A Patchwork of Memories

Book's Cover

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JEAN DUNCAN

I had a rich heritage of relatives, that loved and supported one another. My ancestors were English, German, French, Sauk and Fox Indian. Our family lived in the small town of Gower, Missouri; where my father was middle man for the production of Kansas City steaks. He bought Texas steers, and fattened them for the market on our farm.

Being the middle child, my brother was two years older and my sister six years younger. We had all the usual joys and jealousies of growing up in a farm family. Our mother, was an assertive woman who never gave up until she got what she thought was best for us.

<withheld information on child and grandchildren>

I taught school for about 30 years in Missouri and Kansas. Later I worked in the auditing department of Skelly Oil in Kansas City. Since 1972 I have sold real estate and finally retired in 1978. I joined the 9 to 5 Club at Southminster. I enjoy yoga, bridge, art, swimming, guitar, sewing, Bible study and church activities. My hope for the future is to paint a picture that pleases me. Most of all I want to be a blessing to others, especially my family.

THE ROUGH RIDERS CLUB

By Jean Duncan

"It's down to 13 degrees this morning kids," Dad commented. "I'd take you to school but that car wouldn't crank with 10 tea kettles of boiling water today, I'll get the horse ready a little early. Be sure to wear all your warm clothes. And Bill, as you come by the confectionary tonight, stop and ask them to send a Sundae up to Rosie. She was really helpful last night with that call we made about shipping the cattle to Chicago."

"Daddy, what's a Sundae"? "That's all right, Emma Jean, it's ice cream, in a big dish all fixed up pretty. I'm sure Rosie would appreciate the thought. She sits up there by herself all day answering everyone's stupid questions. "What's the time Rosie?" "Do you know when that church social is, Rosie?" She is always accomodating, not crabby like that Plattsburg central operator."

A few minutes and lots of groans later Bill and I jogged off on old Dan. Farm kids did have a way of finding some fun even along with the pain of tingling fingers and frost bitten ears. Our fun was the Rough Riders Club. Teddy Roosevelt had a club of riders to help him over tuberculosis and maybe that's where the name originated. In my early school days my brother and I rode horseback 3 1/2 miles to the town of Gower. We rode Dan, a very special bay horse with a nice smooth gait. On the coldest mornings I had to button on black velvet leggings and wear over-shoes. Sometimes we sat on an Indian blanket and wrapped it around our legs. Although Dan did have an even gait, being behind Bill didn't leave much in the way of control of my comfort, other than screaming when I got a "side-ache". The main aid to changing gaits was using a switch stripped from a young tree. This helped get Dan in gear, especially when we saw other club members on the next hill. We rode a mile before there was a chance to overtake other riders.

After passing the first mail boxes, we passed a small frame house where the Roark family lived. They came from Tennessee and were so poor they had no transportation, not even a horse. At the top of the hill beyond their house the club dug holes in the cliff and left messages for each other. This helped us to know whether we must hurry or slow-up to get with the group. Sometimes we had 8 or 10 riders and had to "space" to let passing cars go by. As we came into town our horses hoofs would "click-clack" loudly, as we rode on the pavement. On special occasions we'd ride by the drug and stationery store to pick up school supplies. One time I stretched the privilege too far and bought typing paper instead of a Big Chief Tablet. That didn't work out so well when Dad got the bill.

From the string of stores each rider went his separate way. A barn was rented for the horse to stay at all day. My Dad was thoughtful as he rented a barn very close to the school. I was so cold and numb by then that I couldn't walk straight, and my freshly starched dress was pleated in all the wrong places. From the barn I would hurry on to school with my book satchel with lunch wrapped in newspaper. On especially cold days we could buy cocoa to drink. It was supplied by the Home Economics class.

At the end of the day we would try to regroup to make the ride home go faster. Sometimes the older boys and girls would show-off by galloping ahead. We usually saved an apple or an orange from lunch as a snack. In the spring we would have a treat from Aunt Martha's rhubarb patch that grew around the barn.

After a few years I had a pony of my own called Buster. All the school children wanted a turn to ride home with me after school. One day Patty Wren announced she was going home with me and I didn't know how to handle that, since she wasn't even invited. My Mother was surprised to see her and her mother was even more surprised when she called home!

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