"Shooting an anvil" on the 4th of Julyby Wendel Ferrin, written July 9, 1989.
At left: Wendel Gene Ferrin of Wilmore, Comanche County, Kansas, circa 1939 at about 12 years of age.
Elsewhere in my book, I'm sure I have mentioned 4th of July celebrations in Comanche County, Kansas, and where my family went for the day. I don't remember the dates, but I know that I was very small when we went to the Mac L Park northeast of Belvidere, Kansas, in Kiowa County, for a 4th of July picnic that was held annually there.
I have heard all my life of "shooting an anvil", but that was the only time I ever witnessed, or rather, heard it. At the time, the difference between a July 4th celebration and a BIG July 4th celebration was the shooting of an anvil. Dad made a special effort to get us kids to this particular celebration because the practice was dying out at that time because of the danger to those who actually shot it off from flying shrapnel and damage to everyone's ears.
I don't know just how they shot an anvil but I do know that every anvil had a hollow place in the bottom that was left from casting it. Somehow they put dynamite in this hole and detonated it from as large a distance as possible, no doubt by using a fuse. I know that those who detonated it protected themselves by being in a ditch or behind a dirt bank. The sound was not only of a very loud explosion but also a very distinct ringing sound. It could be heard for several miles. At the time people weren't accustomed to loud noises such as jet planes and the sound barrier being broken.
Mac L Park was on the NE side of the Medicine River and a short distance NW of the bridge across the river. It was privately owned but open to the public. I believe the rancher's name was MacLane (thus the Mac L) but I am not sure. The park was fenced and the gate opening onto the county road (at that time Kansas State 160) had a sign over it with the name "Mac L Park" painted on it. There were good fishing spots within the park. It also had rest rooms, several picnic tables, a teeter totter (see-saw) and a merry-go-round.
I think the owner must have died in the 1930s because by the 1940s the park was closed.
-- From Wendel Gene Ferrin: Life Stories, page 82, privately published, 1991.
Marion Francis McLain was the founder of the McLain Roundup rodeo in Sun City.
McLain's Round-Up, Sun City, Kansas, July 8-9-10:
Big Barber Co. Attraction Announces Entry of World Famous Performers.
Barber County Index, June 25, 1938.
McLain Roundup photos by Homer Venters
Courtesy of his great-nephew, Mike Venters.
McLain's Roundup: The Memories of Joe Massey From the collection of Brenda McLain, courtesy of Kim Fowles.
Sometimes, though, the end of the rodeo wasn't the end of the excitement for local people, such as when Alva Trummel of Comanche County was kidnapped by Bonnie and Clyde while he was headed home from the "Sun City Rodeo":
Alva Trummel Kidnapped By Bandits, The Western Star, September 8, 1933.
This web page was added to this site by Jerry Ferrin on July 4th, 2002. It was last updated 28 August 2005.