Monday, March 30, 2020

The House of Catropolis

“Introducing…” Gabriel Godfrey pulled a sheet off of a small model of one of the neighborhoods in Catropolis. “Godfrey Plaza! A state-of-the-art living and working community in the heart of Downtown Catropolis. It will have hundreds of apartments and lofts, each one specifically geared to people’s unique needs. Each building will have storefronts where people can shop and buy things. There will also be spaces for large office complexes. People can live, work, and shop all in the same place. One hundred and sixty acres of a city within a city.”

The nine member city council and mayor nodded thoughtfully at the model. “This is a big project,” the mayor said. “You said it would be in the heart of downtown. Where downtown?”

“Bartle Farms,” Godfrey said.

“Bartle Farms?” a council member raised an eyebrow. “But it’s a working farm. It has the first house built in Catropolis. It’s a historic monument to the city founders. The house has stood for nearly 300 years.”

“My team and I have discussed moving the house. We’re considering options,” Godfrey sneered.

“I think the council and I are all on the same page, the house is an important part of Catropolis’ history. It needs to be saved and preserved. The current owner, Harold Odetts I think his name is, has owned the land for nearly fifty years. He’s willed the land to the city after he dies but his wishes are to keep the land as a park and preserve the house,” the mayor explained. “Would the city or yourself be buying the land from Mr. Odetts in order to start construction on the Plaza?”

“We have proffered money to Mr. Odetts,” Godfrey said. “He turned down the offer but we will continue to work with him.”

Godfrey packed up and left city hall with his team. “Sir, Mr. Odetts refused to sell the land to us. He said he’ll care for the land until he dies and then it goes to the city.”

“He’s a man in his 70s,” Godfrey said.

“He’s 74. He could live another twenty years.”

“He could also die much, much sooner,” Godfrey smiled.




Supercat flew lazily over Catropolis, heading toward the Daily Cat. So far, everything was running smoothly in the city. His ear twitched and he turned his attention to a branch of the Avenue City Bank. “Almost spoke too soon,” he sighed and floated down to the street and entered the bank. Three masked men were standing at the counter demanding money. Two were using guns to hold back the other patrons and employees while one was pointing their gun at a teller and yelling at her as she shoved money into a bag. One of the employees had pressed a silent alarm that Supercat had heard. Police sirens were faint several blocks away.

“Hurry up!” the one guy shouted. “Maybe I should just shoot you and do it myself!”

“That doesn’t seem very nice,” Supercat said behind him. “The lady is doing what she’s been told after all.”

Supercat had already grabbed the other guns from the two sidekicks and was now focusing his attention on the one doing the yelling. “Supercat? Who pressed the alarm button?”

In a split second, Supercat had taken the gun from the shouting man. “Are you done?” he asked.

The police arrived and arrested the bank robbers. Supercat flew back to the Daily Cat, going through an open window, and redressing as Lester Kat in a store room. From outside the room, Lester heard his editor, Purry Taylor, yelling. “Where is Kat? I’ve been looking everywhere for him!”

Lester popped out of the store room. “Hey, Purry, you need to see me?”

“Kat! What are you doing in there?” Purry shouted. “Oh, never mind. We got a call from Harold Odetts. He was offered half a billion dollars for Bartle Farms and turned it down. He wants to bring the offer and the history of the farm to people’s attention. It’s the first house in Catropolis, you know.”

“I’ll get right down there,” Lester waved and took off down the hallway.




Skyscrapers of 60, 80, 100, and 120 stories towered over Bartle Farm and the two-story wood and stone house on the corner of 7th & Madison. It was a quaint farmhouse, well-maintained for nearly 300 years but was showing signs of wear and tear in the paint and roof. Lester showed up at the house and saw Harold Odetts on the porch, sweeping dust and dirt off of the porch.

“Mr. Odetts, Lester Kat with the Daily Cat,” Lester introduced.

“Mr. Kat, glad to meet you,” they shook hands. “I heard you got an offer on this place.”

“Yeah. Half a billion dollars so Gabriel Godfrey can build a tribute to himself. I’m not selling this land and it goes to the city to be made a park when I die. It’s an important piece of Catropolis history and I intend to take care of it.”

“That’s very honorable, Mr. Odetts. What specifically has happened on this farm in its 300-year history?” Lester asked.

“When the original eighteen founders settled in Catropolis, they mostly huddled in dugouts, tents, or just slept on the ground on or around this claim. A year later, George Andrew Bartle cordoned off this 160 acres and began building a house—the stone part. The Bartles kept the farm running over the next four generations before selling the land to the Odetts. I’m the last of the Odetts and I have no heirs to pass this land onto so when I go, it goes to the city as a park.”

“That’s very honorable,” Lester’s ear twitched.

Click.

Bang.

Lester moved just a couple inches to his right, blocking Mr. Odetts. The bullet went through Lester’s jacket and shirt and ricocheted off his back, going into the wood of the porch. “Mr. Odetts, you need to step back inside your house. I have to go deal with something real quick.”

“Okay, but I don’t see…” Lester closed the door and pulled open his shirt to reveal the red stylized S on his chest.

Supercat glanced at the numerous buildings where the bullet could’ve come from and saw someone on one of the roofs. He flew up grabbed the man, dangling him in the air.

“Who are you? What are you doing?”

“God…Godfrey. He paid me $100,000 if I killed that old man. I didn’t ask any questions,” the man stammered, constantly looking down at the street nearly 100 feet below him.

“Godfrey. Gabriel Godfrey?”

“Yeah.” Within a second, the man was back on the roof the building. He fell to his knees and breathed heavily.

Supercat was at Godfrey Tower within seconds as it was only a few blocks away. He floated outside Godfrey’s office window until someone finally noticed and pointed. Godfrey rolled his eyes and pressed a button and the window slid open.

“Supercat, is it? What brings this honor?”

“Harold Odetts,” Supercat said, floating into the office. “Someone just tried to assassinate him.”

“Pity. I assume they missed,” Godfrey said.

“Luckily,” Supercat said. “Why are you doing this? Why not just leave that land alone?”

“It’s a valuable piece of real estate. We’re the largest city in the Midwest and growing by the day. We need to encourage living and working and shopping in the city and Godfrey Plaza will do just that. I offered Odetts half a billion for the land and he turned me down. It’s a blow to my plans but I’ll get over it.”

“Get over it? You sent someone to kill him.”

“Prove it.”

“The man identified you.”

“The man owes thousands to a loan shark, has a gambling problem and no connection to me,” Godfrey said. “You couldn’t trace this to me even if I had done it.”

Supercat stood silent for a few seconds. “I’ll be keeping an eye on Mr. Odetts and the farm,” Supercat threatened. “You better hope you don’t make a mistake.” Supercat flew out the window and was gone in a flash.

Godfrey angrily stared out the window then pressed the button to close the window.   ▩

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Fluppy Dogs

In 1984, Michael Eisner was brought into the Walt Disney Company to revitalize a brand that was showing its age. Eisner was brought in to revive Disney and one of the first things he decided to get his hands into was television. He got a team together and gave them the idea that Disney should be the name in animation. Aside from released thousands of animated shorts that had been locked away for decades, Eisner pushed for original animation. First pitched was Mickey and the Space Pirates but Eisner wanted to save Mickey, the face of the company for something big. The next show they pitched was The Wuzzles which premiered in September 1985. Another show, that premiered along with The Wuzzles, was The Adventure of the Gummi Bears. While The Wuzzles would be canceled after 13 episodes, Gummi Bears would last until 1990 and have 67 episodes. Despite this slight success, Eisner was still reluctant to use known Disney characters. The next show in development was Fluppy Dogs. Fluppy Dogs were about these dogs that weren't dogs. They talked and dressed like people and used jewels to travel through doors to other dimensions. The hour-long pilot, intended to serve as the first couple of episodes, premiered November 27, 1986--Thanksgiving--and was a ratings bomb. Disney immediately canceled the project and moved onto their next pitch about a duck test pilot named Launchpad McQuack. That show would become DuckTales. I recorded Fluppy Dogs during what I believe is a rerun before the 1987-1988 television season started. I know this because there is an ad for "Full House coming this fall" and a show called Once a Hero in the commercial breaks. Fluppy Dogs was one of my favorite things to watch when I was younger. There's potential but there is probably a reason Disney released the pilot on Thanksgiving.

Fluppy Dogs was written by Haskell Barkin (The Love Boat, Jabberjaw) and Bruce Talkington (DuckTales, New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Bonkers) and directed by Fred Wolf (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

Five fluppy dogs are slowly making their way around a mountain in a stormy and desolate world trying to find a portal to open with a key. Fluppy dogs are adventurous canine-like creatures who use a key to open inter-dimensional doorways to other worlds. After landing in a prehistoric-like world, they find a door to our world and land in a grocery store. Chaos, as it does, ensues, and the fluppies cause a mess. While trying to escape, Stanley, the blue fluppy, talks and catches the attention of J.J. Wagstaff, a wealthy jerk of a businessman, who wants the fluppies for his collection of exotic animals. The fluppies are captured by animal control and placed in the pound. Luckily, they are only there a short time as Stanley is quickly adopted by Mrs. Bingham for her son, Jamie.
oh a dog great
Jamie isn't so sure about Stanley because he wanted a big dog. I'm confused why people keep thinking these are normal dogs when they are a bright pastel blue, pink, yellow, red, and green color. Those aren't normal colors, right?! While Jamie is walking Stanley, Stanley escapes his collar and runs away. Jamie runs after him into a construction site where Jamie climbs a ladder for some reason and winds up hanging from a steel beam making weird moaning sounds as he dangles. I don't know why the producers made the voice actor do that or kept it in when he did it but there it is: A 10-year-old boy moaning "oh, oh" for ten seconds.

Stanley recuses Jamie and explains his deal. Jamie offers to use his birthday money to break Stanley's friends out of the pound. Unfortunately, Jamie only has enough for one so they adopt Tippi, the pink fluppy. Also unfortunately, Mrs. Bingham refuses to let Jamie keep Tippi so he gives her to his next door neighbor, Claire, because your neighbor loves it when you bring them random pets.
Claire and Tippi. Why this 10-year-old hangs out with what is presumably
an 18-year-old, I have no idea.
At bedtime, Stanley explains that he enjoys adventure but gets too excited and he and his friends always wind up in trouble. At least he's self-aware. As Jamie falls asleep, he's scratching Stanley's head which causes the bed to lift into the air and fly away into the sky. They gain control of the bed and take Tippi from Claire, begging her not to tell anybody.


Jamie and the fluppies arrive at the pound to bust out Ozzie, Bink, and Dink but J.J. Wagstaff is there to also take the fluppies. The fluppies escape and all return home, safe and sound. The end.
A boy and his dog.
No. Wait. The fluppies need to find their way back home. The fluppies show up at Jamie's school saying that they've found a door but it's in the sewer so down they go. Despite having a fluppy that uses his nose to find where the doors are, Jamie thinks they are going to get lost and follows them. Whatever. We also learn that the key gets weaker with each use and the door gets a little harder to open. This door, sadly, doesn't lead anywhere but unleashes a torrent of water that floods the sewer.

While drying out in the basement, Ozzie smells another door. This door gives up a beautiful land of grass and flowers and also strange hippo creatures that charge right into the door. They call the thing a fulumpus and the thing can't return home because other fulumpuses are at the door probably wondering where it came from.
I'll admit. This is the dumbest of plot contrivances.
The fulumpus causes havoc and chaos inside Jamie's home and practically destroys it. Working together, they all clean up the house before Mrs. Bingham gets home but Jamie stills gets his butt chewed out because the school calls and snitches on him for skipping school. Meanwhile, J.J. Wagstaff puts out a $5000 reward for a fluppy dog. Ozzie, Bink, and Dink go out on their own and find the door to their world in front of the library. How convenient!

They rush to return to Stanley and Tippi but Wagstaff is on their tail and he is able to capture Ozzie. With Jamie acting strange, Mrs. Bingham chews his ass a bit more asking why he's become a terrible little boy in the last...checks watch...24 hours. "Ever since you got that dog..." The fluppies enlist Claire to help them but Jamie sees them drive away so Jamie uses the fulumpus to race after them to the Wagstaff mansion.

Wagstaff sees the fluppies approach and prepares to capture them too using Ozzie as bait. Stanley and Tippi are captured but Jamie and the fulumpus arrive and, you probably guessed it, destroy the crap out of Wagstaff's mansion. Wagstaff blackmails Jamie and Claire but Stanley has an idea. Jamie and Claire start scratching the fluppies' heads and that room of the mansion suddenly rises into the air. They crash land the room at the library but the key is malfunctioning. It reveals the door and the fluppies' world. The fluppies, the fulumpus, Wagstaff, and his minion Hamish, all wind up going through the door. I can only think they put Wagstaff into some sort of labor camp or something.
I don't know what Jamie told his mom when she learned that Jamie lost his first dog after only 36 hours.

A few months later, it's now winter, and Stanley and the others are back! And they've brought some friends with them. Hundreds of thousands of fluppies are pouring out of the door presumably to kill us all after learning what a terrible person J.J. Wagstaff was. I, for one, welcome our fluppy overlords. They will be the cutest dictators ever.
The end times are here.
The voice cast is interesting but unremarkable. Stanley is voiced by Marshall Efron who voiced characters in The Smurfs. Tippi and Bink were voiced by Susan Blu (DuckTales, The Magic School Bus). Ozzie was voiced by Lorenzo Music (Garfield and Friends, The Real Ghostbusters). Dink was voiced by Hal Smith (The Andy Griffith Show, The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh). Claire was voiced by Jessica Pennington who now does things behind the scenes. J.J. Wagstaff was voiced by Michael Rye (Super Friends, Flintstone Kids). Jamie was voiced by Carl Steven, who was 12 when he recorded the voice for Fluppy Dogs. Steven is probably best known for voicing Fred in A Pup Named Scooby-Doo but he also appeared in TV shows such as Punky Brewster and Growing Pains. His last acting role was in 1996 as Matthew in Weird Science. He was arrested and sentenced to prison for armed robbery in 2010. He died of a heroin overdose in 2013 while in prison.


If you would like to support my writing or research while I am out of work due to COVID-19, you can buy me a cup of coffee over on Ko-fi.

Until next time, I remain...
~Brian

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Mary Jane Scales


Mary Jane was born in 1822 as a slave owned by Mr. Bascombs in Virginia. Her parents were also slaves. At the age of 7, she was bought by Freeman McClendon of Georgia. With McClendon, for two years, she picked cotton from dawn until dark and then held a candle for others until midnight. She was then kidnapped by traders who then sold her to Jim Ferguson. Around 1842 she became the slave to Jefferson Davis in Mississippi. Davis would go on to become the president of the Confederacy during the Civil War. With Davis, Mary Jane was treated cruelly, poorly dressed, poorly fed, and worked beyond her endurance. For eight years, from five a.m. until midnight, Mary worked a treadwheel gristmill tending to the horses. Mary then worked on the railroad for seven years splitting ties and laying track. She got married to a free man, Sprankling Watts and had four children. Worried that his freedom might encourage Mary to escape, Watts was sent away but was allowed to buy her four children, and was never seen again.

Mary was sold and resold a couple more times until becoming a slave of Mathew Davis, in Arkansas. It was with Mathew Davis that Mary Jane met Lewis Ford. Lewis Ford was born, also a slave, in Mississippi, in 1849. His job was mostly picking and ginning cotton. Almost immediately, Mary Jane took a liking to Lewis. Keep in mind that when they met, Lewis would be, at most, ten-years-old and she was 37. By all accounts, they were sexually active even with him at this young age. In 1861, Mary escaped slavery by running toward a passing Union army regiment as her master and overseers were hiding. Other slaves then followed her lead including James Ford, Lewis' brother, and Lewis himself. Mary Jane and James married but their marriage fell apart either due to his infidelity or hers depending on who you ask. Lewis joined a Union regiment and became the servant of Col. Lewis Booth who he served for one year. Lewis' father took him back from the army but, unable to care for him, gave Lewis some money and sent him to live with his brother, James, and Mary Jane.

James and Mary Jane separated. She received an opportunity to have her way to Kansas paid for. Mary convinced Lewis to join her on the boat and the two arrived in Leavenworth, Kansas. They then made their way to Lawrence where they came into the employ of Major Walker, her working in the house and him working in the fields. Lewis left to do odd jobs around the Douglas-Shawnee county line while Mary Jane was introduced to Reverend Burnett Scales.

Reverend Burnett Scales was born a slave in Cass County, Missouri around 1814. He came to Kansas at the onset of the Civil War and settled in and around the Tecumseh area in 1861. He started the Colored Baptist Church at 1st and Madison in Topeka in 1864. Little is known of his early life. He had two sons from a previous relationship--Anderson and Jacob. He married Mary Jane in 1863 and they had one daughter, whose name I was unable to find. Mary Jane and Lewis reunited around 1869 or so and Lewis moved into the Scales house.

On November 17, 1870, Reverend Burnett Scales was found beaten and shot to death in the front yard of his home west of North Topeka. Mary Jane said that some Indians were riding near and her husband invited them in. They ate a little, drank a little, and then they attacked Burnett, beating him and then stealing his gun to shoot him before riding away. In questioning witnesses, neighbors, the Scales children, and Lewis Ford revealed that Mary Jane was lying and that she and Lewis Ford had killed the pastor. During the inquest, it was revealed that the Scales' marriage was not perfect and had gotten worse since Lewis moved in. Mary showed no remorse for what had happened and only confessed after she had been convicted.

Mary and Lewis were convicted in June 1871 and sentenced to hang. When she confessed to the crime, she hoped her daughter would grow up to be a good woman and that boys would turn away from evil. Newspapers speculated that because Mary Jane was a slave and was not exposed to religion she created her own consisting of conspiracies and her own beliefs. On the day they were to be executed, their sentence was commuted to just life in prison. They were sent to Lansing but Lewis was soon deemed insane and sent to the state hospital in Topeka where he resided until 1898 when he was "cured" and sent back to Lansing.

At the age of 69, in 1894, Mary Jane petitioned for her pardon which was granted by the governor in September. She was the oldest prisoner in the state. The Topeka Daily Capital noted that of her 69 years she spent 38 as a slave and 23 as a prisoner. Her daughter--now Mrs. Smith--took her home to Des Moines, Iowa. Sadly, Mary Jane died within a month of her pardon.

Lewis Ford was granted a pardon in 1899. The Topeka State Journal endorsed his pardon proudly because "few remembered the murder, the Santa Fe Railroad only ran to Emporia, and only one wing of the statehouse was completed". I was unable to find additional information on Lewis Ford after his release from prison.

I was also unable to get much information on Anderson and Jacob Scales. Jacob testified against his step-mother during the trial and I was unable to find what happened to him after that. Anderson Scales was also difficult to find. An Anderson Scales of Topeka was sent to Parsons State Hospital after shooting a bartender for cheating him out of twenty cents. An Anderson Scales is buried in Parsons State Hospital Cemetery, dying in 1913. There is another Anderson Scales of Topeka who died in 1907 and is buried under a veterans' stone in Topeka Cemetery. The same address is given to both Anderson Scales but I wasn't able to determine if they were the same person, related in same way, or two different people.

Wrapping things up, I was unable to find the burial spot of Burnett Scales or Mary Jane Scales. The Scale house west of North Topeka, south of the railroad tracks no longer stands, more than likely due to Kansas River floods. The Colored Baptist Church at 1st and Madison no longer stands and neither does the house listed as Anderson Scale's residence at 1st and Madison.

If you would like to support my writing and research during this time of quarantine and not working, you can buy me a cup of coffee over on Ko-fi.

Until next time, I remain...
~Brian

Sunday, March 15, 2020

What About Brian? Coronavirus Edition

It's been awhile since I did a post specifically devoted to myself and what I'm doing but I feel like it was necessary since I haven't been updating my website and am working more on big things that I'm not posting on Twitter or Instagram. I also figured I'd give you an update since I am off from work for next two weeks due to the Covid-19 outbreak and may or may not get paid. If you would like to support my writing or research or just want to throw a couple bucks my way, you can buy me a cup of coffee over on Ko-fi.

I am almost done with the first part of my novel, Vagabond Girl. The first part focuses on middle school. The second part will focus on high school and the third part will be college and after. As I've continued writing this, more ideas have popped into my head. I enjoy writing these characters and trying to create a realistic coming-of-age story for kids who don't normally show up in coming-of-age stories. In addition, I am beginning work on 87. 87 is a combination of two stories--a group of friends growing up in a small town and the true story of a family who also lived in that small town in the 1800s. I'm doing a lot of research by looking through old newspapers to get the views of the time. I'm hoping to start some serious writing on it over the summer.

Adding to my research, I'm going back to what I'm good at. I'm doing research on the Shawnee County Poor Farm as a follow-up to the Douglas County Poor Farm research I did back in 2014. I'm hoping to get all the information by the fall and get something written for either here or an article by the end of the year. Another thing I am researching is a possible murder in Labette County, Kansas that was originally said to be a suicide. I stumbled across the news while scanning old newspapers for other research and found enough to make it into a post or article.

There are also short stories I'm working on--Mina, A Little Bit of Honey, a couple of so far untitled ones, Nzinga, and a sequel to Suicidal Tendencies. These have been taking me longer than normal to get written because I've been focusing on my novel and social media stuff. I am also working on outlining young adult stories that might be novels or might be graphic novels. I haven't decided which way I'm going to go with them yet because they are still in the planning stages.

Here's hoping that I will have some content for you in the coming months whether it's here or elsewhere, I will keep you posted. Feel free to peruse my Twitter or Instagram and, again, if you would like to support my writing or research, you can buy me a cup of coffee on Ko-fi.

Until next time, I remain...
~Brian

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Ad Astra Per Aspera

On the seal of Kansas great--
Great the seal and great the state--
Is a sky that bright stars gem.
And above, the apothegm,
Ad astra per aspera.

Ad astra per aspera!
Thus the Kansas pioneers,
In past battle clouded years,
Fought their fierce disputed way.
Not in battle's fine array,
Uniform and epaulette
And long lines of bayonet,
But with rifle and shotgun,
Uniformed in plain homespun,
Fought they--won--and realized
That their way was blood baptized.
Ad astra per aspera,

Brown is dead, but freedom lives.
Now, in peace, the teacher gives
His life to the Kansas youth,
Dreaming not of future fame,
Hoping not for deathless name,
Teaching virtue, honor, truth,
Love of country, loyalty,
That the dawning future age
Well may guard this heritage.
Satisfied that holding ground
May the way sometimes be found--
Ad astra per aspera.

Teacher! When the gate unbars
And swings open 'mong the stars;
When upon the streets of gold
You tread softly, as of old
In the schoolroom, may One greet
Your home coming with a sweet
Look of kindness. May He say,
"I am glad to welcome you!
I was once a teacher, too;
You, as I, thus found the way--
Ad astra per aspera."

-E.E. Kelley
Chanute, Kansas

Elmer Ellsworth Kelley was born in Warren County, Indiana on September 13, 1861. He came to Kansas in 1887, originally settling in Toronto. He was principal at their schools for six years then moved to Chanute where he was principal of the high school and then superintendent. He returned to Toronto in 1909, buying the local newspaper.

Kelley married Lillie Sutton in Indiana in 1882 and they had six children--Ruth (1884-1974), Marcia (1886-1979), Albert (1889-1940), Elmer (1891-1972), Thomas (1895-1967), and Katherine (1902-1999). Kelley passed away on January 31, 1940. Lillie died May 7, 1960. Both are buried in Valley View Cemetery in Garden City, Kansas.

The Kansas State Historical Society has a massive collection of letters, documents and genealogy compiled by Katherine Kelley Powell about her family with items dating back to the 1850s.