Sod and Stubble: The Story of a Kansas Homestead

By John Ise | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
The Retreat of the Defeated Legion

T HE wheat was poor in eighteen-eighty, and the corn burned to short fodder in the hot winds of late July. After the corn was ruined, good rains came, which brought out grass for fall pasture, and put the ground in shape for wheat sowing. Farther west the drouth was even worse. There had been no rain out there since the preceding summer, and the hard-pressed settlers of the western counties sent out appeals for aid. Many of them filed application at Washington for leave of absence from their claims, sold their starving cattle for whatever they could get, packed their meager household possessions into wagons and started back to their old homes in the East. In late May, after one of the few rains of that arid summer, a settler living down on the Solomon saw a wagon and a dead horse floating along on the swollen waters of the river; and the next day a man was found a few miles up-stream, the only survivor of the tragedy in which his wife and four children had drowned. He was on his way east from Rooks County, and had under-estimated the depth of the river at the ford.

All that fall, the discouraged settlers trekked out of the drouth-stricken country. Day after day they passed by, grizzled, dejected and surly men; sick, tired and hopeless women, often with children who were cheerfully unconscious of the tragedy of moving, or even happy in the novelty of their adventure.

Many of them stopped, for water or hay or corn meal or flour, or perhaps to stay all night; and at first they were always hospitably entertained. Henry never had the heart to turn people away at night, although the entertainment of these

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