Chapter 36 — The Return of Sgt. Hunt from Afghanistan

January 26, 2012

Sgt. Jared Hunt was laid to rest in Mt. Olive Cemetery in Fremont on Saturday. Jared was the son of Elaine and Dale Hunt. Jared’s wife, Lisa, and children, Chris, ten, and Matthew, seven, who live in San Diego, returned to Walnut Shade for the memorial service. We send our deepest sympathies to Jared’s family and many, many friends.

This has been an interesting winter, to say the least. Miss Cecilia Davenport reported that her weather station recorded a morning low of 9 degrees on Friday and a high of 60 on Sunday. There have been more highs in the 60s in January so far than lows in the 20s. Perhaps we’ll have an early spring.

Eddy Barnett was very happy on Saturday when Mizzou beat Baylor 89 to 88. Jeff said “Big deal. KU beat them 92 to 74 on Monday.” It’s a divided house, but mostly peaceful.

The Main Street/Pride Committee met last Thursday evening. It was the first meeting of the new year and the group began making plans for the monthly events to come in 2012. Sally Oswald says that the committee is particularly excited about working to implement the design guidelines for downtown buildings that were adopted in December.

Daphne Wolfe is enrolling new piano students. She currently has seven second and third-year students and says she can take three first-year learners.

Despite the fact that there has been very little snow this year (except for a couple of storms in early December and that huge one on Christmas eve), Hannah Tucker and Victoria Cramer have been doing very well with their snow-removal business. The girls remind everyone that aching backs can easily be avoided by giving them a call.

Ilene Wick, Anna Brady and Ruth Stanford played Mahjong on Tuesday at Walnut Rest. Lori Mendenhall was unable to join them; she’s had a bad cold for a couple of weeks and didn’t want to passing it along.

The Willing Workers 4-H Club will meet on Saturday morning at the 1st Baptist Church. Members will share a story about their Christmas holiday.

Don Norman has lost five pounds on his new BLTB (Better Let That Be) diet devised by Dorothy. She said she’s thinking of franchising it, though QVC hasn’t called yet.

The Dixieland Stompers will be adding a singer to the group, according to Al Higgs. As soon as Melody Watkins and Jim Fillmore get back from their honeymoon in Bend, Oregon, the quartet will become a quintet and begin practicing for the St.Valentine’s Day Dance at the Elementary School.

Harry Morris is hard at work on planning his art installation, which will be at the Kemper Art Museum in May. He was also contacted by the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha about doing a show sometime in 2014. Harry said he doesn’t think that far ahead, but appreciates the invitation.

Eric Weston is leaving for Vancouver in a week to begin filming three episodes of Rizzoli and Isles. Eric, as you may remember, will be cast as a “criminal impersonator” who actually commits the crimes he’s in the police line-up for. Confusing, right? As they say, stay tuned.

Alvin Begley reports that the VFW will be back open this weekend. The electrical work has been completed and the offending bat that caused all the problems has been given a proper “burial.”

Lillian Reeves, now a member of the Walnut Shade community, is getting settled in her new home with her daughter, Jessica Cunningham and son-in-law, Carl. Quincy, her standard poodle, is having fun meeting the other dogs in town. He’s gotten to visit Dr. Cramer at the vet clinic and Carl has taken Quincy on several trips around town. They appear to be becoming best of friends.

The first round of pesticide certifications was completed at the Extension Center last Thursday and the final day to take the test was today. Nathan Crane reports that everyone in the first group passed with flying colors and they enjoyed a bountiful lunch provided by the Miller County Extension Clubs.

Speaking of Extension Clubs, Inez Harris reminds all members that they will hold their semi-annual meeting next Wednesday. It will be a pot luck and members are encouraged to share something about their just-passed holiday activities.

Inez, are non-members invited to the pot luck? I know the food will be delicious and bountiful, as always. If not, I’ll get a sandwich at Bach’s Lunch and then…

Until next week, I’ll remain…
Your Faithful Correspondent


It’s always a surprise when someone who has been gone for years and years from a place they once called home decides, voluntarily or not, that they want to spend eternity right back there. That’s probably the reason that small town cemeteries often have ten times the population of the town itself. And you can quickly tell the social order of the town by the landscape and architecture of the cemetery. Look for the highest point and you’ll usually find a stately, but often gnarled oak or evergreen or an imposing granite monument announcing the name of the town’s founder or most prominent citizen, surrounded by his or her dearly departed family members. Radiating out from this focal point will be the lesser lights of the community until one comes to the edges of the territory where the denizens of the town find their rest. The hierarchy in a cemetery is sometimes more rigid than that in the living town; there is no flaunting or overcoming one’s circumstance of birth in a burial plot, but when you are just ashes, you can be anyone you want.

The death and funeral of Sgt. Jared Hunt brought to mind for people in Miller County a similar circumstance from almost a century ago, captured in a memorable painting by a local artist, John Steuart Curry, entitled The Return of Private Davis from the Argonne. The painting shows a large gathering of family and friends around the grave of William Davis, a high school friend of Curry’s. Davis was one of the first casualties from Kansas in the trenches of World War I; indeed, he was killed on his first night on the Western Front. Three years after his death, his body was returned to Winchester for burial. Curry started the painting as a memorial to Davis and as a statement about the ambivalence that he, Curry, and so many other Americans felt after the so-called Great War.

Initially, Curry was enthusiastic about the “adventure” that the war in Europe presented, but while he was studying at the Art Institute of Chicago he somehow missed the opportunity to volunteer for service, and by the time his draft number was called, the war was over. As the years beyond the war passed, though, and ominous signs of another war were being felt, he became more skeptical and isolationist in his attitudes. When he went to Europe in 1926 to study in Paris, he visited several cemeteries of American soldiers who had lost their lives in France and Belgium. He also spent time with ex-pats who had stayed in France after the war and probably had long discussions about the meaning of the millions who had died. After a visit to London, where he saw John Singer Sargent’s painting, Gassed, he began making plans to paint a picture that would represent how he felt about the war.

Some of us who went to the interment of Sgt. Hunt were struck by the similarity of the events surrounding his death and that of Pvt. Davis. Like Davis, Jared Hunt was killed on his first day in Afghanistan when the vehicle in which he was riding ran over an IED on the way to his base camp. He and five of his squad members were killed instantly. Because of the remoteness of the base camp, it took nearly a week for all the bodies to be recovered. Sgt. Hunt’s body was not returned to Kansas for five weeks after that, just as Pvt. Davis’ body was delayed in it’s return.
No matter the cause, a death in war is a terrible waste. We all so hope that this conflict will end soon so no more of our family and friends will have to stand shivering around the new graves of their loved ones.


As I mentioned, John Steuart Curry was a local artist, having grown up in Dunavant, just over in Jefferson County. He was well-acquainted with Walnut Shade, having visited many times with his parents who attended many of the “salons” hosted by the Theosophical Society. His artistic skills developed early, as he spent most of his time while here wandering around town, drawing local residents and rural scenes. Over the years, he returned many times to paint and draw, often creating sketches for canvasses he would complete later on. Two of his most famous paintings were based on sketches he did here: Baptism, in 1928, and Tornado Over Kansas, in 1929.
Curry’s parents were quite religious and they were known to follow the revival circuit in northeast Kansas. It was after one of these gatherings that a mass baptism took place on the Dane farm outside of town. Normally, baptisms were performed in a stream or creek, but the summer of 1912 was particularly dry and the revival preacher had to use one of the Dane’s large stock tanks. Curry, then fifteen years old, did a number of drawings of the scene and later referenced these for his painting. Baptism was his break-through paint. It was purchased by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1931 for her Whitney Museum of American Art.

In the summer of 1927, the year after he return from Europe, Curry was staying with his sister, Mildred Steuart Fike, in Walnut Shade for a couple of weeks and it was here that he witnessed the tornado that leveled her neighbor’s farm. Tornadoes are a common spring and summer occurrence around here, but that one, certainly, is one of the most famous of all, perhaps second only to the one Dorothy experienced.


Last summer, Hannah Tucker and Victoria Cramer started a lawn-mowing business to earn money for 4-H camp. It was amusing to see the boys in town making fun of the two girls doing what has usually been their job, but Hannah and Victoria have been so much more successful than the boys because of the attention they pay to their work. The boys around here see mowing lawns as a get-it-done-as-fast-as-you-can kind of operation. No matter that they sometimes cut down a few flowers that somehow get in the way or miss a couple of spots in the front yard that are painfully obvious to anyone who happens to be passing by. The girls, on the other hand, take care to edge the flower beds and sidewalks, rake up the clippings and put them in the compost bins that everyone in town has in their back yards, and not charge extra for mowing in neat, straight lines. The boys seem to love to mow in any direction that strikes their fancy, figure eights, being a preferred pattern, it seems.

Toward the end of the summer, the girls had lined up so many yards to mow that they had to put on help, moving partly from labor to management. They hired a couple of the more reliable boys to do a few yards, but when school started in the fall, the boys turned their attention to football. By then, though, the mowing was easing up and fall cleanup was starting. Walnut Shade, as you can imagine, has lots of trees and where there are lots of tree, there are lots of leaves. Hannah’s dad decided to buy one of those riding mowers that doubles as a vacuum and mulcher, so some of the leaf cleanup got a little easier (truth be told, Fred Tucker didn’t buy the riding mower/vacuum/mulcher just for Hannah; he had been trying to talk Sandra into letting him buy one for a couple of years, but the Tucker/Cramer mowing business presented the perfect excuse, so Sandra couldn’t really say “no”).

Through October and November, the girls were very busy after school and on week-ends. Their experience with trying to hire the boys taught them that they should be more selective in picking their “employees” so they added a couple of other girls to their working crew, which turned out to be just the right number. By Thanksgiving, they had practically cleaned every leaf from every yard in town and were ready to take a break until spring when another opportunity presented itself: eight inches of snow the first week in December. People who had had their yards mowed and leaves picked up began calling Hannah and Vicky to come shovel their walks and driveways. Hannah wasn’t sure she wanted to get into that game since there were lots of school activities going on, but her dad and Dr. Cramer came up with a solution. Fred was able to mount a blade on the front of the mower/vacuum/mulcher and Dr. Cramer invested in a snowblower, so the girls went to work clearing the snow from one customer after another. Mind you, these were smallish jobs for those older residents who didn’t want to get out on the snow-covered sidewalks on the off chance that they might fall and break a hip. But the girls did them cheerfully and expertly. Not a speck of snow was left when they finished.

I admire the resourcefulness and entrepreneurial spirit of Hannah and Vicky. I just hope the boys in town have taken notice. The girls are now too busy to shovel my walk.

About stclairc

Abstract artist, photographer, writer
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