Scott State Park, Kansas

Out of Oakley a little ways is the Scott State Park, It’s very picturesque, but camping fees were exorbitant. We looked around, took some photos, and headed on down the highway.

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DSC_0020Summer is waning and the cooler nights and bugs are taking their toll on the flowers. The butterflies are still enjoying them, though.

As we are heading out toward Hwy 83 to continue our journey south toward Liberal I spy some turkeys crossing the road and making their way up the hill alongside the road.

Charlie’s never seen a turkey, at least not one this close! He’s very intent, isn’t he?DSC_0030

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DSC_0028Welcome new readers! Thanks for stopping by.

A Family Tragedy Revealed

After staying three days in Karrer Park—a free campsite with electricity and showers [although the showers were FILTHY]—we leave McCook, Nebraska for Benkelman. I have been wanting to get to Benkelman ever since I dug up confirmed information that my grandmother died here. She took her own life and no one in the family would talk about it. Now that all those who knew anything have passed it’s become kind of an obsession with me, this quest to find out why.

Burger, The Chiweenie Brothers, and I arrive on a Sunday. I stop to photograph the welcome sign and immediately someone stops behind me to ask if I need help. Everyone waves! Such a friendly little town of 900+.
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I steer Freedom into the heart of this little burg and locate the newspaper office. Of course, being a Sunday they are not open, but I now know just where to go tomorrow morning. I am not holding out much hope, but you never know. I want—need—to knock on this door and if it doesn’t open, so be it, but I have to try.
We find a place to park for the night at a little city park, the Ward Bond Memorial Park honoring the late actor Ward Bond who was born here in Benkelman. Anyone remember the television show Wagon Train? It’s lovely and the dogs enjoy the lush green grass.
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Evening brings wind, fluffy clouds that soon turn menacing, and then a light show off in the distance. Which I did not get a photo of, cowering on the bed like I was, but it soon passes and I fall into a fitful sleep. DSC_0006
Up early filled with anticipation and a knowledge that today I will either find some answers or the doors to my grandmother’s death will be closed to me, at least during this lifetime.
I take a slightly different way to the center of town and find the courthouse, famous for being the building that led the powers that be to decide on claiming Benkelman as the county seat. It was also where they took my grandmother’s body for the autopsy and preparation for burial in her hometown of Hastings. This I did not know when I took the photo. I just thought it was a wonderful old brick building and enjoyed reading the history of it from Benkelman’s website,  HERE. This little town has an interesting past.

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The Benkelman Post is in the heart of town, and I push the door open with so many mixed emotions. I ask the young man who comes to the counter if this newspaper was in publication in the 1930s and if they have kept the papers archived in some way. He says yes to both questions.
I tell him what I am seeking but that I only know the year of my grandmother’s death, not the exact date. He doesn’t seem to mind that I am asking him to go through an entire year of weekly papers, papers that are bound into large books. He retreats to the back of the office and comes out carrying one of these large books and proceeds to meticulously look through it.
It is hard waiting; it seems like it is taking forever, time dragging, almost at a standstill. As he gets closer to the back of the book and the end of the year I feel the dread of learning nothing start to envelope me. As soon as that feeling tries to take root the young man begins to take the book’s cover apart and he pulls out a sheet of newsprint. “There’s something there?” I ask, barely able to speak. “Yes,” he says and tells me he will make me a copy. I can barely hold back the tears threatening to spill out onto the counter. There’s something in the paper! I can hardly believe it.
He hands me the copy, I pay for it, and just glance at the headline. Not wanting to read it in front of anyone, I thank the young man for his help and his kindness and I almost run back to the van. I read the headline Woman Stranger Takes Own life Here Monday (so she didn’t know anyone here!) and just part of the first paragraph of the first column and I cannot read any more.
My mind on the fact I finally have some answers I start the van, back Freedom out of the space, and point her nose toward St Francis, KS. Or so I thought. Thirty miles later I realize from the road sign that I have gone in the wrong direction!!
After backtracking the thirty miles I am back at Benkelman and take the correct road,

DSC_0012arriving in St Francis and their town park behind the fire department. I take the boys on a quick walk, stake them out, and read the article.

If this had been published now and not in 1932 it would have warranted no more than an inch or two of space, a mere announcement or just a death notice not the two columns, almost a half-page of the account of my grandmother arriving in Benkelman, Nebraska intent on ending her life. Small town newspapers!

She arrived in Benkelman, procured a hotel room for 50 cents (they found she had 12 cents left to her name after renting her room), washed out her hosiery and changed her clothes, neatly arranging her meager belongings, drank two bottles of strychnine that had been bought in Utah, and lied down on the bed to die an agonizing death.

They surmised that she had hitchhiked to Nebraska from California as she had done it once before, and because the bus and train schedules didn’t coincide with her arrival. She had been seen in town earlier in the day. She had been identified by a post card she had with her, thus they were able, through law enforcement to track down family in Hastings, who in turn were able to contact my grandfather in California. He informed the authorities that he had no means or funds to come get the body nor to bury her.

It was disclosed by family who arrived from Hastings to transport her body back there for burial that she had mental issues and had been a patient at a mental facility at one time in Nebraska and also once in California.

There’s more, but I will leave it at that. It was—coming to Benkelman—the reason I am in this part of Nebraska and a big part of the beginning of my gypsy life, not to burden readers with this family tragedy.
Hugs, Shawna

It Was Bound to Happen …

Sooner or later. Breakdowns happen. Although I can’t really count it as a ‘breakdown’ because Freedom still runs, she needs to have a repair done. Leaving Cambridge, headed toward McCook the little battery icon on the dashboard comes on; we park at Walmart for the night. Wally’s good for an overnight if there’s nothing else available at the moment. They’re usually not real peaceful, but this one has a lot of dragsters using the parking lot in the wee morning hours. Sheesh!

I had sent out a plea before calling it a day to a good friend asking if her husband could tell me how to use a voltmeter. His excellent instructions written down, the next morning I do the testing and the alternator is showing on the low side. He recommends I have it looked at, so that’s what I do.

The nice mechanic, Spencer, at Doyle’s Auto Repair tests the load on the alternator and it is only putting out about 9 volts, a new one was ordered, and he will install it with only a day’s wait.

We move to a little free campground, Karrer Park, this one also with electricity. It is nothing compared to Cambridge’s McKinley Park, but we are grateful for it.

Wednesday morning dawns bright and beautiful, and we head to Doyle’s to get the alternator installed. Afterwards a stop at Wally to stock up on groceries.

I meet a lady, Brenda, who I thought was living in her vehicle. It turns out she IS living in her vehicle, but only temporarily. She is in the process of moving to a new life in Colorado. She had planned on staying in Wally’s lot,  but after we talked a bit I told her about Karrer and she followed me back thrilled not to have to stay overnight at Walmart. She wanted a shower in the worst way and was delighted when I told her Karrer had one. Filthy, but the water’s hot. Her fur baby, Fugley, is just adorable and dang if I forgot to take a picture of him; a rescue with issues of his own.

On one of the long walks in the grassy area that the boys and I take we meet a cute fluffy little girl and her human, a man from Montreal living in a van touring the United States. White fluffy dog was not too thrilled with my hooligan hounds! No photos! I didn’t bring my camera on my walk. Not doing too well in the picture department this go ’round am I?

Leery of driving the van except for necessity I didn’t venture out to explore McCook, so no photos in that regard either. In a few days Burger, The Chiweenie Brothers, and I will head southwest and see if we can locate any information regarding my grandmother.

As always, thanks for stopping by 2Dogs!  We appreciate your coming along on our grand adventure. Hugs, Shawna

CURRENT READ: To Kill a Mockingbird –  re-reading this classic by Harper Lee

WHAT’S IN THE NIGHT SKY?  October 5th brings us our full moon,  the Harvest Moon. Also this first week of October look for Venus and Mars in the east about 90 minutes before sunrise. You may need binoculars to see hazy red Mars. October 7th the Draconid meteors put in an appearance.

Can’t Get Enough of Cambridge

 

Hello! It appears, in my haste to get down the road and see what’s around the next corner, I failed to notice I had some additional pictures of McKinley Park and the little Nebraska town of Cambridge still in my camera. I will correct that now!

This Bed and Breakfast would be a charming place to stay, wouldn’t it?

Some additional shots of the beautiful Nebraska Arboretum Extension in McKinley Park

This little red squirrel was curious about what we were doing wiping down the van.

DSC_0009 (1)I had moved the van to take advantage of a little more shade and evidently parked directly under a buzzard roost.  Yep, they let loose over night and there was a mess to clean up.  LOL

I missed the majority of the flock as they flew out of the tree to catch the warming thermals. By the time I had dashed inside to grab the camera most had glided behind some trees.

We moved to the other side of the park and spend the next couple days inside when a storm blows through. Burger enjoyed napping and wondering if it would ever let up.

Thank you Cambridge Chamber of Commerce for allowing us extra time to enjoy your lovely little town.  I truly hope we can come back some day and say hello again.

We’re heading further west. Have a great weekend, and as always, thanks for being a 2Dogs reader!
Hugs, Shawna