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America’s Heartland, Part II

Posted by on September 30, 2017

WE’RE MOVING ALONG. A few days ago we put Missouri in our rear-view mirror and traveled west to Kansas, in search of Dorothy and Toto. We didn’t find them, but we did find more interesting spots in mid-America. The seasons are changing. There’s a chill in the air. Leaves fall from the trees and a red fox peers at us from the thicket as if to suggest that we’d best move along before snow covers the ground. We’ll next be in Utah and then Colorado. I’ve never driven in the snow, and I’m hoping the weather will cooperate so I don’t have to learn how to do it.


Believe it or not, this is the road leading to the town of Cherryvale, Kansas. I’d say we are a bit off the beaten track!



We’ve arrived! The city limits to Cherryvale, Kansas.


CHERRYVILLE, KANSAS. Have you ever heard of Cherryvale, Kansas? We hadn’t, but we found it and some other little towns in the area that proved interesting. Cherryville is headquarters to the South Kansas and Oklahoma railroad, a shortline that runs about 500 miles between the two states. Since I love trains and everything about railways, I found the little depot and the gal in charge, a one-person-show, entertaining. Cherryvale is a dusty little town and guys drive muddy pickup trucks and wear overalls. They’re all rednecks and are thrilled that Trump is our president. They speak of Hillary with disdain. With my Tommy Bahama shorts, Polo shirt and Topsiders, I stood out like a sore thumb, but all the townsfolk were welcoming and interested to hear about California. Many had never been outside of Kansas and a few hadn’t even ventured past the town limits. Amazing.


There are thousands of acres of this crop in the area. Know what it is? Great Northern Beans, the ones used to make Navy bean soup.


These are the bean pods.


And the beans.


The owner of this little garage in Cherryvale is the guy in the doorway. The “Trump Sign” is five times larger than the size of his business sign. He and I talked for about half an hour. I’ve found that if I question the folks and am genuinely interested in their stories (which I am) they’ll talk all afternoon.


My new friend from the garage (see above) insisted that we drive down the street to see the “Hillary sign.” I had a pretty good idea what we’d find, and I was right.



This truck belongs to the fella with the Hillary sign in his yard. His business is also located on the premises. Guess what it is? You’re right: a gun shop!


Many of the modest little homes were already decorated for Halloween. These folks salute the flag, stand for the national anthem, decorate for the holidays, have meals together, vote regularly and attend church every Sunday. Not bad.


SOUTH KANSAS AND OKLAHOMA RAILROAD HEADQUARTERS. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but perhaps something more substantial than what we found: one building and one person “running the show.” And boy she must have been lonely because she gave us more of a tour than we’d have wanted and seemed ready to invite us for dinner to continue the conversation. SKOL operates more than 500 miles of railway and carries more than 50,000 loaded railcars. About 30 locomotives and 10 separate train crews are in operation at any time, making the SKOL one of the busiest short line operations in the industry. The primary commodities carried are grain, cement, coal and chemicals. A passenger car is attached to the freight train twice a month for a round-trip journed to Oklahoma and back. We couldn’t work it into our schedule, but it sounds as if it would have been fun.


The South Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad Headquarters building in Cherryvale, Kansas.


All was quiet inside.


A locomotive approaches the station at the headquarters building.


COFFEEVILLE, KANSAS. When my friend Randy in San Diego learned we were in rural Kansas and specifically in Cherryvale, he suggested that we visit the little town of Coffeeville, only about 10 miles distant. Why? Because it is the site where the members of the famous Dalton gang met their demise while trying to upstage Jessee James by pulling off a double bank robbery in the same town at the same time. That was enough for me. We were on our way the next day. Here’s what we learned: The Dalton gang was also known by the name Dalton brothers because three of its members were brothers. The gang specialized in bank and train robberies. And it was in 1892 when two of the brothers and two other gang members were killed. Emmett survived and was captured, tried and convicted.


The Condon Bank building in Coffeeville, Kansas. This is one of the two banks the famous Dalton Gang attempted to rob at the same town in broad daylight in October of 1892. The building has been restored to appear as it did at the time of the attempted robbery.


THE DALTON GANG. For a year and a half, the Dalton Gang had terrorized the state of Oklahoma, mostly concentrating on train holdups. Though the gang had more murders than loot to their credit, they had managed to successfully evade the best efforts of Oklahoma law officers to bring them to justice. Perhaps success bred overconfidence, but whatever their reasons, the gang members decided to try their hand at robbing not just one bank, but at robbing the First National and Condon Banks in their old hometown of Coffeyville at the same time. The gang hoped that by the sheer audacity of their plan the would have success. But they were sadly mistaken.


One of two banks where the robberies were planned.


This is the safe in the Condon Bank building.


THE BANK ROBBERIES. After riding quietly into town, the men tied their horses to a fence in an alley near the two banks and split up. Two of the Dalton brothers-Bob and Emmett-headed for the First National, while Grat Dalton led Dick Broadwell and Bill Powers in to the Condon Bank. Unfortunately for the Daltons, someone recognized one of the gang members and began quietly spreading the word that the town banks were being robbed. Thus, while Bob and Emmett were stuffing money into a grain sack, the townspeople ran for their guns and quickly surrounded the two banks. When the Dalton brothers walked out of the bank, a hail of bullets forced them back into the building. Regrouping, they tried to flee out the back door of the bank, but the townspeople were waiting for them there as well.


Holy cheese-balls! Florence goofing around in the teller’s cage.


This typewriter is even older than the one I used when I learned to type!



WE’RE HEADING TO COLORADO.  In about a week we’ll be in Colorado, where we’ll  stay for a week and get ready for our trip through Utah into Oregon. We’ll stay a couple of weeks at Rockaway Beach, “the storm watchers’ favorite place in the country” and then we’ll drive to Salem. Stick with us…there will be lots more to see.




I’ll continue my story next time.

6 Responses to America’s Heartland, Part II

  1. Jon York

    Cow Bell Cafe’, in Rockaway Beach is my favorite breakfast place. Don’t forget Depot Bay, a great storm watching place and dine at Gracie’s Sea Hag.

  2. Randy

    Great to hear the side trip to Coffeyville was successful.

  3. Greg Alford

    Jon, you’re making me hungry! We’ve been to the Cow Bell but not to Gracie’s Sea Hog. We’ll try it and report back to you.

  4. Greg Alford

    Randy, Coffeeville was a fun place to visit for sure!

  5. Jon York

    Greg, that would be Gracie’s Sea Hag, not Hog. But you could hog down at the hag.

  6. Greg Alford

    Hag…hog, what’s the difference. I’m sure I’ll get a great meal there, that’s all that matters.

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