Friday, September 27, 2019

Winnie #3

Zoe, Vanessa, and Winnie still lived in the small apartment above the bookstore. Winnie slept in a makeshift room that doubled as a living room. It was an odd arrangement but they could neither afford to move or really wanted to move. Winnie woke up to the sound of the television. She sat up and saw an image of an apartment building surrounded by tenants and firefighters.

“What happened?” she yawned.

“Good morning. Another apartment fire. Like what happened at Heather and her family’s. An elderly man died trying to evacuate,” Zoe replied.

“Someone died?” Winnie repeated. “I need to do something,” she said when she was talking to Heather about it.

“What can you do? We don’t have any idea who this person is, why they’re doing it, or where they’ll strike next. If they even strike again,” Heather said. “People on the news said whoever is doing this might stop now that they’ve killed someone. Like this was all a prank that now’s gone too far.”

“A man dies and officials treat it like it’s the end?” Winnie asked. “That’s not right. Someone died and even if this arsonist doesn’t set anymore fire, they still need to be brought to justice.”

“I agree but, again, what can you do?”

In world geography, Savannah was helping Seonna with her classwork. They were working on a worksheet where they had to fill in the blanks from the textbook and selected websites. “Why were you late this morning?” Savannah asked.

“What? Oh. Nothing,” Seonna awkwardly replied. “I just overslept.”

“You’re quiet today,” Savannah said. “Your head also seems to be elsewhere.”

“I’m fine. It’s just the assignment,” Seonna said.

“We’re basically copying and pasting from the book or computer about population density,” Savannah smiled. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Seonna snapped. “Let’s just finish this.”

“Okay. Sorry.”

They went back to work but a couple minutes later, one of the assistant principals came into the room. “I need to see Seonna Toomey,” he said.

Seonna was away from class for the rest of the period and the next one. When Savannah passed by between periods she glanced into the assistant principal’s office and saw Seonna with two policemen. She stared for a few seconds then walked away worried. She saw Seonna again at lunch but Seonna refused to talk about what went on in the office.

At work, near closing time, Savannah was sweeping the floor while Seonna was wiping down the counter. “You need to talk about what happened today,” Savannah said. “It’s eating you up.”

“It’s not. I’m fine.”

“Seonna, I’m your friend. Tell me what’s wrong. You can tell me anything. I won’t tell anyone.”

“It’s about my sister, Allie,” Seonna revealed. Seonna had a younger sister, Alliezandra, who went by Allie. She was eleven and had just started middle school. “She’s been having problems with one of her teachers,” Seonna began.

“What’s going on?” Savannah could tell it was serious by the way Seonna lowered her head as she spoke.

“One of her teachers has been molesting her. According to Allie, he’s done it three times. I know I should’ve just told my grandmother or aunt but I was angry. I went to the middle school and waited for him in the parking lot. He got out of his car and I jumped. I beat the shit out of him. I wanted to stomp his head into the pavement. I beat him up then ran off to school. That’s why I was late,” Seonna explained.

“At least it was for a good reason,” Savannah chuckled. She was now behind the counter with Seonna and put an arm lovingly around her and held her hand. “So what was with the police? Did you report him or…?”

“The son of bitch pressed charges on me,” Seonna said. “The police were at school to arrest me. I had to explain to them that he was sexually assaulting my 11-year-old sister. They were going to go back to question him again and told me not to go anywhere. I haven’t seen them since.”

“You were defending your sister,” Savannah said. “I’m sorry that happened. I wish I could do something.”

“It’s not your fault. It feels good to tell someone. I feel better,” Seonna looked at Savannah. “Thanks,” she smiled. Savannah held Seonna tighter as they looked at each other. Savannah kept from kissing her, hugged her one last time and then went back to sweeping the floor while Seonna continuing cleaning the counter before moving on to the tables.

An hour after Zoe and Vanessa went to bed, Winnie dressed in black pants and a purple shirt, headed downstairs, opened the security gate and left the store, making sure to lock the door behind her. She began wandering the neighborhood and looking out for any suspicious people and while she saw plenty, none were wanting to set fire to anything.

Winnie checked out any siren that she heard, running through the streets and alleys only to come across a police car or ambulance. At two in the morning, she sat down on a bus bench and waited. For thirty minutes she sat and tried to focus on what few people were still out. She then began walking, down one street then up another creating a kind of staircase with her movements. She came across a man also dressed for sneaking around in the dark. He was muttering to himself but she couldn’t make out any words because he was too far away and was wearing a mask, like what people wear during flu season or in heavily polluted cities, over his mouth and nose.

She followed him at a distance and watched him go into an apartment building. It was about three o’clock. She waited right outside, watching the windows to see if one came on. When one didn’t after a minute, she swore at herself and ran into the building. The man was still on the first floor and was fiddling with something inside of the paper bag he was carrying.

“Stop,” Winnie said.

The man looked at her. “No, no. Can’t stop now. Have some business to finish,” he babbled, casually chuckling between each word.

“You don’t have to do this,” she said, walking slowly toward him.

“The voices say that I do,” he said. “Burn. Burn the sinners. Burn them all.”

“You’re not a killer. That man was just an accident. Right? A tragic accident.”

“Tried to send a message. No one listened. Man died. Everyone listening now.”

“How do you know these people are sinners?” she asked, still approaching and trying to buy time. “Have you ever met them?”

“We are all sinners,” he sighed. “Me. You.” He looked down dejectedly then pulled a Molotov cocktail out of the paper bag. “We are undeserving of His love and for that we must be punished.”

He held up a lighter and prepared to light the rag that was sticking out of the bottle. Winnie jumped at him, hand extended. “No!” she shouted and crashed into him, bringing him to the ground. The bottle shattered, spilling gasoline onto the floor, but the lighter fell harmlessly to the floor. Sitting on top of the man, Winnie slapped her hand on his forehead. He babbled a bit more and then seemed to go to sleep.

His eyes then opened and he was surprised to see this young girl sitting on top of him. Her blue and hazel eyes looking down at him with just a hint of a smile as she realized that his mind was now clear. “What the hell?”

“I don’t know,” Winnie said, standing up. “You tell me.”

“I’ve been in such a fog over the last week or so,” the man rubbed his head. “What’s going on?”

Winnie explained and the man could barely hold himself up. He leaned against the wall for support and then had to go outside for air. “We need to call the police,” Winnie finished up.

The man nodded. “Why was I like that?” he asked.

“You just had some demons inside you,” she shrugged.

“And you just knocked them out of me?” he smiled at her.

“I guess so.”

A police car dropped Winnie off at the store where Zoe and Vanessa were angrily waiting. The police had called them to let them know that their daughter caught the arsonist—after sneaking out of the house and wandering the city for four hours. The three of them went back upstairs where Zoe took the lead in the parenting.

“What were you thinking? You could’ve been hurt,” she exclaimed.

“I wanted to help. And I did. I caught him and I saved him.”

“You can’t go sneaking out at night to do things like that,” Zoe said. “We got that call from the police and we were so worried.”

“Worried about what? No one is after me anymore and I’m basically Jesus Christ. I can…do things,” Winnie said. “I cured that man of demons. I can perform miracles,” Winnie smiled big but neither Zoe or Vanessa were smiling back.

“So what are we going to do?” Zoe asked.

“What do you mean?” Winnie asked.

“Do we ground you or…?”

“I think we should sleep on it,” Vanessa spoke up. “It’s late. We have school and a book store to work at tomorrow. Besides, what is this going to get us? Our daughter is special and she actually wants to use those powers for good. You can’t even say that, Zoe.”

Zoe was hurt by that comment. She had laid herself bare last year, owning up to all the bad things that she had done. “You always have kept me grounded,” Zoe said to Vanessa. “No more sneaking out. If you want to help with something then tell us. We’ll trust you. Fair?” she asked Winnie.

“Fair,” Winnie nodded.

“Fair?” Zoe looked at Vanessa, who smiled and nodded at her. “Let’s go back to bed.”

Monday, September 23, 2019

Dr. Eva Harding and the Children's Park

Eva Harding was born September 13, 1857 in Springfield, Ohio. She was educated in Lafayette, Indiana and graduated from Iowa University and Purdue University, where she was one of the first students. She became a homeopathic doctor from Hahnemann Medical College in Chicago. She came to Kansas after graduating from Hahnemann, first settling in Atchison before coming to Topeka in 1892. It was here where she became a huge advocate for children, not just in Topeka but the entire state. Dr. Harding would travel the state visiting children's homes and orphanages and submit a report to legislators.

While she was known for things big and small, her biggest protest was on the Selective Service Act of 1917. She and a group of other like-minded individuals held a protest in the Unitarian Church in May of 1917. The protests even went so far as to try to convince men not to sign up for selective service. For this, Dr. Harding and several others were charged in federal court. When testifying, Dr. Harding argued that the draft law was illegal and harmed children by forcing the removal of their parents. Essentially, that if the man is away fighting in wars, then the mothers usually had to work outside the home leaving the children to fend for themselves. Dr. Harding and her followers lost the case, though weren't punished either, and selective service remained--and remains--the law of the land.

In 1901, Dr. Harding joined Carrie Nation on one of her "hatchitations" across Topeka where they destroyed at least four saloons before Nation was arrested. But upon her release just hours later, they smashed up two more including a hidden bar in a livery stable. Nation was arrested again shortly after. In 1905, Dr. Harding suggested that all Kansas schoolchildren be uniformed so that there is no differentiation between rich kids and poor kids. Despite saying that there was a Kansas Senator going to introduce the bill, it never was and the name of the senator was ever given. In 1915, Dr. Harding would announce her candidacy for Congress (advert ticket shown above), representing the First Congressional District of Kansas as a Democrat. (The First District, at that time, consisted of Nemaha, Brown, Doniphan, Jackson, Atchison, Leaveworth, and Shawnee counties. There were seven other districts.) She argued that "women are needed in public office" and that the inefficiency of men emboldened her to run for office. Harding would lost the nomination to then-Topeka mayor H.J. Corwine, who would lose the general election to Daniel Read Anthony, Jr. who would represent the 1st from 1907 to 1929 after Charles Curtis was elected to the Senate.

In 1916, Dr. Harding went to the Kansas legislature to demand that Dr. H.W. Charles be removed as superintendent of the Boys Industrial School in Topeka alleging abuse, inhumane conditions, and inefficiency. A committee was appointed to investigate but found no evidence of what Dr. Harding cited. When Harding couldn't produce the names of the witnesses she got her information from, the case was tossed out.

In 1919, her health started going downhill and she was confined to her home in College Hill. In June 1920, Dr. Harding announced her candidacy for U.S. Senate under the Socialist ticket despite being mostly confined to her bed. Sadly, we'll never know how much of the vote she would siphon off from Republican candidate Charles Curtis as she died barely a month later on July 27.

Dr. Harding's funeral was a simple affair with her lying in state and most people just giving statements of her work and friendships. She was interred in Rochester Cemetery in north Topeka in section 2. In keeping with her simple lifestyle, Dr. Harding has no stone.

The current residence at 1416 Boswell. Dr. Harding built her "garden house" at this site in
1913. Apparently, it was torn down in 1922 and this house was constructed by Tom King.
A 1915 photograph of Dr. Eva Harding by Francis & Hodges.

Arguably, the biggest contribution that Dr. Eva Harding gave to the city of Topeka was Children's Park in 1908. Five acres of land that she owned along Ward Creek was given to the city for use as a park. Located at 6th & Washburn (now MacVicar), the land was considered very beautiful especially since Dr. Harding tended flowers and trees on the land.

The park, originally called Ramblers' Park after the woman's group, opened May 1, 1908. For the next ten years, Topeka celebrated the park as one of the best additions to the city. Amenities included playground equipment and swimming pool along with the surrounding woods and flower gardens. Topeka even went one step further than Dr. Harding and said that the park would be open to children of all races. The park was well cared for and surely helped spur growth in the western part of the city near the asylum. The land was even expanded a couple of times.

In 1919, a Reverend Watson, who came from the south, took a group of black boys to the park. When confronted by an attendant of the park saying that people of color could only visit the park during the morning and the afternoons were for the white children. When Rev. Watson asked if it was an actual law, he was told 'no' and walked in with the boys. Immediately, the white children left the park which upset the black boys. Soon, a fight broke out and a white boy was knocked to the ground and had sand shoved in his mouth. After that day, a petition went around Topeka demanding that Children's Park be for white children only.

It was claimed that Dr. Harding said that Children's Park should only be for white children (the May 14, 1908 Topeka State Journal confirms this) but no one remembered her saying that. When Dr. Harding was asked, she was ill and bed-ridden at the time, she did not answer but her sister said that was something she would approve of. The petition was sent to the city commission who discussed it but a city attorney said that there was no law barring black people from using city parks nor could there be. The petition was filed and the matter dropped.

Today, Children's Park is still at the corner of 6th and MacVicar. It no longer has a swimming pool and Ward Creek cuts the park in half. The aging playground equipment sits near 7th Street beneath a small grove of trees. It's a simple, quiet area at an otherwise busy intersection since an interstate exit is located about seven blocks north of the park.

Children's Park sign at 6th & MacVicar.

Ward Creek, running through Children's Park.
A boulder and plaque memorializing Dr. Eva Harding. Installed in 1933, the plaque reads:
"This tablet
erected in memory of
Dr. Eva Harding
An eminent physician and
philanthropist who gave this
park to the city of Topeka
Forever to be known as
Children's Park"

If you would like to support my writing or research, you can buy me a cup of coffee over on Ko-Fi.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Bobbo #3

The blond haired boy carefully walked along the top of the eight-foot privacy fence with his arms extended while the cute dark haired girl watched. "Ooh, be careful, Bobbo," she said, in odd amazement.

"Don't worry, I could do this with my eyes closed," Bobbo said. Right about at that moment, Bobbo began to stumble and then fall over the fence. He landed with a thud on the ground in a tulip garden. When Bobbo finally rolled over and stood up to leave the garden, most of the tulips had been flattened.

"Bobbo!" a voice screamed from the direction of the house. "My tulips! What do you think you're doing?"

"Sorry, Mr. Popadopolis," Bobbo muttered. "There was this girl and..."

"Get out!"

Bobbo ran from Mr. Popadopolis' backyard and back around to where the girl was. "Are you okay, Bobbo?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Can't say that about Mr. Popadopolis' tulips though."

"Well, Bobbo. It could've been worse."

"I guess. What a great way to start a friendship," Bobbo sighed dejectedly and began sauntering home.

"You should have seen it, Max. I made a fool of myself in front of that new girl, Brooke," Bobbo complained to his best friend, Max, as they walked through the wall.

"You make a fool of yourself in front of a lot of people, Bobbo, how is this different?" Max asked, drily.

"Har, har. I just want to impress her. What should I do?"

"Stay away from her. That would impress me, anyway, if you could stay away from a girl for 24 hours."

They walked by a kiosk where something caught Bobbo's eye. He stopped to look in the case at the kiosk and saw a bracelet with five charms on a small chain link. "What about that? Do you think she'd like that?" Bobbo pointed at the bracelet. The charms were a heart, a music note, a four-leaf clover, a peace sign, and a star.

Max snorted. "I don't know. How would I know what she likes? I haven't even met her."

"How much is that charm bracelet?" Bobbo asked the guy working the kiosk.

"Ten dollars," he answered.

"I don't have ten dollars," Bobbo sighed and he and Max walked away. "What can I do to earn some quick money?"

"You should spend this kind of energy on your chores and schoolwork," Max said.

"I got it!" Bobbo exclaimed. "I'll see you later, Max."

"No rush," Max said.

"Is that you, Bobbo?" Old Lady Vandacourt asked. She had wheeled herself over to the door to answer it when Bobbo knocked. Old Lady Vandacourt was around 100-years-old, still spry and sassy, she relied on the kindness of her neighbors between the times her daughter and granddaughter would come out to help with groceries and doctor's appointments.

"Sure is. I wondering if you had any odd jobs I could do. I'm looking to earn ten dollars."

"I could probably find something for you. Come on in," Old Lady Vandacourt wheeled her wheelchair backward to give Bobbo room to go in. "You can help me clean out my kitchen cabinets. I've been wanting to do that for months," they walked to the kitchen which was stuck in the 1960s. Everything was at least clean but very dated. "Just go through that cabinet and tell me what's in the can and the expiration date. I'll let you know if you can get rid of it."

For the next hour, Bobbo went through the cans in the cabinet. Half the cans were deemed unsuitable to keep while the other half could be kept. Old Lady Vandacourt then told Bobbo to help clean out her refrigerator. Dozens of moldy plastic containers were tossed out as were a couple cartons of milk. Bobbo was excited when he was finally done with that.

"Anything else, Ms. Vandacourt? I really need to get the ten dollars," Bobbo panted.

"One more thing," she said.

Bobbo's face lowered.

"Can you take Simpson out for a walk?" Old Lady Vandacourt asked.

"Simpson?" Bobbo looked over and saw a dog lying on the couch. "Your dog?"

"Yes. He doesn't get out much except the backyard to do his business. He needs a good walk. The leash is by the door."

"Sure, I guess."

"I'll have the ten dollars ready for you when you get back."

Bobbo hooked the leash onto Simpson's collar and the two left the house. They made it halfway down the block when Brooke came around the corner. "Hi, Brooke," Bobbo stammered.

"Hi, Bobbo. Who is this cutie-patootie?" she kneeled down and rubbed Simpson's head.

"This is Simpson. He's Old Lady Vandacourt's dog. I need to get some extra money so I'm doing some chores for her."

"Oh, that's nice. Why do you need the money?"

"There's something at the mall I want to buy," Bobbo said. "What are you doing?"

"I'm heading to the mall actually."

"I'm headed back there when I'm done with this. Maybe I'll see you there."

"Maybe. I'll see you later."

"See you," Bobbo waved and they went their separate ways. Bobbo continued walking Simpson down the sidewalk. Suddenly, Bobbo tripped, fell down, and let go of the leash. As if on cue, Simpson began bolting away. "Simpson!" Bobbo hollered and quickly stood up and ran after the loose dog. Bobbo chased Simpson down the street. The dog turned suddenly and ran into a yard. He began digging in a bed of tulips. "No, Simpson, stop."

"Bobbo!" Mr. Popadopolis yelled.

Bobbo clutched Simpson with both arms around the chest and carried him away from the other bed of tulips. "Sorry, Mr. Popadopolis." Bobbo put Simpson down and the two bolted from the yard. Bobbo returned to Old Lady Vandacourt. "We're back, Ms. Vandacourt."

"Oh, good. Did Simpson have a good time?"

"He seemed to," Bobbo said.

"I don't have any cash on me but here are ten one dollar coupons for that frozen yogurt place in the mall," she handed Bobbo the coupons. "You can use them all at once and they don't expire so you can get ten dollars worth of yogurt."

Bobbo reluctantly took the coupons. "Thanks, Ms. Vandacourt."

Bobbo trekked back to the mall. Near the food court, where the frozen yogurt place was, he ran into Brooke. "Hello again, did you get your money?"

"Kind of," Bobbo shrugged. He then perked up. "Do you want to get some frozen yogurt?" he pointed to the frozen yogurt shop.

"Sure, I'll take some."

"Great. Get whatever you want. My treat."

⌬  ⌬  ⌬

Bobbo sat in his desk during world geography class but he was turned toward the class with his back to the window. His arm and hand resting on the desk behind him. Michelle Plass was using a ballpoint pen to draw on his hand and wrist. "Are you going to the fall dance tonight?" she asked him as she continued drawing.

"No, I don't have a date," Bobbo answered.

"You can come with me," Michelle said. "I'm going alone so we could be each others dates."

"Sure, I'll go. It'll be fun," Bobbo said.

Michelle continued drawing on Bobbo's hand until the bell rang for class to be over. "I'll see you at the dance. We'll wait outside for each other to arrive."

"Sure, see you tonight," Bobbo stood up and grabbed his stuff. He looked at his hand. "Why'd you draw a penis on me?" he asked after seeing the elongated mushroom shapes.

Bobbo walked through the hallways and Brooke came up to him. "Bobbo, are you going to dance tonight?" she asked him.

"That question is really going around," Bobbo said. "Yeah, why?"

"Would you want to go with me? Trent said he was going to but then he flaked out on me," Brooke complained. "Do you want to be my date?"

"Yeah, I'd love to. I'll just meet you inside the cafeteria," Bobbo said. "See you tonight." Bobbo continued down the hall and joined up with Max. "Hey, Max, are you going to the dance tonight?"

"You're not my type," Max said.

"Are you going or not?"

"Yeah, there's going to be free food," Max answered.

"I will be going to the dance with both Brooke and Michelle," Bobbo revealed.

"And they are both cool with that?"

"Well, they don't know. Michelle asked me first in world geography and Brooke asked me just now. I plan on keeping them apart. Keeping them on opposite ends of the cafeteria, you know," Bobbo smiled.

"That's a good plan. That always works out. Always," Max said. "Why do you have penises drawn on your hand?"

"Michelle drew them on me," Bobbo looked at his hand.

"She's a weird girl," Max said.

At the dance, Bobbo started out with Michelle. They walked in together but made sure they avoided Mr. Dillon, the art teacher who was taking pictures of the kids coming in. The went to the corner of the cafeteria where the food and Max was. "Hey, Bobbo. Hi, Michelle," Max greeted.

"Hi, Max," Michelle responded.

Bobbo whispered to Max. "Have you seen Brooke?"

"She's over there," Max pointed to the other side of the cafeteria. "You're really going to do this, aren't you?"

"I'll take her some food," Bobbo grabbed a plate and began loading it up with food. "I'm gonna go say hi to some friends."

"I'll go with you. We both know the same people."

"No, that's okay. Keep Max company," Bobbo said and walked away into the crowd of kids.

Michelle raised an eyebrow.

"Mry huh hupcays," Max said, an entire cupcake in his mouth.

"Hello, milady, I brought you some food," Bobbo said as he arrived at Brooke. "I didn't see you when I came in so I grabbed us both something to eat."

"Thanks, Bobbo," Brooke took the plate from him and took a couple of Cheez-Its. "How did you do on Mr. Hart's pop quiz?" she asked.

"Terrible. I got a high D. I wasn't really thinking clearly when I was taking it. How'd you do?"

"One hundred percent. The only one in his class," Brooke smiled.

"That's great," Bobbo tried to look out over the crowd. "I'm gonna go grab more food."

"But there's plenty here on the plate," Brooke said.

"I want more," Bobbo said and ran off back to the other side of the cafeteria. "I'm back. Everyone says 'Hey,'" Bobbo breathed.

"Where's your plate?" Michelle asked.

"Oh," Bobbo slapped his forehead. "I left it over there. Oh, well, I'll just get a new one."

"That's a waste of food. I'll go grab it. Where'd you leave it?" Michelle said.

"No! Please don't!" Bobbo shouted.

"You are excellent at this," Max chuckled, shoving a cookie into his mouth.

"What's wrong?" Michelle asked.

"Nothing, I just..." Bobbo didn't know what to say. "There's plenty of food here and I'm sure someone over there will eat it."

"So bad," Max shook his head.

"Hi, Michelle. Hi, Max," Brooke suddenly appeared through the crowd of people with the plate full of food. "Bobbo, help me eat this. You don't need to get another plate."

"You gave your plate to Brooke?" Michelle asked.

"You should start backing away toward the door," Max bent down and said in Bobbo's ear.

"What's going on?" Michelle asked. "Did you ask Brooke to the dance but still agreed to go with me?"

"No, no, no. Of course not," Bobbo defended.

"I asked him to go with me," Brooke said. "Did he ask you?"

"No, I asked him."

"When'd you ask him?"

"World geography, sixth hour."

"I asked between sixth and seventh."

"Run," Max whispered.

"So you asked him first," Brooke said. "I'm sorry. I never would've asked Bobbo if I had known."

"Yeah, that's probably something Bobbo should have mentioned," Michelle crossed her arms and both she and Brooke turned to look at Bobbo.

"We were just going as friends," Bobbo said.

"So you won't mind if we hang out with other boys?" Michelle shrugged.

"No, of course not. Go. Have a ball," Bobbo said.

"Come on, Brooke. I know this boy who doesn't have a bone in the top part of his pointer finger," Michelle took Brooke's arm and began pulling her away.

Bobbo took a deep breath and exhaled loudly. "That went better than expected."

"What a weird girl," Max said.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Tauy Creek Digest #55: Awake

It was seven in the morning and Harry had stayed up all night messing around on Zeke's computer while Zeke slept. The final days of summer were winding down and school was going to start in about a week. There was a knock on the door and Zeke's father came in. "Zachary? Oh, hi, Harry."

"Hey, Mr. Hollister," Harry turned in Zeke's desk chair, the keyboard on his lap. "Zeke's asleep."

"I see that. Zachary!" he shouted louder.

Zeke popped up to a ninety degree angle and looked at his father. "What's up?"

"I have a couple errands I want you to do today," Mr. Hollister said.

"Sure," Zeke shrugged. "Harry and I will probably get out around lunchtime."

"There's an envelope on the mantle. It needs a stamp and needs to get mailed. Could you also pick up the chainsaw from McCleccland's? And, fill up the van with gas. There's $30 on the mantle with the envelope. Your mom and I need to go to Kansas City tomorrow and we need the van full of gas."

"Sure. Yeah. We can do that," Zeke said.

Zeke's dad chuckled. "Are you sure?"

"No, but we'll do it. What are you and Mom going to Kansas City for?" Zeke asked.

"Seeing a doctor about her feet. You know she's been complaining for quite awhile so she finally got a referral from her primary doctor to see a podiatrist."

"Complaining for awhile? She's been complaining just about as long as I've been alive," Zeke chuckled.

His dad chuckled as well. "She has. What do you two have planned for today?" he asked.

"I think we're gonna go to the library in Lawrence and do some research on something. Harry's kind of being a nerd about something," Zeke said.

"You're the one that got me started on this," Harry said. "I have work at 3:30 so we won't be researching long. Zeke won't actually be up and awake until noon at the latest."

"What time did he go to sleep?" Zeke's dad asked.

"Three, four in the morning?"

"It's summer. I can have weird hours," Zeke argued.

"School starts next week," Harry said.

"Ugh. Don't remind me," Zeke rolled his eyes.

"I need to head out," Zeke's dad said. "I'll see you this evening. You guys have a good day."

"Thanks. You, too, Mr. Hollister," Harry said.

"Bye, Dad," Zeke said before flopping back down onto the bed and falling back asleep.

Harry continued to play on the computer for a bit before dozing off in the chair for a couple hours. Zeke woke up about 11:45 and they began getting ready for the day. Zeke changed his clothes, grabbed the keys to the van and began heading out the door.

"Aren't you forgetting something?" Harry asked, standing by the mantle.


"The envelope and the $30," Harry replied.


"Your dad wanted you to mail this and fill the van with gas," Harry said.

"Oh. Okay," Zeke took the money and shoved it in a pocket. "Ready now?"


They grabbed lunch and then giant bottles of soda at a convenience store before heading into Lawrence to go to the library. They spent a couple hours researching ghost towns of the area but didn't find anything new than what they already knew. When they left the library, Zeke pulled up to a mailbox and dropped the envelope in.

"Don't forget to stop by McCleccland's," Harry said.

"Why?" Zeke asked.

"Your dad wanted you to pick up your chainsaw. Do you not remember anything from your conversation from your dad this morning?"

"What conversation?"

"We all talked for, like, fifteen minutes. You were speaking in coherent, complete sentences. You were making jokes with him. You don't remember anything?"


"You were sitting up. Straight up," Harry held his arm straight in the air. "Were you asleep while you were talking to us?"

"I guess so. I don't remember talking to anyone this morning."

"Well, I guess it's a good thing that it was just a normal conversation and not some huge revelation your dad revealed to us and now you don't remember and just have to hear it second hand from your best friend," Harry said.

"Was there anything else? Another errand we need to do?"

"No. Just these three things. Your parents are going to Kansas City tomorrow to get your mom's feet checked out," Harry said.

"She has been complaining about them a lot."

"She's been complaining about them just about since you've been alive."

"Heh. Yeah, kind of."

"No, that's what you said to your dad when he told you that he and your mom are going to Kansas City to have her feet looked at."

"What the hell...?" Zeke exclaimed. They went inside McCleccland's and went to the counter. "I'm here to pick up a chainsaw for my dad. Hollister."

"Ah, yes. Hollister. You must be Zachary. I haven't seen you in years. You were shorter than this counter," the man knocked on it. The man went to the back of the store and brought out a chainsaw. "Here you go. It's already paid for. Say hi to your dad for me."

"I will. Thanks," Zeke said and he and Harry went back to the van.

As they drove home, at first it was in silence but then Zeke began talking. "A full conversation?"

"Cracking jokes and everything," Harry replied.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Tank N Tummy #19

Dominic and Lauren were behind the counter reading a magazine together. It had been slow this morning so they were really enjoying their time together talking bad about celebrities but also being jealous of them. The bell over the door rang and the two of them looked up. Ryan stood in the doorway. “Ryan, put a mask on,” Lauren said.

“Where were you this morning? Alice said you came in, said you had an emergency, then left,” Dominic said.

“I have a message,” Ryan started, sadly, looking like he was building up the courage to talk. “I found Mama Kitty, behind the dumpster when I got to work this morning. She wasn’t moving, was barely breathing. I rushed her to an emergency vet. The doctor did everything he could…Mama Kitty didn’t survive.”

Ryan then rushed off to the restroom. Dominic wiped a tear from his eye but another one, from the other eye, fell. Lauren looked back and forth between the restroom and Dominic. “What?” she asked.

“We are gathered here,” Dominic began as he, Ryan, Aaron, MaryJane, Lauren, and Ned stood around a storm sewer just off of the Tank N Tummy’s property on the busy street to the west “to remember a little cat who brought a lot of goodness into our lives.”

“Do I have to be here?” Lauren asked. “Not to be disrespectful but I didn’t know Mama Cat.”

“Mama Kitty,” Ryan corrected.

“Yeah, I didn’t know her either. Also, we’re closing the store for this. Lauren and I could just…”

“Mama Kitty deserves this,” MaryJane shouted. “She was an angel among devils. So innocent. So pure. Show some damn respect.”

“I remember when I first met Mama Kitty. She was just a tiny little thing. We didn’t know at the time that she was pregnant with little kittens. It would be the first of many little sewer cats…” Ryan began.

Lauren interrupted. “Sewer cats?”

“Mama Kitty and her kittens all lived in this storm sewer. She had, what? Three litters of kittens?” Ryan asked.

“I think so. A few stuck around but most moved on,” Dominic answered.

“Moved on to sewers of their own,” Aaron sobbed.

“I’m gonna go back inside,” Lauren hooked her thumb behind her.

“I’ll join you,” Ned said.

“No respect,” Dominic, Ryan, MaryJane and Aaron all said, shaking their head in disappointment.

Lauren and Ned paused, looked at each other, and turned around to rejoin the group.

“Let’s all go around and share our favorite memory of Mama Kitty,” Ryan said. “I already talked about when I first met her but her most powerful moment was when she held her own against the trash possum.”

“We have trash possums?” Ned asked.

“It’s fine,” Dominic waved him off.

“I was taking out the trash. It was after two in the morning and when I went outside I heard hissing. I turned and looked and saw Mama Kitty on one end of the dumpster and the trash possum on the other just hissing at each other. It was quite the sight to see. After about five minutes of hissing, the possum skittered off and Mama Kitty gladly had the dumpster to herself.”

“So brave.”

“So strong.”

“I see myself in Mama Kitty,” MaryJane said. “Along with every other female on this planet.”

“There are cars at the pump,” Lauren said.

“They can still pay at the pump,” Ryan remarked.

“Remember when Melissa broke up with me?” Dominic asked.

“How can we forget? You talk about it at least once a week,” Aaron replied.

“Well, shortly after it happened, I was in a really bad place so I went out to the dumpster to think like I usually do,” Dominic began.

“You go out to the dumpster to think?” Ned asked.

“I was sitting there, sulking, when Mama Kitty came up to me and she was just a-purring. I began talking to her about Melissa and what had happened. Every so often she would meow at me—you know, she had a little chirpy beep as a meow—like she was giving advice. She made me realize that I’d fall in love again, find someone to be with, and, most importantly, have sex with again. The three hours I spent talking to Mama Kitty at the dumpster really helped me get over Melissa.”

“You spent three hours sitting with an alley cat at the dumpster?” Ned asked. “Three work hours?”

“But you’re not over Melissa,” MaryJane said.

“But that’s not Mama Kitty’s fault. She probably did her best,” Ryan explained.

“Mama Kitty was a little slut,” MaryJane chuckled. “And I mean that in a good way. I always look up to women who don’t mind using their body and pleasuring themselves.
Every time I’d see her in the back and her little heinie up in the air and a male cat coming toward her, I’d smile and give a little nod. You go, girl.”

Everyone was silent for a couple of seconds before Ned spoke. “Lauren and I are going to go in. There is a person about to try to break one of our windows with a brick. Come on, Lauren.”

“Mama Kitty saved my life!” Aaron suddenly exclaimed.

Ned sighed. “I guess that window will hold for a couple more minutes,” he said, looking the crowd in front of the store.

“Shortly after I was hired here, my last grandparent and father died very close together,” Aaron began. “You might remember that I worked a lot, like, twelve to sixteen hour days. Mama Kitty was always there for me. I would buy her cat food from the pet store and sit out by the dumpster with her as she ate and talked about my father and grandparents. I don’t know if she was actually listening but she’d be there as I talked. She really helped me cope with losing those close to me.”

“Aw, that’s sweet,” MaryJane cooed.

“Mama Kitty was very special,” Ryan cried.

“Does everybody spend an inordinate amount of time by the dumpster?” Ned asked.

“Don’t knock it til you try it,” Dominic said.

“I got Mama Kitty back from the pet crematory,” Ryan said, about a week later, walking into the store. “I figure we could put her on top of the cigarette cabinet behind the counter.”

“That is truly a place of honor,” Dominic said.

“You can’t put an urn of cat ashes behind the counter,” Ned said.

“Why? Because of some sort of stupid health code?” Ryan mocked.


“Well, we have to keep it here at the store. Mama Kitty was an important part of our lives at the store,” Ryan lovingly pet the urn.

“Since all of you and her spent most of your time together out back by the dumpster then maybe you could set the urn out there,” Ned chuckled.

No one else reacted.

Ned sighed and rolled his eyes. “I guess you can put her on a shelf in my office,” he offered.

Ryan and Dominic quickly ran in there, knocked a couple picture frames and a trophy off of a shelf and sat Mama Kitty’s urn carefully on the shelf. “It really ties the place together,” Ryan said. He and Dominic continued looking at the urn. A single tear rolled down Ryan’s face.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Comic Comics #2: Ride Fast for Wyoming

Cowgirls are much more than the sexy lingerie that popped up in the sidebar of Google when I went to search "cowgirls". The women of the American West were an important part of the history of the establishment of the "wild west". There is very little information on cowgirls that would drive cattle up the trails like their fellow cowboys. The women, for the most part, worked side-by-side with the men on ranches and farms and worked to get pro-woman laws passed such as the ability to vote. Women, as cowgirls, came into their during wild west shows where they were able to show that they could handle a horse, bull, and gun just as good or, in many cases, better than a man.
photo by Evelyn Cameron

Fiction House was a publisher of pulp magazines and of comic books. They got into the comic book game, along with everybody else, in the late 1930s, their first title being Jumbo Comics which featured Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. Soon, Fiction House was publishing about a dozen titles that were all selling very well. They helped start the careers of several future comic stars such as Nick Cardy and Bob Powell but also had a staff of women that included Ruth Atkinson, Fran Hopper, Lily Renee, and Marcia Snyder.

Fiction House titles would prominently feature strong, powerful female characters and kept away from the damsel-in-distress trope that was so popular at the time. Sadly, due to this, Frederick Wertham targeted Fiction House in his Seduction of the Innocent. Wertham blamed not only the horror-themed comics for juvenile delinquency but also the sexy and powerful women featured in the titles. Unable to compete in a shrinking market without their biggest titles, Fiction House stopped publishing comics in 1954 and went out of business the following year.

One of their titles was Cowgirl Romances, a combination western and romance title. It lasted twelve issues from 1950 through 1953. We're going to take a look at Cowgirl Romances #1 and the first story in the issue "Ride Fast for Wyoming".

First, I want to point out the cover dress with a woman roping a cow across the logo. That's just amazing and that definitely made me at least pick up the comic if I saw it on a newsstand. The cover is a bit odd--what does this man hear and why are those horses so interested in watching those people do it?

"You keep your mind on weddin' clothes and when our happy day is going to be!"

"No, Rusty--please! The thought of that makes me want to jump in front of stampeding cattle."

According to the information on this comic, the art was done by Al Feldstein who created Sheena for Fiction House but also would go on to work as cover artist and editor for EC Comics' horror, crime, and suspense titles. When EC had to cancel all their titles, Feldstein soon moved into being the editor of Mad, a post he held until 1984. I assume that Feldstein drew this story and Bart Hastings wrote it unless Hastings is a pseudonym for either Feldstein or someone else.

"Is he hurt bad?"

I don't know. He actually looks pretty dead and that horse is like "...the hell...?"

His shirt is getting more tattered with every panel.

I think the J-Box were chasing because he's a stranger...with green pants!?

Ok. Knock it off.

What's this?! A damsel in distress? And here we were just talking about how Fiction House didn't do damsel in distress.

Oh, she's not in distress. Right now, she'd hang him if she could.

Holy jumpin' Jerusalem! She's gonna burn down the Old West Patriarchy. She's gonna do what you lilly-livered men are too chicken shit to do!

"Because even though I rallied the troops, got their blood boiling, and came up with a plan, the men still aren't going to listen to a tiny dumb woman like me."

I want everyone to look at that next to last panel. Take a good hard look at it. Do you notice anything a bit off?

Bess has apparently hitched her wagon to a horse with no legs. Bess is my new favorite character.

So Bess couldn't even be in the meeting with the men? Were they afraid that all the testosterone in the schoolhouse would be too overpowering and she wouldn't be able to keep her clothes on?

THAT'S who Rusty reminds me of. FUNNYMAN!
Just without the clown get-up and long red nose.

Yeah, and that Buffalo Boss is full of tricks. He tricked you good by getting your attention, riding past the door, and shooting you.

Have we gotten to Wyoming yet? Has it been explained why these people are so angry? Ok, you want the grass but you aren't explaining what you want to do with it. I don't get it.

still don't know what's going on...

What? "Trussed up like a turkey"? "What happened, gal? Were they mean to you? Did they tie up widdle-ole you?"

I feel really bad about the death of this character I, and also Bess, wasn't really into. It's a damn shame. Hopefully she can take consolation in the fact that his last words were the exact same thing she said two panels before.

Aren't men named Rusty in the Old West a dime-a-dozen? Just find yourself a new Rusty, I'm sure there are plenty and all basically interchangeable.

It's bad luck to not bury a cowboy with his guns. You just sentenced Rusty to an eternity in Cowboy Hell, missy.

Why are so many faces in the shadows? To hide the fact that they look slightly different than they did in the panel before?

I also don't like the random ranch names they're using. J-Box, Dot-In-A-Box. Sure, they sound real enough but are they really?

Heh. They're gonna meet at Indian Butts tomorrow.

"Du-uh! I'm Tex!"

Now you're listening to Rusty? Earlier you wanted him to shut up and called him a "gun-shy old maid" because he didn't want to just go around shooting everything.

The writer seems to be putting a lot of stock into what Rusty's spirit is saying. If we didn't listen to Rusty when he was alive then why would we listen to him in death?

Also, that horse seems to be having a war flashback or something.

Oh, good. Mr. Green-Pants is back.

I wish Bess' hat would decide what it wants to do. Either be on her head and stay there or just hang off the back of her neck. Make a decision.

At least he gets to raise the roof one last time.

First I'm gonna shoot him then I'm gonna beat his skull in with the handle.

Horse: "Looks like another fine mess you've gotten yourself into."

Hey, proof that we are in Wyoming. So we don't really need to ride fast to Wyoming because we are already there.

"It's Rusty's writing, all right...backwards e's and all."

Well, that was quite an act. There was a thought bubble and everything that led us to believe you were the real villain in the story.

"By the way, was it also an act when you sexually assaulted me? Was that part of the plan? Did Rusty know about that part?"

Huh. Well, that was easy. It's kind of weird that 1)the fire was still burning...wouldn't it be put out before they fall asleep and 2)no heads were sticking out of the sleeping bags, which, to me, would raise suspicions.

I guess if some are "down at the crick" then they would've left the fire burning. But still, their heads.

Holy crap! A background character that has been in every scene of the story is the bad guy and NOT the guy in the green pants? Whodathunk?

"And I would've gotten away with it if it weren't for you meddling kids!"

Wait. If Rusty and Chip are brothers then why doesn't Chip have red hair? Don't get me wrong, I understand how genes work. Different fathers? Maybe their mother was a whore in Denver or Abilene. I don't think that's a story they did in the Golden Age.

Yes, "some crazy things". He punched Rusty, sexually assaulted his brother's girlfriend, and then tied her up. People could've died or been otherwise physically hurt by your actions but he had a reason.

Was calling you "sister" kind of a hint? And you are way too okay with that kiss when you learned it was all part of the plan.

"Quick, kiss me!"


"Kiss me. I'll explain later!"


"I'll explain later!"

"The explanation isn't the problem!"

Women love being compared to cows.

It's like Rusty and Chip made a pact. "Hey, bro, if I ever die, I want you to ask out, date, and sleep with my girlfriend. Promise me that." "I promise, bro." "Swear on my life?" "I swear on your life, bro. I'll date your girl so hard."

Bess' hat still can't make a decision.