone grave, I have tho't of how it must have grieved that little mother''s heart to leave that grave.

W. V. JACKSON.


Also see:

William V. Jackson: Life Sketches of Comanche-co. Pioneers;
Some of Their Struggles and Early-day Experiences.
The Western Star, May 9, 1924.

Comanche-co's Eleven County Treasurers
The Western Star, February 4, 1927.

Comanche County in the State Legislature
A Few Facts About the Men Who Have Represented This County in Topeka

The Western Star, January 7, 1927.

James W. Dappert: Reminiscences of Early Days in Comanche-co.
The Western Star, January 15, 1926.


Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above "Pioneer" news article and image to this web site and to Bobbi Huck for the Diamond Jubilee photos and memorial.

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