Walnut Shade’s Gambling Problem

Chapter 8

All the News from Walnut Shade, KS
July 21, 2011

The Willing Workers 4-H Club met on Tuesday night to review progress on entries for the county fair.  Jody Webster, the county 4-H agent, said she was very pleased that there will be entries in public speaking, photography, technology, fashion, dog, cat and rabbit shows, and small livestock.  The fair will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday, August 25 to 27, at the fairgrounds in Fremont.

Pam and Bill Heath went to Fremont on Sunday afternoon with Ron and Jody Tyler.  After lunch at the Pioneer, they saw “Larry Crowne” at the Empire Theater.  Jody reports that it is a “sweet movie”; Bill and Ron’s review was less than favorable since they thought the couples were going to see “Horrible Bosses.”

Bill Heath met with Ron Worth about constructing a “water retention structure” (aka fishing pond) on his farm.  Preliminary plans were approved and they will be submitted to the SCS board at its August meeting.

Phyllis Dane reports that the Miller County Master Gardeners are planning to hold their fall garden tour at various sites in Tahoma Township this year, though most of the gardens will be in Walnut Shade.  This year’s theme is “Contemplation” and gardeners have been creating spaces that encourage quiet meditation.  St. Brendan’s Parish House garden and the Reflection garden at St. Stephen’s will be featured on the tour.  Tickets will be available from Master Gardeners and at Ryan’s Garden shop in late August.  The tour will be Friday, September 30 and Saturday, October 1.

Ruth Stanford finished piecing the quilt for her great-granddaughter Elizabeth.  The Women’s Guild at St. Stephen’s will do the final quilting for Ruth, who will be starting another project soon.  She just received news that her grandson Richard and wife Elizabeth are expecting a baby in January.  Congratulations to Ruth.

St. Brendan’s will hold a pie auction on Sunday, August 7th.  Pies will be made by the youth of the parish and the maker of the pie that goes for the highest amount will win an iPod, donated by the Stop and Go.

The Prairie View Extension Club met at the Extension office in Fremont on Monday along with other clubs in the county for their annual lunch and business meeting.  Inez Harris presided at the meeting and new officers for 2012-2013 were elected.  Inez will continue as president, with Bernice Warren from the Evening Star club as vice president; Barbara Turner from the McDougal Home Arts club was elected secretary; Judy Brown, representing Spring River Homemakers, was selected to be treasurer; and, Millie Warren from the Longwood Leaders club was elected historian and parliamentarian.  After the business meeting, members worked on slippers for the hospital.

Mayor Combs is back at work after his bout with the flu.  He encourages everyone to come to the Town Council meeting on August 1st to discuss the proposed increase in membership fees for the Walnut Shade Volunteer Fire Department.

Arlene Cornet and Sandy Cramer had lunch with Rev. Derby on Monday to talk about plans for the fall festival at St. Stephen’s.  Glenda Singleton will also serve on the planning committee with Arlene and Sandy.

Alice Amory, Dorothy Westover, and Anna Mae Bundy spent Saturday helping Phyllis Dane re-shelve books at the Library.  Last week, a group of genealogists from the Community of Christ Church in Independence were in town doing research in the archives at the Library and Museum.

Helen Baker and Lorene Hanson visited with Dorothy Norman after the Extension Club meeting in Fremont.  Dorothy sprained her ankle at Mass Saturday evening and was not able to attend.  Dorothy has knitted twenty pairs of slippers for the hospital.

Barb Wilson, Marie Green and Sarah Brown went to St. Joseph on Tuesday to do some “shopping” but they were not very lucky in their “purchases.”

Well, here’s wishing you good luck, and…

Until next week, I remain
Your Faithful Correspondent

“Shopping” has become a euphemism in Walnut Shade for going to St. Joseph or Kansas City to visit the casinos.  Everyone in town knows what “shopping” means and gives a sly little grin when someone uses the word, but folks are still just a bit shy about admitting that they are going to go gamble.  Perhaps it’s because no one is very successful at it, or maybe they feel guilty about the way they treated the Ryans when they had a run of good fortune and won $400,000 at Blackjack.   At first, everyone seemed happy for them, congratulating them on their skill at cards.  But after a while, some people began to resent the fact that the Ryans were able to pay off their mortgage, buy a new pickup, and settle their bill at Tractor Sales and Service.  According to a few of their neighbors, the Ryans started to get “uppity” and after a while, the gossip about Sherry having a gambling problem got to them and they moved to Atchison, which just seemed to reinforce the “gambling problem” notion (closer to St. Joe, you know).  At any rate, “shopping” trips are now limited among Walnut Shadites and the results, whatever they might be, are greatly downplayed.

All of this is rather curious, given the fact that Walnut Shade was essentially founded by “gamblers” in the sense that the folks who passed through here on the Oregon and Mormon Trails were taking a big gamble on their futures.  On the other hand, perhaps the ones who decided to stay rather than head on west were not, at heart, the gamblers in the bunch; they were the ones who decided to play it relatively safe and stay close to edge of the frontier.  The ancestors of the Bradfords, Danes, Greens and Ruth Stanford probably wouldn’t say that what they were doing in 1847 was playing it safe, given that life on the edge of the frontier was more a matter of surviving than of thriving.  Francis Parkman, in “The Oregon Trail:  Sketches of Prairie and Rocky Mountain Life” gave a good description of the day-to-day challenges faced not only  by those on the journey but those who supported the travel.  For example, his sketch of the town of Westport, now part of Kansas City, is particularly enlightening and hilarious: “Whiskey, by the way, circulated more freely in Westport than is altogether safe in a place where every man carries a loaded pistol in his pocket.”

Walnut Shade emerged from the spot along the trail, in what would become Miller County, where the wagon trains stopped for the night, to rest, eat, pray, feed oxen, mules and horses and decided whether they would proceed any further.  Most did, but a few decided that where they were at that particular place in time was where they should be.  Thus, the first permanent residents of the future Walnut Shade were Henry and Violet Dane, Rev. Jeremiah and Rebecca Stanford, and Franklin Bradford.  Henry Dane had been a blacksmith in St. Louis and he quickly found his skills in demand by the emigrants whose wagons, though sturdily built, always needed a variety of repairs during the long trip west.  The blacksmith shop he opened thrived and he eventually became a wealthy man, a cornerstone of the town.

Franklin Bradford was only seventeen when he made the decision to stay behind when the rest of his family left with the wagon train.  Franklin had not been happy when he learned that his family was pulling up stakes in Arrow Rock, Missouri to head to Oregon.  A budding artist, he had been apprenticed in Arrow Rock to George Caleb Bingham and was planning to travel with the Bingham family to St. Louis in 1848 to continue his work and studies there.  Franklin’s father insisted that he join the family on their journey west instead, but by the time they reached Kansas, he had made himself so unliked among the other travelers that his father relented and left Franklin in the care of Jeremiah and Rebecca Stanford, who had already decided that they were not going farther than what was becoming a settlement on the banks of the Little Blue River.

The Stanfords were neighbors of the Bradfords in Arrow Rock and Franklin grew up with the Stanford children.  Jeremiah was the minister of the Arrow Rock Disciples Church and believed that he had been called to be a missionary in the west.  Soon after the family join the other emigrants from Boone, Cooper, Howard and Saline Counties in central Missouri, Rebecca became ill and they thought that they were going to have to return to Arrow Rock.  But by the time they reached Independence, she had regained her strength and they continued on with the other travelers.  Her health deteriorated again shortly after they left Independence and when they reached the future Walnut Shade, Rev. Stanford concluded that they should stay and build a church there to minister to the people heading west.  So the town was created by a blacksmith and a preacher.  And a teenaged painter.

Over the years, the site of Henry Dane’s blacksmith shop was occupied by a stable (used unofficially by Pony Express riders from St. Joseph), then a Ford dealership, a used car lot, and finally by the Stop and Go, a convenience store where you can buy gas, auto parts, pizza, sub sandwiches and milk, rent DVDs and purchase a lottery ticket.  Of course, the lottery is not considered gambling by residents of Walnut Shade, since the money the state collects supposedly goes into education.  It’s a good thing the schools aren’t teaching the odds on winning the lottery or there wouldn’t be as many tickets sold each week.  So far, there haven’t been any winners at the Stop and Go.  Probably just as well; they’d have to move to Atchison.

About stclairc

Abstract artist, photographer, writer
This entry was posted in Art, Dada, Observations, Serendipity, Small Town Life. Bookmark the permalink.

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