My husband was born in a house built by his grandfather on a large homesteaded wheat farm in western Kansas. If the walls of that house could talk, what wonderful stories they could tell.
His grandmother was Scotch/Irish and a tiny little thing in stature, though she is reputed to have had a fiery personality and hair-trigger temper. She, her husband and little daughter moved from Indiana to western Kansas in 1883, leaving behind a son in his eternal rest.
Grandpa was adventurous and when he heard about the opportunities in the west, he took his horse and wagon and rode on a railroad car to where the rails ran out in Anthony, Kansas. His wife and daughter had gone ahead via passenger train and the family reunited there. With the wagon, horse and a borrowed one, they traveled on trails requiring them to ford rivers and creeks with all their possessions. They lived in a sod house about three-fourths of a mile north of the splendid farm house he eventually built. The house still stands today, occupied by his descendants. Family legend says the weeds outside the sod house were taller than grandma and she had to pick bugs off her small child every night. Hearing such stories, it is not surprising the tiny lady had a red-hot and quick temper.
In July 1884 Grandpa homesteaded one hundred and sixty acres that is still part of the much larger Zortman farm of today. There isn’t a lot of excitement around the farm right now, but let me tell you about the day when there was plenty of action with Grandma right in the middle of it.
On June 8, 1893 Grandma was cooking the noon meal for her husband, sons and field workers when the Dalton gang rode into the yard. They spotted the nearby barn and put their horses inside it, leaving one member to tend to them. They walked across the short distance to the house and entered it, telling Grandma they wanted food. She told them the men would be in from the fields shortly and she would feed them at that time. However, they didn’t hesitate to make it clear that was not going to happen and they would have their food right then and there. She fed them.
When they finished their meal, they returned to the barn and sent the lone man in to also be fed. When his hunger was sated, they saddled up and rode off to Cimarron, Kansas where they robbed a train. Following that, they retraced their trail, riding hard and fast past the farm while Grandpa and a neighbor man happened to be standing outside in the yard. They did not bother to acknowledge the two men, wave or stop to talk and appeared to be in a tremendous hurry with their horse hooves kicking up dust and gravel as they rode by.
When Grandpa and the neighbor later heard about the train robbery, the neighbor is said to have remarked, “I had my big 50, if I’d a known what they’d done, they’d never have made it out of Kansas.”
I’ve never heard how Grandma felt after all of this happened, but were it me, there would be a twelve-gauge shotgun by my side and a substantial pistol in my apron whenever I cooked lunch.
I hope you enjoyed this true story and that you’ll check out my books at http://www.amazon.com/author/jackietaylorzortman. My latest book is GHOSTED: Book Four in The Drifter Series at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B08DJCB74H.