Stories from William Wayne Stepp

The Stepps: The Beginning

The Stepp stories will be presented to you by the owners of the new Stepp Website.  The stories will  be written by William W. Stepp, author and researcher of the “The Stepp Family Chronicles.”  They will consist of excerpts.  Our hope is that it will help make you better acquainted with our ancestors and will give you some idea of what we, all the Stepps, owe to the Stepps of our past.  The stories will be presented in ‘first person’ where applicable.  The author of the Chronicles, this writer, wishes to give research credit to the more than twenty volunteer researchers.  The first edition of the “The Chronicles” was long ago sold out.  The last two books of the second edition will soon be sold out.  There will be no 3rd edition—no more books. 

Off and on, in these stories, we will be referring quite a lot to two words—the word FROM and ORIGIN.  If Sampson Stepp said his ancestral Stepps came from Germany he knew what he was talking about.  He was absolutely right.  Four hundred miles south, Ralph Stepp said his ancestral Stepps came from Manchester, England.  He too knew what he was talking about.  He was absolutely right.  So were every other Stepp in the USA (and elsewhere) who said that their ancestors were from Cities and countries all over the world (by migration, by wars, by weather or by having ‘itching feet’).  All of them were right.  The Stepps have always been pioneers and movers.  But now we must talk about the word ORIGIN—meaning the beginning.  Where did the Stepp originate?  Up until the advent of DNA, only one researched origin had been found. Most identified mostly were from the Ukraine—but who know how many other directions?

Robert Stepp (Florida Bob Stepp) has DNA educated me to the content I want to be.  He has spent the money to find and document 4 or 5 other Stepp origins—and he is still going at it.  So far he has ‘messed up’ some of the old time documented research in both my book, The Chronicles, and the Scalf book.  It seems that since the researching and documenting days of Rudolf Stepp (the Scalf book) and myself (The Chronicles) we have been forced to recognize ‘adoptions’ and the fact of apparent (but unknown) careless mating of the  two sexes.  Facts cannot hide from DNA.  It’s something that has to be dealt with if one has to be ‘DNA correct’.

Thank God the Stepp Stores you will hear about in the future, pictures the old time are of ‘ON-SITE’ research.  The kind that can send chills up and down your back –like talking to a 92 year old man (back in 1970-80 period) in the Virginia County of the Page Grays (color of Confederate uniform), county of Virginia.  And that old man guiding me down a long and bumpy road leading me to a secluded wooded area and point to the left—out into the woods.  I saw the faint trail, shrubs and trees showing me the way and the underbrush not so heavy.  I got out of the car and started down the ancient trail till it ends in a group of extra short trees, and I trip over a line of stones.  I follow the stones by using a forked tree branch as a rake and uncover a rectangle of – a foundation of a house—a home.  You'd stop, if it were you, and I did too.  I stopped.  I find the base of a fireplace and my rake hooked something down in the matted leaf mold area.  I pulled up and on my ‘rake’ was the iron bail of an old iron pot—the handle.  That’s when the real ‘chill’ comes.  When I stroked the handle I was tracing the finger prints of many occupants of that log cabin. I stand up  and look at the sky and I mentally saluted all those who came before me.  That is what you call genuine ON-SITE research – you are back in times—on a one to one basis with those responsible for my being here; I am in their house, alive and well.  There is nothing on earth about DNA that can equal what I have just described. 

When I started to research my ancestors after my retirement, I thought it would be mundane and laborious, something I had to do.  Not true.  I thought God in Heaven had assigned me to do a job.  Every time I wanted to quit, HE would not let me.  I kept on.  The result was “The Stepp Family Chronicles.”

Now with my Stepp Stories, I am going to share the path I followed with all of you who can see and read.  As Festus said on TV many times, I ‘gar-en-tee’ many of the stories will send chills up your back and a lot of times you will stand up and SALUTE the name of STEPP. WWS

Stepp Story Number 2

There is much more to be said about The ‘Iron’ Duke of Wellington.  It will take this story and one other to do the job.  The data on our story we owe entirely to Robert (FL Bob) Stepp.  My paternal grandfather was a brother to his paternal grandfather.  Florida Bob is the best researcher of Stepp data in times past, right now, and in the future.  He combines the knowledge of ‘know how’ of both Rudolph Stepp and myself plus going all the way and real deep with the DNA science. 

Arthur Wellesley was born in Ireland in 1769 the 4th son of Garrett Wellesley, Earl of Mornington.  He was educated in Eton College and at a military college in France.  He was a ‘warrior’.  The following will prove it:

1.       He first saw combat in 1794-95 under the Duke of York-Holland. 

2.       Sent to India in 1796, promoted to Colonel and to Major General in 1801. In less than 4 months he firmly established British power in India.

3.       Elected to Parliament in 1806.  Appointed to Chief Secretary of Ireland.

4.       In 1808 Spain revolted against Napoleon.  British sent help for Spain. The Duke, promoted to Lt. General, was given command of a division.

5.       In 1809, Wellesley made commander of all forces, Spain and Portugal.  In 1814 he entered France, Napoleon abdicated.  The war ended.

6.       When he returned home, he was given title “Duke of Wellington”.

7.       IN 1814 he made Ambassador to France; Napoleon escapes exile, raises army.  In command at Battle of Waterloo 1815.  Defeated Napoleon. 

8.       Remained in charge of Army Occupation until 1818 in France.

9.       In 1827, Commander in Chief of the Army.

10.   Prime Minister in 1828.

11.   Commander in Chief again in 1846.

12.   Died September 15, 1852, buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral. 

There is no doubt the ‘Iron Duke’ was the very best there was.

Churchill in WWII comes close in England’s rating of their great ones, but his moment of glory (WWII, just before and briefly after), was very short compared to Arthur Wellington’s life long service to his country.  Our president George Washington comes much closer as a rival of Arthur Wellington’s long life of service to his country.  I shudder to think what might have happened in the last days of the Revolutionary war at Yorktown, where Washington won his greatest victory and where the stage was set to make our thirteen clusters of colonial population into what we could call a nation.

Mary Wellesley Stepp carried the gene code of the Iron Duke and every one of their children carried those famous genes, and down the genetic ‘ladder’.  Some of the ships the clan of the Stepps built fought on our side in our war of revolution.

I cannot write the second story on the name Wellington until I stop and study my own book, but I do remember one item—that there were more than half a dozen more Wellington Stepps.  In my own personal research I never found a single one who could equal that life lived by the Iron Duke, or even come close.

The wife of my Uncle ‘Well’ passed away and is buried in the Washington College Cemetery in east Tennessee.  Most of their children had moved from Tennessee and Uncle Well was lonely.  So he moved to Northwest Missouri to live with his married daughter, Iva Clara Stepp Peoples.  He died in old age and is buried in the cemetery very near to my farms at Watson, MO.  What an oddity: My knowledge of the word “Wellington” began in NE Iowa in the mid 1950’s and it ended in NW corner of MO within 3 miles of the farm of the Stepp who became accidentally acquainted with the Stepp who owned the Sword of the Iron Duke.  Strange things do happen.  Surely there must be one of the those times.  WWS.

Stepp Stories #1

In the mid 1950’s I was checking on my Cargill, Inc. Sales Crew in NW Iowa.  The town was Manchester.  The name on the door of the nearly new office building read “James A. Stepp, MD.”  I knocked on the door and then entered.  A young lady asked if I had an appointment.  I said no, but I would like to speak to Dr. Stepp. She said he was too busy to talk.  I replied “Tell hem Wayne Stepp wishes to speak to him- he will see me.   She left and came back with the Dr.  We shook hands and he immediately guided me to the attractive mantle over the fireplace in his office.  Over the mantle, on the wall, was a beautiful sword hilt sticking out of a just as beautiful scabbard.  Dr. Stepp pointed at the sword and said ‘When I die this sword goes to my grandson!” I replied, “that’s nice.”  He pointed to an inch high stack of pages on the mantle and said his sister and he paid $3,000 for that, to a researcher to find out who they were.  He asked my Dad’s name and I answered “Burney Stepp.” He said “that’s no help.” “Give me a relative of your Dad, a man’s name.” I answered, my Dad spoke often about his Uncle Well Stepp.  He smiled and said “that’s better, his Uncle Well was short for Wellington, named after the Duke of Wellington, the Iron Duke.”  The Iron Duke was Sir Arthur Wellesley, after the Queen knighted him.  He led the armies that defeated Napoleon in The Battle of Waterloo in 1815.  The Royal Family had rewarded the Duke with that beautiful sword.  The jewels alone on the sword and scabbard are worth a fortune.

At the time I did not know how to spell genealogy, but that is what I had stumbled onto.  I asked him to send me a copy of his research and name his price.  He said he would, but he never did send anything.  But I had touched the sword of the Iron Duke of Wellington.   I had unknowingly done my first bit of genealogical research!

Flashing forward to the mid 1980s, I had retired and was selling the first edition of my book, “The Stepp Family Chronicle.”  My dad’s uncle Well was born in 1823, eight years after the battle of Waterloo – and yes, he had been named after the Iron Duke but there was a reason for doing so, a far greater reason than just hero worship.  That reason was a blood in law relationship between the Iron Duke and a ship’s captain named John Stepp.

There had always been many parties and celebrations after all the wars where the Iron Duke had led his winning armies to victory.  A much younger sister of the Duke, but his favorite apparently, for he had given her his most beautiful sword and scabbard, probably to keep it out of his will, had attended all of those celebrations and had fallen in love with one of the Iron Duke’s military staff.  They became engaged and were planning to marry.  Fate butted in.  Her lover had been sent with the Duke to Spain where they had defeated a French army and where her lover was wounded and later died from his wounds.  Mary did not know she was pregnant at the time he left England.  The baby was born in secret and Mary made plans to sail along with her baby to the English colony of Virginia. 

The trip was very long on the American Ship.  The Master of the ship, John Stepp, attended to every need, both Mary’s and her child’s .  A love match was born on the voyage and a marriage occurred in Virginia (Scalf’s book, researcher Rudolf Stepp, describes the location of the various Stepps and Stapps who where ship builders, ship masters and all else it took to run a shipyard.  They sailed tobacco and cotton to England and returned with all the items needed by the Colony, and tea of course!

No wonder a Stepp family in Virginia named their son “Wellington” after the Iron Duke.  Future stories will tell of the sword the Iron Duke as the sword travels from Stepp family to Stapp family and from war to war by military men named Stepp and some named Stapp.

Stepp Stories #3 The wagon Train Massacre

If some of my story titles sound the same as some chapters in my book “The Stepp Family Chronicles” its because they are the same.  The difference is in the style.  I tell the research necessary so as to be able to tell the story.  These are two very different bits of writing.  One much harder work than the other.

I was researching the USA southwest, CO, AZ, and NM mostly.  My name for the area was ‘New Mexico Bob Stepp Country’ or ‘Silver City Bob Stepp’ country.  I was visiting a Stepp in Mesa, AZ, sort of headquartering there.  I honestly forgot his first name.  He was retired and a collector of big tall antique clocks.  His pride and joy was a clock so tall that the clock face was so high he had to cut a hole in the ceiling in the corner to accommodate the height of the clock.  I think he had a $10,000 price tag on it.  He asked me where I was going next and I said probably Tucson.  He answered  out of the blue, “How would you like to visit some Pima Indians named Stepp?”  I left my car with him and off we went, south of Tucson.

We did meet with two brothers with the surname Stepp.  They were, and looked like, Indians.   I will make the story as short as I can.  There was a wagon train massacre.  One wagon had been a Stepp man and wife and two very young boys.  He started to educate me in Indian murders: Apaches killed all adult whites including all children over 10 or 12 years old.  The Pumas wanted our orphan white children and being on good terms with the Apaches they were given the boys.  One of them had been the father of the two we were talking to.  The original two, being old enough to remember their name, but never used it until there was a reason to.   The reasons were that Pumas were to be paid some very good money etc. etc.  The apparently thought it wise to start using the surname Stepp and they were right.  They were then receiving payments.  I tried to ‘pump’ them and received very little information other than their people had ‘handed’ down the information that their parents had been killed by the Apaches.  There were other Pumas with the Stepp name.  A sort of remember my drivers name—I thought it was Glenn Stepp.  He had to get back to the Mesas so we did not tarry any longer than necessary to get the basic information. 

Later, when I found out how to learn it—I found that all the western states had suffered wagon train massacres had that information in their state archives.  I always intended to get the list but never found the time to do that much driving and staying away from home headquarters (Independence, MO) that long.

I should add a few more things.  Both Pima men we talked to had white facial features but Indian colored skin—at least on their faces.  They did not use long sentences when they talked.  They had attended school, but I forget where they attended school.  Their parents lived on the reservation, but they did not because they had employment off the reservation.

All in all it was an interesting trip.  I had received a lot of information about antique clocks and I really did see and talk to, Pima Indians with the authentic name of Stepp.

In my case, starting on my 94th year of life, it has been a long time ago when I was read stories (westerns) about the ‘wild west’ with Indians, cowboys, silent western movies with Tom Mix, Rileved Dix, the Singing Cowboys etc)  so it did bring back a lot of good memories—like getting my 15 cent allowance to watch the Saturday night movies for a long time.  Silent movies and finally we hit the big time, the cowboys started to talk and a few of them started to sing “Home on the Range” and what else was the rage at the time. WWS

 

Stepp Stories #4

After my retirement, I had started to educate myself on ‘how to research.’  The Utah based Latter Day Saints Church had schooled me to some extent and even had some dibs and dabs of Stepp names and history.  It dawned on me what a big task I had undertaken.  I did not (and could not afford $60 an hour), so how could I possibly get the job done alone, with no help.  My wife was understanding of my interest but had no interest in genealogy.  And then I  saw an ad in the  Utah magazine I had subscribed to. For $25 they would send me a list of 1000 surnames.  I answered the ad; they had my name; I ordered; I recovered the list and I wrote a letter and a 1,000 copies of that letter. 

In my letter I gave information on myself and what I wanted to do.  I asked for 20 volunteer Stepps to help me.  They would give me a ‘start up’  2 or 3 generation list using a certifying system that I intended to use a lot later on.  They would try to expand their list; I would be doing the same.  I would begin to ‘connect’ the information where possible.  My way would be the same except I would be running ads and paying for them, in the LDS Genealogy Magazine. 

First: Out of the 1000 letters (postage was cheaper then) I received answers from 355 Stepps.  I did get my 20 volunteers and most of them sent their start up names, using my chart system.  The other 15 were chatty letters  or giving their parents only.  One letter was from a very honest person.  He said he did not have time to help me research, but wanted to keep in touch with me.  I answered all 35 letters of course.  I did have my basic start.  The 1000 list of Steps I had mailed to had the name of ‘David’ for first or middle name in the case of the 30 letters I had mailed.  Two of the 35 answers had David for a first name.  The San Diego David kept his promise; about every 4 or 5 months I would get a letter from him, mostly inquiring how I was doing and of all that was going well.  No other responders wrote a letter like that.  He was always interested in new names I had come by and finally he told me his parental grandfathers name.  I did not tell him so, but I shifted a lot of my time to him, backing up into time a generation at a time.  I finally had his line intact back to his great grandfather and I was stuck on that one.  Finally my very good friend (more like a son) are as close as any father and son or Uncle or whatever.  I inherited a very sweet and loving friend and his wife Linda and I became the Godfather of their beautiful daughter Ondrea.  I was rewarded for all my labor. 

One other thing brought us together besides genealogy—San Diego David became a rancher in the  business and in doing so had to become a farmer.  Well, I was and am a farmer with my undergraduate degree in Agronomy (crops and soil) and a minor in both Animal Husbandry and Forestry (Iowa State University).  We talk farm and ranch as much or more than we talk genealogy. 

Now about the name David (like in the Bible with the slingshot and slaying the giant).  I wrote a letter suggesting that they or their wives) become pen pals.  That did not go over well at all.  Not a single one of the 14 even answered me to say no—just total silence.

And another thing I enjoyed: I was privileged to introduce CA David and Linda to Maryland David and Linda Stepp – both Davids with beautiful wives. 

And lastly, the two of us did find his great grandfather in the Black Mountain area of the Carolinas.  They are all great and wonderful friends.  I love them. WWS. 

 

Stepp Stories #5 “Writing a Book on a Mountain Top”

About 1983 I estimated I had enough bits and pieces to make a lot of connections of he Stepp names and enough to start writing the book that was to be the firs edition of The Stepp Family Chronicles. I started to try and do this work in my home in Independence, MO.  Our family phone was ringing two or three times per hour (genealogy plus farm business) and I would just get started and then to stop, over and over again.  My wife was busy in her house office (law practice) on her phone.  I finally just gave up trying.  I was complaining about my problem to one of my incoming calls (Silver City Bob Stepp) and I guess Bob thought he should come to my rescue, and he did – but in a rather strange way.

I had an invitation to come to his home in Silver city, New Mexico and work on my book there (I thought it would be in his house).  I accepted his offer and packed up my book in the making, packed my suitcase, kissed my wife so long for a week (I estimated) and in a day and half a night I was at Bob’s home.  He had not told me his home was loaded with company and that he had other plans for me.  On the top of another better than a mile high Denver mountain he owned what use to be a four cabin tourist set up.  He had forgotten then the altitude would scare away a lot of vacation cabin seekers.  He had closed it up as a lost cause, but kept one cabin in livable shape, with a stove, table, a chair or two and bed clothing.  (It would be a 322 page book, born there).

He ‘sold’ me on the idea that the high up cabin is where I should try writing my first draft copy.  He was sure right when he said that I would not be bothered by phone calls or people, or anything else!  He loaded his pickup with ‘grub’, firewood, plus some starter kindling material.  It was mid summer but it felt still like Pikes Peak in Colorado in the summer.  The two rooms were separated by a very tight door which would only be open during the time I would be sleeping.  The little kitchen table had a smooth top covered with an old fashioned oil-skin covering.  He said he would drive up every other day to check on me.  He did that and usually brought me some kind of treat when he came.  I was not totally alone.  I had brought a radio with good batteries and a tall aerial—and I did see a mouse now and then. 

I had never ‘felt’ so much quiet in my life.  While working in that cabin I was doing nearly a half days work in an hour compared to my home in Independence.  I used my radio sparingly, mostly just to get the weather.  I had to put the following sections of my book in the proper sequence, expand my sentences so as to be seeable and doable for a typist that would be hired to change my scrawl to a neat typing job.  On a lot of 8 ½ x 11 white pages; the first few paragraphs were: Blank white sheet

next:  “The Stepp Family Chronicles”

A history of the ancestors and descendants of John Stepp, Sr. II of Rockingham County, VA.  A source book by William Wayne Stepp in collaboration with the Stepp researchers listed here.  Printed Privately. 

Copyright 1984, By William Wayne Stepp.  All Rights Reserved.  Privately Printed in the United States of America by Weeprint Copy Center, 3423 South Noland Road, Independence, MO 64065. Typed by Janet Lynn Pirog Bamael, Raytown, MO.

Dedication to my daughter Sheryl Diane Seth Feiser, son Arthur Wayne Stepp and Aaron E and Mathew W. Feiser, my grandchildren and all those who participated in providing the contents of this book. 

Acknowledgements

Table of Contents.

I used a poem to introduce my book: Echoes of Our People.  From there on it was a matter of putting in order all of my work; about 70,000 miles on my Ford for each of two years, about 75 motel nights during the two years, plus, weaving in all the volunteered information.  The work was a bit related to working a jigsaw puzzle.  In the end it all boiled down to thousands of names. I chose the name John Stepp, Sr. II as my point of departure (so I could work both forward and backward in time at the same time and as I had material with which to do so.  I felt that I had enough information to go backward in time all the way to Abraham Stepp/Stapp (both spellings were used).  Another way of saying it would be to say I am starting my book with Abraham Stepp.  No matter which direction I wanted to go I would use the generation system.  There might be four generations from Abraham  to John and there might be six generations from John to the present day.  We are not talking about 100 years when we talk of a generation.  A genealogy generation is the number of years from birth o a husband and a wife until the last of their children are born.  Generations differ in terms of numbers of year involved. The younger the marriage, the longer the generation, usually.

In doing all of the above, I will be doing a lot of charting.  Most old  time researchers might use 8 to 10 sheets of paper to record 3 or 4 generations.  I can illustrate all of their 8 to 10 sheets of information on ONE SHEET of paper using my advanced system of charting.  Its so very simply I cannot understand why all researchers do not use it.  The major drawback of my charting system is that it tries the patience of even the best typists, it slows them down.

I finished the job in 5 days, living in my mountain habitat.  Silver City Bob delivered me off the mountain back to his home.  This Robert Stepp is another WWII veteran (we are dying now at the rate of 3,000 per month).  He owned and ran a huge Army/Navy supply store, covering a city block or more.  He has the largest Southwestern library book collection of juke boxes.  He purchased Santa Anna’s bed for his daughter’s bedroom.  Japanese buyers were skimming silver from the sandy surface of the thousands of acres that the Silver City Bob owned.  He made a lot of money.  He gave away a lot of money.  I spent a lot of time with him.  He was Stepp that all of us should be proud of.  WWS.

 

Stepp Stories #6

Naming a Mountain

This story has taken quite a lot of research and I still do not have all the details that I would like to have.  The centerpiece of this story is Mt. Mitchell, the tallest mountain in the USA east of the Mississippi river.  It takes it name from the man who proved it was the tallest of all the Smokies east of the Mississippi River.  The story ahs to do with a restored log cabin that is part of a museum.  The original cabin had a one half upper story.  The front of this cabin bears the name of Stepp.  At one time it housed the large family of a Robert Stepp and it also served as a sometimes resting and sleeping place for a Dr. Mitchell in between his climbs to the top of what was to be later named Mt. Mitchell.  Robert’s middle name was Jessie and at the time I am led to believe he went by his Jesse name.  I am going to call him Jesse.

Jesse was a typical half mountain, half farmer type of Stepp.  He was hired by Dr. Mitchell to be his guide for all the trips he had to make to the top of that mountain.  Dr. Mitchell had a lot of equipment to carry to the top in order to do his measuring.  Sometimes one of Jesse’s many sons climbed with Dad and Dr. Mitchell.  It must have been very rough climbing for a city scientist.  It was never an up and down in one day, they had to carry whatever they chose to take along to eat, water  supply and the equipment.

There was another very tall mountain peak to the North that was claiming to be the tallest east of the Mississippi River and Dr. Mitchell was also involved in the measurement of the at peak.  Being a typical scientist his main interest was to prove which was the tallest and probably had no preferences.  I have no way of finding out how many trips Dr. Mitchell made with Jesse as his guide.   It would have had to be quite a few.   Jesse had warned the Dr. never to attempt to climb the mountain alone.  Carrying a minimum of equipment he was very likely to fall, slip and fall, or be snake bit by making the trip without Jesse.  Somehow Jesse did not hear about the Dr.’s solo trip up the mountain until the next day and  I do not know how or in what way he did hear about it.  When he did he sent his oldest son up the mountain to assist Dr. Mitchell in any way he could. 

The son was only absent half a day and he returned alone.  Dr. Mitchell was dead.  He had fallen several feet and had several bruises on his head.  I wish I know or could remember the son's name but I cannot.  He must have been a sharp lad.  After seeing Dr. Mitchell was dead he fixed a temporary protection of branches to protect the body from the animals.  The decision was made to take up enough men and power to take the body to the top of the mountain and they buried him in a choice spot.  Today there is a monument there. 

Apparently the math used in sourcing the correct altitude of the peak had been completed.  The stat proclaimed the altitude to be the true and correct height of the Smoky mountain peak and to be the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi river. 

I am not sure if the Stepp Cabin is within the Museum of not. It is said to be in the exact spot of where the real cabin had been.  The museum goes by the name of The Old Fort Museum, in Old Fort North Carolina.  In very old times there had been a military fort on the site, now occupied by the museum. 

Many people have seen that name Stepp on the Cabin and perhaps, like me, they reached out and touched that name.  The name of a mountain climbing Stepp.

 

Stepp Story #7

The Wyatt Earp Connection

Just about everyone has heard of Wyatt Earp and The Gunfight at the OK Corral, attended movies about him and read about him.  In my research in the SW of our USA, I had picked up the name of Wyatt Berry Stapp.  It was not unusual to find the Stapp spelling in the SW, but I had never run into the name Wyatt before.  A story in The Kansas City Star helped me out.  Wyatt Berry Stapp was a Col. In the US Army in the Mexican War.  Wyatt Berry Stapp became close friends with a Captain in his command named Nicolas Porter Earp.  They became close friends in battle and in civilian life.  When Wyatt was born (to Nicolas and wife) in march 1848, they named him after their dear friend.  The baby was named Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp.  The above was enough to excite me to try and find out if we were blood related to Wyatt Earp himself.

I have to divert a way form Wyatt Earp for a bit now.  In the Texas Ranger hall of Fame in Waco, TX I found a fast draw famous ranger named J.M. Stepp.  His picture was on the wall (only part time; I later learned that there were too many rangers to display them all the time, each had to take their time in storage).  I had found this same J.M. Stepp (James) listed as a First Sgt in the Muster roll of Indian Fighters of the Eastland County Texas.  His age was 24 years in February 1824.  The mustered names in this roll-call also served in the Civil War.

The story now becomes more complex. In Kit Carson’s autobiography by Milton Qualfa on pages 97 and 104, the Step listed twice, has to be the same J.M. Stepp – about 20% of the time the second letter p was left off the spelling of both Stepp and Stapp.   The dates and places of the three periods of service by the name Stepp/Stepp all points to the same Stepp.  The three periods of service of this Stepp  are as follows: 1. Hired by Fremont and his band to search for the best mountain passes.  2. As First Sgt. In SW Indian Wars and Civil War and 3. A period of time as a Texas Ranger.  If you want to take the time to do it (I did) you will see that the dates in the time allows substantial and sequential periods of time (service) to prove that this Stepp was one and the same in all 3 of the service periods. 

Now we can come back to Wyatt Earp.  History shows that the Wyatt Earp (of the OK Corral) used the name of William Stapp as an alias. To confuse things a bit more, another Stapp of the SW USA was also very famous as being “The fastest man on earth.”  This man was Col. John Paul Stapp, MD, a career Army MD who made Colonel.  He probably ranks as the most famous Space Scientist of all time.  He risked he life many times to find out the answers necessary to protect the outer space exploring to be done in the future.  There will be a story later on Col. Stapp.

Much as I was hoping to find that I was blood related to the Wyatt Earp of the OK Corral, I was unable to do so or find any other researchers who had been able to do so.  But the title of the Earp story will have to be the sum and substance of the kind and type of relation we do have.  I found the answers to how we were related: We have a connection, a connection of happenstance.  No blood relationship.

I am sure there will be more movies made about Wyatt Earp.  Each one will change a few things as compared to the last movie made of him.  We will have to settle the story with the fact that a lot of men, (and their wives), by the name of Stepp and Stapp were on the same stage of time.  We will have to settle for that.  Wyatt Earp died January 13, 1929 in Los Angeles, CA – without a gun in his hand.  WWS.

Stepp Stories # 8

There is a bit of unforgiveness in genealogy.  It’s all because a woman loses her surname when she marries.  But the genes are still carried down the line.  In those cases where all the newborns are female, the % of the original gene patch becomes smaller and smaller and the research becomes more and more difficult.  There is  very little to  be done, none, that I have ever seen or heard of in ‘Big Book” form.  I have never tried it.  But a woman named Brown did try it and she did it great.  Also she was from the state of Georgia in the USA. And also, she was very sweet lady.  Put all that together and you come up with the name Sweet George Brown. And that’s the title of a song and it’s a sweet song; the title is Sweet Georgia Brown.    

The lady that did try the female researching was Linda Brown, and I want to take time out in this story to talk about a woman with the name of Linda and the name used as a first given name as opposed to a middle given name.  In my researching years, and there has been a lot of them, I have met up with at least 50 Lindas; in person, by mail, by phone, and with help, by computer.  Most of the Lindas have been (single or married), professionally inclined as opposed to being a housewife per se.  Most of them marry men who are professionally inclined or become so later in the marriage.  And the Lindas I have met in person or seen in pictures, are not just pretty, they are beautiful.  I do not know why it has been that way.  It just was, and is.

Now back to Sweet Georgia Brown.  I met this fine lady at Stepp reunions, at least two and, more likely, three.  She, besides being a nurse, was an expert seamstress and on the back of her sweatshirt she had embroidered her pedigree, about 4 or 5 generations of it all in beautiful colors.  For those of you who want to know more Linda Louise Wandell Brown and are the proud owner of a copy of The Stepp Family Chronicles, may learn a lot more by turning to page 115. 

In the early days of the Stepp reunions, we would have some of the clan who where musically inclined (bluegrass mostly, but a lot of other good songs.  I would always ask them to play Sweet Georgia Brown.  Enough of the reunion attendees who came to know this Linda, would all start clapping their hands until Linda would stand up and wave at all of us.  In several reunions the music was performed by Rent James Stepp, who cut their own records just for fun and sold them.  The records were sold by Elbert Stepp II, Shenandoah, VA.

This Linda descends from James Stepp II 1754-1821.  After two genealogy generations of the name Stepp, the female gender took over and then back and forth with both male and female genders taking over the charting process.  The chart on page 115 will explain why there are not many more charts, it is a matter of jumping back and forth with first a male gender in charge and then back to another female taking over.  All this is research talk.  I hope you understand.

If you study my book, “The Stepp Family Chronicles”, you will see I have portrayed many other female born Stepp women, sometimes in their birth surname but more often in their married surname.  It was unusual when women like I am now writing about would write this Stepp author with their name, their descent pattern and their present status, proving what I have just mentioned—that they are professionally minded than the majority of women of the most of the hundreds of charts you will see in Chronicles.  As my lawyer wife would say, “ I rest my case.” Lindas are professionals.  WWS.

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Stepp Stories# 9

A Korean USA War Veteran

Being a WWII USA Korean Veteran, I am a lot more acquainted with WWII than any of the wars of our country.  The Korean war was often called by other names, like a ‘peacetime action’ or some other name just as crazy.   This Stepp story is about another Warrior taken right out of my book, The Stepp Family Chronicles.  For a short while now we will be writing about Kenneth Dale Stepp 1931-1994 and another Stepp that was like a dear brother and he held me in his heart the same way.

Kenneth Dale Stepp lived right in the middle of a hot bed of Stepp names in and around the small city of Morristown, TN.  Somehow I had come by a phone book of that area and I think in that book and two more of bordering areas, I think there were 30 Stepp names.  The phone book gave me their names and addresses.  That plus 30 sheets of paper, 30 envelopes, and 30 stamps received a form letter from me; this action took place while I was searching where ancestors and relations of California David Lee Stepp were located.  I had two answers from the 30 mailings.  One from the State of MD, USA (who received my letter which was forwarded to him) simply saying to let him know if I planned a Stepp reunion.  The other letter was from Dale Stepp.   It was a two page letter.  He told me he was a ‘K’ vet and was not well but he would like to help me try for a Stepp reunion somewhere in East Tennessee.

At that time I was the only Stepp I know of that was interested in a Stepp reunion.  For two years I had been holding them in Northern VA.  We exchanged phone numbers and we wrote letters and we talked on the phone a lot.  He and a close relative of mine, Robert S Stepp of NC and FL were my two pushers and helpers in planning for the 1st East Tennessee Reunion (in Washington country).  We chose Washington County because in real early days of Washington Country, (Gainesboro), was all there was of Tennessee and it was a hot bed of the Stepp name.  And also, all of my immediate ancestors were born and lived there and in adjacent NC. 

Dale and I became very close.  In the beginning, each of us knew what the other looked like before we met.  This was 1993.  Sometimes we knew what the other was going to say before we said it.  It was strange.  Dale roused up all the Morristown, TN crowd, all those that had received my letters, and most of them attended the East TN Reunion.  California David helped with the Reunion also and he attended.  It was like no other reunion that we were to have in the following years, in that in addition to the Reunion Day we held two automobile tours of the old, old, Stepp Country history (old homes, cemeteries, churches, small towns etc.) We had a large crowd.  I do not know if CA David had it on a website or not.  I had paid for 2 ads in the LDS Genealogy Mailer (magazine) and that pulled some far away and NEW Stepps that were interested in learning about themselves.  LDS= Latter Day Saints

Dale kept working as he kept getting weaker from a peace time enemy more sure of death then gunfire, cancer.   And finally to a Veteran’s Hospital in Johnson City, TN.  I shipped him Salem and Winston Cartons of cigarettes.  The nurses would wheel him to a phone and as long as he could talk he would try his best to get out enough words to make sense.  It was a sad time for me back in Independence, MO, and a much sadder time for Dale and his loved ones.  In Tennessee, in 1994, he gave up in his war to keep living.  His folks kept me informed to the very last.  This man, Dale Stepp survived a mean and awful war.  He was a hard working ‘author’ of the Stepp Reunions.  I will never forget him.  I tried to keep in touch with he sons, but failed.  I was proud to have known him.  Dale Stepp was a warrior.  WWS.

Stepp Stories # 10

Alva Stepp- Age 100

It was the year that man first walked n the moon.  I had taken my son Arthur with me on a trip to Stepp Country in East TN.  There were several things I wanted to do on the trip and the first one was to locate the log cabin my grandfather William H. Stepp last lived in just before his death which had been in 1927.  I knew the approximate area to scan so we started driving the country roads North and East of Conklin, Tx.  Art was getting his first look-see of the land of his great grandfather. 

Nothing was turning up to interest me until I spotted an elderly couple in a swing under a big shade tree.  I wheeled in, parked, and we got out and approached the white haired old man.  I asked him if he know where the Stepp cabin was.  I also told him my grandfather’s name and he said he had known him well.  And yes, he owned the 40 acres the cabin was on (he kept on using the word ‘was’).  He rose from the swing and pointed to two large trees about a quarter mile away and said it was in between those two trees until I moved it.   That got my attention and I asked what had happened to it?  He said my old woman wanted a chicken house to replace our old one that blew down in a storm.  Its right out there he said, pointing to a log structure 50 yards away.  I asked to see it and we fell in behind him to an old log cabin.  A head high door on leather hinges was fastened open.  A partial divider wall separated the inside with chicken roosts on one side and hen nests on the  other.  Just above the top row of hens nests was an old 2x4 with a row of old rusty spike nails and just below that was a patched in square space of new lumber.  My host said that was the fire place.  I touched every spike nail.  In my mind I saw pans, skillets, days spoons etc, hanging there.  What a come down.  My son asked, “did someone really live in this old shed?”  I answered, Yes, with no other comment. 

We then returned to the yard where the swing sets were. I started pumping questions at him but Gene (his name was Gene Evans) headed me off. I can’t answer your question but my Dad can, I’ll call him.  He walked to the screen door and shouted “Dad, come on out.  Dad came out, white haired, tobacco stained white beard and spotted my 12 year old son first and said, “Hey boy, you take a chew of this here backer.  It'll make you grow tall.  Art retreated to the shade tree.  Dad spotted me next and then son, Gene Evans said, ‘This is my Dad, Alva Evans.  He just made 100 years old. “  I was already pretty speechless after seeing the ruin of a log house and I had trouble remembering the questions I wanted to ask.  I began by telling him my Dad’s name and he jumped a bit and said, “That thar lad clumb that thar low lying mountain over thar with me,” pointing to the east.  He could answer most of my questions.  His mind was clear.  He used an old homemade cane. 

Art and I had a great vacation, including watching men walk on the moon in the home of one of my relatives that we were using as our headquarters.  I got to renew my friendship with a lot of Tennessee relatives and we soon were on our way back to our Independence, MO.  Seven years later our Kansas City Star newspaper had a news item about the death of a man 107 year old East Tennessee native- Alva Evans by name.  The article went on to say that his son Gene had been trying to get his Dad to apply for Social Security for over 5 years and finally at the age of 106 he agreed to apply for Social Security.  The article said he had drawn only 3 checks from social security and he was fussing at him because would not help him to write letters and repay the government the amount of the three checks!

It was quite a trip and now this.  I remember hoping I could live as long as old Alva, even if I did not chew tobacco.  WWS.

#11 About Mr. Elijah Stepp

This story about Elijah Stapp of Texas (formerly of North Carolina) has to begin with three state of TN Congressmen; Jim Bowie, David Crockett, and Sam Houston.  Houston and his family had relocated to Texas and had a good sized tiff ongoing with a Mexican named Santa Anna.  At that point in history Santa Anna was planning on an invasion into Texas and his target was a religious building, The Alamo. Houston’s army were all in the Alamo and it had been turned into a fortress for the Texans.  Sam Houston knew he was greatly outnumbered when he sent a horseback message to his two best Tennessee friends; Bowie and Crocket. His two TN friends, raised and equipped a 250 man army, which in less than 3 days, using 2 horses per man, arrived at the Alamo in time to defend it. They, along with the rest of Houston’s army died in battle.  The rest is history.

The Texicans won and defeated Santa Anna in so doing.  For a long time, Stepp and Stapp men (many with families) had been relocating to Texas, bearing out the research fact that men of the Stepp and Stapp name were movers, they could  be called pioneers.  It was direction of movement that furnished as many Stapp spelled names as there were Stepp names.  This researcher found many examples of Stepp and Stapp men who had broken the law in Virginia, North Carolina, and later Tennessee, and then moved to Texas to escape prison or even hanging.  Many of those were victims of bent politics of almost the same kind going on in the US. I as an OC (Officer Candidate) school, had been invited to a Sunday meal (in the Abilene Texas area) had actually been (their grandparents) one of those Texicans to be.

This was long before I even knew how to spell genealogy.  The size of Camp Berkley at Abilene actually dwarfed the size of the City of Abilene, TX. 

At that time, a branch that grew from the tree of Abraham Stepp/Stapp was my branch which included both an early day William Stepp and an Elijah Stapp.  (time out for a bit: my daughter liked big, glass covered, fancy framed western and south western pictures).  She had a picture of the Declaration of Independence of our great nation- the United States of America.  And being a ‘mover’ Stepp with a name changed to her husband's, also had a picture of the Declaration of Independence of Texas.  Both of the pictures had the signatures of the signors under the declaratory portions.  I stop and admire every time I visit her home.  On one such occasion, I had my large magnifying glass with me, long after I had been selling my family (The Stepp Family Chronicles.) and decided to scan the pictures of both.  And there it was in big bold letters, ELIJAH STEPP.  It was not printed, but it was a sort of stylish script.

I had to change my tune a lot.  I had never cared much for Texas, probably for the rough treatment I had in winning my gold bars as  an officer, a Lt. in the medical administrative corp.  But it was no problem to keep my mouth shut about my discovery.  A couple of Stepps in NC did a little research for me.  They found that in an early day clan that both spellings were used (that’s no surprise).  And so far as their search was concerned, the clan of Elijah was clean. (no G.T.T. gone to Texas) in any court cases.  In fact, no court cases at all.  Everyone is entitled to their 15 minutes of fame.  Maybe Elijah was my 15 minutes. WWS.

# 12 World War II Bomber Pilot

Larry Kennedy attended grade school and high school in a country school near Fairfax, MO, Irish Grove.  He was the great grandson of Wellington Stepp and the oldest son of John Silas Stepp, Jr., who was the clan leader of the Stepp migration to East Tennessee in 1855.  He was a superb student and athlete.  He graduated from college at Terkio College in that country town.  While employed in Minnesota he took civilian flying lessons.  War was coming, Larry enlisted in the Air Corps, then a part of the US Army.

He made his place in history when he notified his hometown paper he would be flying over Fairfax MO on his way from his southern base to Omaha, Nebraska.  He announced the same information to his family and friends. He did exactly that, flying in a giant circle before heading up on north.  You can imagine the size of his audience.

Near to his last bombing mission (European theatre of war) over the Polish oil fields, they were shot down and crash landed on the shores of the boot of Italy.  Larry brought the big bird down right side up.  Part of the crew were killed.  The pilot, Captain Kennedy, was knocked out and would have drowned had not his navigator pulled him up above the water.  Those who lived were prisoners of war, first in Italy and just as the Allies were taking Italy over, they were moved to Germany.  He was in two breakout attempts and finished out the war in a German Stalog (prison).

While in the War, Larry’s parents left MO and settled in Arizona.  Larry returned to a home which was new and strange to him.  But, he pronounced it wonderful.  After marrying, he gained his Master’s and started teaching and became principle of his high school.  Larry’s navigator, David Westheimer, returned to his home state of California.  Larry was a long time principle of Lafayette School, which now goes by the name of Captain Larry Westheimer School.

On a sad day in March of 1980, Larry’s wife returned to their home and found Larry sitting at the kitchen table with his head in his arms.  He was dead.  On the table was a letter, half written to his old Bomber, navigator, David Westheimer.  His wife immediately called Westheimer in California and asked him to come and officiate at Larry’s funeral.  He came and he did that.  In his eulogy for his pilot, Captain Larry Kennedy, Westheimer once again guided his pilot on his last flight, the one destined by his maker and the one reuniting him with his loved ones and with those of his wartime crew who had passed on before him.  Listen!! You can almost hear the roar of he giant bomber on its last run!

Westheimer was a very successful writer.  His first book was ‘Von Ryan’s Express’.  In the movie Frank Sinatra played the part of a captured Captain and being the senior member of the prisoners, he was in charge of all prisoners, a very severe one.  So they gave him a name, a mean sounding German name – Von Ryan.  It was a pretend story.  His second book, “Sitting It Out,” was a real story about the long and many months of bad food in German Stalogs.  In the real story, captain Kennedy had the planes painted on both sides of the nose.  It was ‘The Natchez to Mobile, Memphis to St. Joe’ – a great plane, flown by a great pilot during 28 major missions.  If they had made 30, they would have been shipped home and the famous plane would have been retired. 

Iva Dell Stepp, daughter of Silas Hinton Stepp, married Lawrence Oliver Kennedy.  Captain Lawrence Clair Kennedy was the second born of seven children, four sons and three daughters. 

Westheimer authored 7 or 8 books.  The two war time books, Von Ryan’s Express and Sitting It Out, can be purchased at most any large book store.  I am proved to be a close relative of Capt. Larry Kennedy – a major member of the Stepp Warriors. WWS.

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# 13  When I Tried to Surrender

On the day I am writing about I was having a real bad day.  About everything that could go wrong went wrong.  Murphy’s Law was having a real heyday.  About 3:00 pm I had arrived at the genealogy Branch of The Independence MO Library, the one real close to Fire Station #1.  The library had just received the total shipment due them of the newly released census year.  There was a census tract law that said the public must wait a certain number of years before anyone's census data could be put on film and released to the public.  If they were releasing data for the year 1970, you would not be able to get it on microfilm until 1990, or whatever year was designated by law.  I forgot how many years it had to be.  Anyway, it was  the first week of the newly released census data.  Lots of researchers were at the Library to get their look-see at the newly released data. 

I was not after information on the newly released data, but I had to buck the crowd that was.  With help I was finally able to check out the State and County of the year I was interested in.  I was almost certain there was a family of Stepps newly moved into the county and state I was interested in.  This microfilm was clear and clean and easy to read, after I had waited an hour to use one of the 10 machines that were being made available on the day I was there.  During the first hour of my search of two counties for Stepp (or Stapp) names and I had not found a Stapp or Stepp name.  I checked the film in and quit for a time, relaxing in the break room that was available to use with table space.

When I returned to check out more new film, I was lucky again and able to get the county I wanted.  Another hour of work and again no outcome – no luck.  I turned out the reroll system and checked in the county I had been checking.  By this time I was really getting hot under the collar.  I put on my jacket and left the building, walking around the block.  I started thinking how dumb I must be to spend all this time and not gaining any reward for my time spent .  Maybe it was time to quit the whole bit and just admit I was not a genealogist at all.  But I went back in and checked out the two counties my name had to be in and to rerun both rolls.  Again after an hour or more, I had to scan everything I had checked out.   No luck.  I decided to give up and go home.  I turned both rolls back in, gathered up my gear, and put on my coat to leave.  I had just opened the door to step outside and for some reason I stopped in my tracks.  I was not sick, something had stopped me.  I tried to leave again and something said ‘no’ again.  So I went back inside again.

I am sure the lady who had been helping me must have thought I was crazy when I checked out the same two rolls again.  I chose a different machine that time.  I chose one county and began a slow roll of the film.  It could not have been more than 5 minutes after I started the roll the name Stepp popped up on the screen.  I leaned back in my chair and pinched myself to see if I was all there.  I decided I was.  I finished taking down all the data that I had hoped to find—even more than I thought I might find.

My mind was starting to try to find out how all this had happened and when it happened, if there was a ‘why’.  There could only be one answer.  The God I believed in had chosen that day to teach me a lesson.  He had surely succeeded. I was not supposed to surrender.  I had been trying to be a quitter and I was not supposed to be.

From that time on, there were more times I wanted to quit; I just pushed them out of the way and finally there was a book, The Stepp Family Chronicles!  WWS. 

# 14 Burney Stepp’s Fast Draw

Burney Stepp was my father.  In all of my research, I never found the name Burney anywhere again.  He was born 21 Feb 1872 and died 6 Dec 1948.  He married my mother, Laura Prather.  His father was William H. Stepp, Civil War Vet, Union Army.  They farmed the three Prather farms (latter called the Stepp Farms) near Watson MO and the home place farm NW of Fairfax, MO.  The farm Laura and Burney purchased in late 1800s.  The home place farm was an ideal livestock farm.  They had a beef cow herd, they farrowed pigs twice a year, from 30 to 40 sows.  He graduated from school at the end of his 3rd year and could read, write, add, subtract and multiply.  He and the rest of his family lived near the Chucky river, very near the little town of Conklin, TN.

I was born and raised on the Home Place Farm.  By the time I could remember it was dust bowl days and the big depression years, where all the banks folded up.  My parents lost $3,000 when their bank folded.  Many men lost their farms but Burney and Laura did not.  That’s a long story for another time. 

Burney raised and marketed about 260 head of fat hogs per year.  By marketed, I mean raised the baby pigs to 200 pounds or more and sold them on the Livestock Market at one of the several markets in nearby cities.  He calved about 60 head of beef calves per year, fed them out to beef steak size (800-1000 lbs.) and sold them.

In the early spring he would farrow 16 sows (about 8-10 pigs born per litter) and when the baby pigs were 3 weeks old, they and their mothers were moved to pasture location in small houses.  The mothers were fed their diet and the babies gradually weaned from their mothers milk to their own feeders with a diet suitable for the little ones.  All this was repeated again 6 months later because the sows were bred twice a year and the sows gave birth twice per year.

On a certain early spring day, it was time to wean the pigs from their mother.  It was a Saturday, so I was available to help my Dad and I was very necessary help.  The 16 sows, each with their babies to be weaned, were scattered about the area surrounding their small pig houses.  My job was to grab (steal) one baby pig at a time, run with it to the nearest pig house and put the pig over the door into temporary captivity.  If he sow had 8 baby pigs, I had 8 trips to make each time.  And I had to try to capture a baby and get them away from their mother.  The last pig to capture, of 8 pigs was the most difficult.  By then the sow mother would be in a very bad humor and was faster on foot than a big fat sow was, which normally would be no problem.

My dad always wore overalls that had a loop in the right leg of the overalls so the farm/livestock man could always carry a hammer.  We were working on sow #16, the last one.  I was down to only 1 baby left.  The sow was mad, really mad.  But, I had no trouble grabbing he last pig and running away with it until I stepped in a hole and fell flat down on the ground.  I could hear the sow’s hooves beating on the ground, the sound getting louder and louder.  And I was trying to get up and out of there when I heard a heavy thud noise as I was rising up and saw the sow fall to her knees and roll over, knocked out.  I looked at my dad; he was picking up his hammer and putting it back in the pant leg loop.

Tennessee boys had strange toys, homemade and they included homemade tomahawks.  My dad had drawn and thrown that straight clawed hammer in one motion, like it might have been a six gun.  I rose up, unhurt.  I asked my dad where he had learned how to do that.  He looked up with a faraway look in his eyes and said, “On Saturdays, on the bank of the Chucky River,” meaning the Noleachucky river.  He must have had an expert teacher!

#15 A Memorial to Keith Stepp

Keith Stepp was born 3 July 1911.  I do not have his exact death date.  It was in the decade of the 1990’s.  He was the son of Hinton Stepp and the Grandson of The Wellington Stepp.  He lost his first wife to cancer and remarried.  From his first wife he left a son, grandson, and great grandson.  He was first cousins to the Kennedy Stepps.  Keith and myself were not only close cousins, we were close friends.  At his death, one of his Kennedy Cousins wrote a memorial to Keith.  Her name was Ruth Kennedy Bigley and the following is the memorial:

What was that long-lost sound I heard?

Was it angel? Was it bird?

Today I shed a tender tear

Over yonder funeral beir

Here Keith’s body found a home

In Missouri’s soft, warm loam

I must search back many years,

Stepping-stones, my latent fears

As organ plays Amazing Grace

I conjure a dear familiar face.

What was sweet whistle I once heard?

Was it boy? Was it bird?

Clear and piercing as a flute

Mellow sound of muted lute

Echoing down the winding hill

Melodious mix of warbling trill.

Each day he burst into my sight

Spinning wheels in morning light.

Black curls tossing in the wind

Avoiding stone wall around the bend.

We ran to meet him on the way

Feet hardly touching he level pecked clay,

Brave foot points in the amber dust

Ignoring sand burt’s cruel thrust

Preceded by our boisterous shouts

Belaying all our childish doubts.

We stopped at unchained wooden gat

Its wide swing slats bore all our weight

Oh, hw was more than casual kin

Like our brother and our friend.

Half-orphaned by his mother’s death

We, saddened by his sobbing breath.

My mother opened her crowded heart

Divided love in seventh part

Washed his smudged and reddened face

Dampened by his morning race.

Slaked his thirst with lemonade

Hunger vouched by breed, homemade.

Now was time to start our play

On sumac chargers, sleek and bay.

Race down hidden narrow trails

Hoof covered prints by pooled fence veils

Bordered by huge jimson weeds

Adorned by trumpet flowers and seeds

We, hot and jaded rode each horse

Panting down our dusty course

Till into trough at tall windmill

Plunged our faces, drank our fill

In icy waters, flowing free

Tethered steds beneath a tree

How quickly did the time rush by

When sun slid west, down burnished sky

Then once again he’d mount his bike

A slower ride, a weary hike

Back to his home for a needed rest

Like a sleepy bird, secure in nest

Till mourning brought another day

And winding down the happy play

The hours grew short, leaves turned to flame

With heady haze, the autumn came

Our priceless time wound to an end

We grew adult-- women, men.

Frivolity gave way to truth

As serious matters claimed our youth

Soon circumstances brought parting ways

Nevermore those matchless days

Passing years and failing heart

Tore dimming memories apart.

Now roosting on ancestral ground

Above him heaped a new made mound.

My cousin’s body found a home

In Missouri’s soft brown loam.

What was that long lost sound I heard?

Was it angel? Was it bird?

 

All the Stepps and all the in laws loved Keith Stepp.  He helped anyone who needed help.  He never had an enemy in his lifetime.  Ruth Kennedy, you wrote a wonderful, loving memorial for a great and good man, Keith Stepp.  WWS

 

                                                                                                                                                               

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#16 An Old East Tennessee Mountain Dictionary

My dad, Burney Stepp, was the son of an East Tennessee Smokey Mountain Man.  Mountain folks had their own dialect.  Due to the courtesy of Ms. Lillie Moore, a Tennessee native, I am going to provide the Website with an ‘old time’ dictionary, starting right now. 

brung – to bring something.

Vittles – food or victuals

Skeeters – mosquitoes

Jints – joints, like knee joints

Spiled – spoiled

Peaked – pale

A-fixin - getting ready

Book read – educated

You’ns – you or you all

Furpiece – a great distance

Biggetry – stuck up or high brow

Wupped – whipped or spanked

Crick – creek

Wider – female who lost husband

Clum – climbed

Kivver – cover

Drapped –to drop something

Smack dab – exactly

Plumb – completely

Lollygagin – gossiping or wasting time

ET – eat

Hot-up – upset, bothered

Gully washer – very hard rain

Holler – a small valley

Askeerad – afraid

Churched – accused in front of church audience

Bandanner – handkerchief

Pizen – poison

Skittish – nervous

Put out – angry

Hush up – become quiet

Shed of – get rid of

Arish – drafty, chilly

Shot – shut

Fetch – bring

Windor-window

Poorly – feeling bad

The above is not a very long dictionary but its longer than American Indian sign language.  I tried to make a full sentence using only words in the above dictionary.  I gave up.  Remember they did have school houses and a man or woman was teaching readin, writin, and ciphering and using most of the words in the dictionary above.

Now I  am a-fixin to end this here tale and head for the holler to shot that thar gate I left open.

I know and visited many of these people.  There were my ancestors.  As far as I am concerned, they were the salt of the earth.  These people descended from white shirt and neck-tie ancestors across the sea.   And their descent will once again produce (50% wise) more generations of white shirt and necktie people.  This writer is a hybrid.  I descended from a mountain man and a Kentucky finishing school mother and I am equally proud of both, and thankful!!! WWS.

 

#17 A Language Lesson My Brother George Taught Me

My brother George was born in 1906.  I was born in 1916, a 10 year spread.  We were not playmates.  I liked him and I loved him.  In one sense we were alike – in parentage- in another sense we were as different as day and dark.  My parents had to buy George an expensive watch to get him to finish the 8th grade in country school.  But he became a smarter business man than I have ever been.  All those years I was preparing myself (three degrees from college) for my adult life, George was already out there and doing, not preparing.

I found my parents all the way regarding education:  I did not want to finish the 8th grade; I did not want to go to high school; I did not want to finish High School; I did not want to get my undergraduate college degree.  By the time I had earned another college degree from Uncle Sam (WWII, nearly 5 years).  I did have sense enough to use the free education and my masters came because I wanted it.

Now, flashing back to the month of my graduation from Iowa State University (Ames, Iowa), December 1937, I had rolled up my hard won degree and had arrived home (The Stepp home farm) near Fairfax, MO.  My parents had prepared a great home coming for me on that special Sunday.  My brother George and his wife and my three sisters and their husbands.  About a table of eleven people.  I was getting on forward the 1937 Christmas and some of them had brought me Christmas presents. My parents and siblings looked upon me as being bookish. All in all, for the first time in my life as a grown up, my entire family was there and paying homage to me.  I did lots and lots of thanking. 

From start to finish there was a lot of talking during the meal.  They were all (siblings mostly) asking me questions, especially George, my brother.  My answers were taking up a great deal more time than their questions.  Bear in mind that all my siblings, even George’s wife, had not seen me in years and some of the questions were like, “Is there going to be a war?” etc.  My vocabulary was mostly exactly as it would have been on any one day of my senior year.  I was using, without knowing, a lot of words pertinent to my degree and all of them new and strange to my family.  Finally George got in a question or two and in order to answer them I had to explain some background factors to give a sensible answer.  What I thought was sensible anyway.  When I finished George said “Wayne, that last sentence you said about water aquifers, will you give me your answer again.  It sure did sound good and I’d like to hear it again.  He said all this with a half smile on his face.  I got his intent immediately.  He was ‘talking me down’ for using big words, all new and strange to him.  I paused a bit and smiled back, and repeated it again.  All the while he was half smiling, half laughing.   

I deserved what he did.  I had not stopped to realize that for over 4 years I had been talking a language almost completely new to everyone at that table.  I saved face a bit by backing up and changing the subject to items in their present day vocabulary and activities.  From that day on, I loved my brother more than ever.  A man who had established (along with his wife) a restaurant (The Stepp Inn), a pool hall and a bowling alley in a little country town on an 8th grade education.  He was entitled to make me speak ‘his language’ instead of vice versa.  George Stepp was a great brother.  I loved him.  WWS

 

# 18 Dr. Gray’s Saturday Night Prescriptions

Going away back in the late 1930’s/early 1940’s, before President Franklin D. Roosevelt, FDR.  Before they ended the law that said no booze of any kind in the USA could be sold.  Everything was dry, dry, dry.  Not even any beer or wine.  Since some drug items that were laced with alcohol were classified as medicines they had to make exceptions – drug stores could sell whiskey, beer, wine, or anything else alcoholic IF a doctor had written a prescription for the sick and ailing person.  Suddenly, new brands of cough syrup were taking up a lot of space in the drug store.  New shelves had to be installed.

Dr. Gray was a very legitimate MD and a very good one.  He was the only doctor in Watson, MO and the surrounding area.  Dr. Gray had to expand his office space in order to furnish his patients with prescriptive cough, sore throat medicine and other items to similar to some old time ‘syrups.’  He had to hire extra help because the demand was so heavy.  Starting early Saturday morning Dr. Grey would begin looking down the throat of dozens of ‘sick’ citizens.  His nurse would write the prescriptions as fast as she could write and Dr. Gray would (ever so often, between ‘throats’) sign the prescriptions.  It was the beginning of the ‘’bath tub” gin days in the big cities, the speak easys with tiny glass windows in a big heavy doors etc.  It was boot-leg booze bonanza!

If patrolman stopped a car that was weaving around in an unsafe manner and asked to see the drivers prescription, he was okay.  No arrest was made.  Yes, the number of auto accidents did increase.  The demand for degreed (licensed) druggist boomed.  Colleges had to expand in that department.  One could actually be a licensed, degreed druggist, hang out his drug store sign and we very busy in a hurry.  A few adventurous farmers started making White Lightening – corn whiskey- just like Smoky Mountain men in East Tennessee, North Carolina, and elsewhere had been doing for a hundred years.  Some rural folk started expanding their gardens to make room for a hundred or more rows of corn.  The city folks soon caught on, took their how to lessons from their rural 9country) friends and produced their own ‘cough medicine.’

Those of you who know your history know what happened next.  Ban Booze signs started up like weeds after a rain.  Too many accidents, too many deaths, too many ‘booze gangs’ fighting each other in the big cities.  Gang fights in all the big cities.  The outcry grew louder and louder and finally, when FDR was elected, very, very soon 3.2% beer, wine, and other light drinks were legal and then the birth of the liquor store.  And gradually the law was expanded to approximate the more or less wide open booze parlors all over our nation that are operating today.

Study the cycle: A dry, dry, dry nation, then a damp nation, and then a very, very, wet nation.  Even so there are still dry counties, even dry cities.  Some areas are trying for the old dry, dry status.  Somewhere between wet and dry will continue to be the answer at this time.

Dr. Gray had to let his  extra help go.  He had to tear out the extra shelves.  He could work shorter days again.  He was eventually elected to high office in the stat capital and very soon closed up his office and retired his practice.  His patients had to find another, not so close doctor.

I am sure there are books and books written about what I have been writing about and much more accurately than I have written in the story.  Remember this: In the first three years of our bloody Civil War in our USA, whiskey was all they had for germ killing and for knocking out the patient who had to undergo surgery.  For everything there is a ‘time.’  For everything there is a purpose.  A power above all other power has seen fit to make things as they have been as they are now and will be. 

#19 My Visit To Stepptown, West Virginia

The kids were out of the nest and Marg and I were on a week or so of vacation time.  Our route was to KY and TN, VA, W.VA and then on north.  Stepptown, W.VA was almost on the east bank of the Tug River which is the boundary of KY and W.VA.  We spend a lot of time in KY cruising around the horse country of KY.  It’s a beautiful part of KY, the pretty white fences, the bluegrass pastures and the fine horses all make a wonderful “real” picture.  And we visited The Moses Stepp Monument on the Airway very near the town of Lovely, KY.  And then on to the small town of Stepptown, W. VA and yes, it is on every Rand McNally Map!

There was a city limit sign and we drove into an area, very beautiful kept, grass, mowed no trash blowing, everything nice, neat, and orderly.  We parked under a large (trunk size) and tall tree with the side of our car facing a park-like bench under a tree, on which sat an aged man.  We got out of the car and slowly walked toward the man on the bench.  The aged man rose from his seat and with the help of his cane, started to meet us.

I was in no hurry to identify ourselves and he did not try to introduce himself.  Hw was unable to see our license plate even if his sight had been good because the car was parked so as to hid the plate.  I broke the ice by saying what a pretty little town he lived in.  His reply was to say, “we watch every stranger that come in ‘har’.  They might be up to no good.”  I then handed him my drivers license but spoke no word to him.  He pulled an ancient pair of spectacles from his shirt pocket and proceeded to inspect my card.  It took a while, but soon he said “Be you’n a Stepp?”  My answer was short and friendly. I said “I be.”  He replied, “That’s rot good, you be welcome.”  I do not remember his first name, but he was sure nuf a Stepp.  By that time another car had driven up and parked next to us, two men in the car.  I am guessing that they were reinforcements if necessary.  The aged one introduced the two men and all of us ended up sitting on benches or what not close enough together so as to be within talking (visiting) range.

I had some questions to ask, so I ‘broke the ice.’  I will try to list my questions and the answers:

How big is Stepptown?

We are under a hundred now. We got two empty houses (was that an invitation?).

To the aged man, how old are you?

I air ninny three

Do you have a Mayor?

I be the Mayor.

Have you ever seen or heard of a book telling about the Stepp people?

No, but one of my boys across the river had one.

Have you ever been to any of the Stepp reunions at Inez, KY?

No, but I have heard about them.

Were you ever acquainted with any of the KY Hatfields and McCoys?

No, weens her don’t cater to that killen.  It be wrong.

Is your wife living?

Yes, she be rot puny (sick).

I then said, “We would like to drive around the town, but we won’t get out of our car, is that all right with you?”  For such a small place and considering that age of some of the people it was really a clean town.  There were several boats upside down on some supports so apparently someone liked to get on the river. As we finally left the town, we waved good by to the Mayor and headed back to the KY side of the river.

Since then, many times I have spoken about Stepptown to various one and most don’t believe me.  I just tell them to get out your map and your Rand McNally, look up and down at the boundary of KY and W.VA and you will find Stepptown.  It was a nice experience.

                                                                                                                                                               

#20 The Hat Pin Church Revival Meeting

My Dad, Burney Stepp, told me this story.  I think it has a 90% chance of being true.  He said his folks and his buddy’s folks insisted the two boys should attend the church revival service (in a tent) on a Sunday evening.  They had attended it the day before.  Both boys had their own sadly horse and both had a small just of white lighten attached to their saddle horns.  That was not uncommon in the day and age f or 18 year old lads.  Most (not all) knew the power in the jug and respected it.  They had about a 40 minute horseback ride to the tent site.  They took their horses into the timber and finding a tree with no horses tied to it, they tied theirs and started to the tent not realizing they were at least 30 or 40 minutes late.

They approached the tent from the backside of it and hearing the loud preaching inside the tent the stopped to listen.  The preacher was a lady and judging from the big bulge that appeared on the back of the tent, when the preacher lady rammed her backside into the tent wall, she was very well  endowed.  When they realized they could not understand a word the preacher said, they knew she was speaking in tongues.  They had heard it before.  Probably neither boy had really wanted to attend that revival meeting; perhaps they had heard this same heavy set woman before.  Anyway one or the other of them thought of a rather unkind thing to do. My dad never did explain why either one of the young men would have a woman’s hat pin with them, but one of them did.  A hat pin was about 8 or 9 inches long with a knob on one end to grasp as the pin point would be thrust it thru the hat surface into the woman’s hair, back out thru the had surface, thus securing the hat to the head of the woman.  So much for hat pin usage instructions.  The big bulge in the tent wall was just too tempting. One of them jabbed the hat pin into the center of the big bulge. My dad said the talking in tongues ceased immediately and the woman let out a very loud yell and then let go with one of the most professional cussing either of the boys had ever heard.  She did pause long enough to yell, “go get them! Catch them!”  Apparently no one in the audience knew what she meant when she said go get them.  It would not have done any good if some had started after them, both boys were long gone, headed for their horses.  Later I wondered what happened to the hat pin.  I had not thought to ask my dad that question.

I remember when I was 18 years old and a stunt I was in on (that’s another story I will be telling, but there were 4 of us in on the stunt I will be describing).

Later on I got to thinking about his story and a lot of questions entered my mind.  Did the parents know they had jugs tided to their saddle horns?  Was that a very good thing to take to church instead of a Bible?  Also how were the boys so knowledgeable about the cussing words that the very heavy set woman was using?  If I had tried something like that I would have been in very deep  trouble, not that I was ‘lily white’, I was not.  Also did the two Tennessee boys know or believe, that the preacher was a fake?  (as she probably was?  But I never questioned my Dad on these matters, mostly I was too be seen and not heard.

My dad’s father, William H. Stepp, was voted the most handsome soldier in his cavalry company I (eye).  I personally read that in the old diary of my grandfather’s brother.  Maybe there was a few wild genes in the Stepp clan??

Whatever we are, that’s what we are.  My parents had faults, but it did not stop me from loving them.  I had faults, but it did not stop my parents from loving me.  We all have to be teachers of sorts.  I have met and to and extent know, thousands of Stepps.  There have only been 3 or 4 that I do not want anything to do with.  I will accept that record, any day, any time.  WWS.

# 21  Fastest Man on the Earth

The Man With the Right Stuff

The man we are talking about is Col. John Paul Stapp.  He hurtled across he new Mexico desert in Dec ’54 strapped and tied and locked into the seat of a rocket sled pushed to 632 miles per hour before slapping into a column of water that crushed its motion in one and two fifths seconds.  Col Stapp was in dozens and dozens of other tests.  He suffered cracked ribs, fillings fell from his teeth, eyes hemorrhaged and coccyx fractured.  He would be blind for eight minutes after each test.  Later he would say he felt like a fly aboard a 45 caliber bullet.  Actually, he was going faster than a bullet.

These tests were to find out how the human body would cope with motion at super sonic speed. He dared to find out.  This from a man who was afraid to ski because it was too dangerous!!  Col Stepp was also a Dr. Stapp, an MD.  Many of his tests were at high altitude airplane flights.  These were to sort out the ‘possible’ data from the ‘impossible’ data.  He also applied answers gained to use in car crash research.  On Sept 12 ’55, Time magazine named him Space Surgeon Stapp.  He proved his sense of humor when he said those tests were necessary to insure that these macho pilots wouldn’t be sterilized.

Now, fast forward into May 15, 2009 and think of the following:

1)      Space trips back and forth to a permanent station in the sky.

2)      Telescopes stationed in space to increase ‘seeable’ distance.

3)      Two nations (USA and Russia) working together, living together in space, trusting there lives to each other.  (Wonder if that will ever be possible on the face of the earth?)

4)      A man, an non-scientist paying a million dollars to have a ride into space and back again.

5)      Scientific conversations about planting communities in space.  And, much more.

Like many of the projects of the past, many taxpayers are saying we should not be spending billions and billions of dollars for both present status quo research, plus all the new probes into outer space.  Some are saying we must and eventually will find a planet like our planet earth and we can begin to plan on how to shift a lot of earth population to the new ‘earthlike’ planet.

Back in the covered wagon days when man and woman would ride, float, or walk from East Coast USA all the way to the West Coast, USA, they now those leaving would never see loved ones again, and vice versa.   Will outer space travel and homesteading be repeating the ‘sadness’ of separation of loved ones?  It’s scary to think of that?  But men and women will dare!

There is one factor that belongs in this chapter that I have left to last end on purpose.  The USA, in the majority, is a ‘One God in Heaven’ believing nation.  I am in that category.  I believe that the some of God, both in Heaven and on Earth, died, gave his life, to save me from eternal death.  God built what we call “The Universal.”  God in Heaven will do the Directing.  He has proven in the past that He is in charge.  The job assigned to we mortals is to try and recognize His plan, his Directing and His intentions.  As I see it, our job, the job of we mortals, is to help Him, as individual earth occupants, to help, not hinder, God’s plan.   

#22  Chewing Tobacco

I first heard about ‘tobacco’ as a very small lad where I would see my East Tennessee mountain born father take a bite from a brown looking bunch of leaves and chew it, and/or see him crumple some up and stuff it in a thing called a pipe—and then stick the pipe in his mouth.  As a teenager in NW MO, on the Home Place Stepp Farm, my dad raised tobacco.  One planted seed is a ‘hot bed’ covered with a see thru material.  As soon as possible the cover was taken off and the baby plants loaded onto the horse drawn tobacco planter.  My job as a small lad was to ride on a seat about 6-8 inches off the ground and stuff a plan into a hole made by the machine and a container of water let loose a small borage of H2O into the hole containing the plant.  I think the plans were about 12-14 inches apart and the rows were the same distance apart as corn rows. 

The plants were cultivated the same way as young corn plants, destroy the weeds, cover fresh soil around the plant, bracing it so as to withstand the wind.  When the plan was about 2.5 feet tall, it was too tall to cultivate and just right for the very ugly, horny tobacco worm to start chewing on the tender leaves (very big leaves).  My job was to ‘worm’ the fields of tobacco.  I walked the rows carrying a ½ gallon can half full of kerosene or gasoline.  Wearing gloves, I picked the ugly things off the plant leaves and dunked them into the can, killing them.  As I walked around and wormed the rows, one on each side of me.  At the end of he row, I would screen off the gas or kerosene into a second can and dump out the dead worms.  I did not like the job, but I did it.  I could worm a 20 acre field in a day.

At harvest time, when the leaves were ripe, each stalk of tobacco was slit so as to allow the pole to be slid through the slit.  A stick would hold about 7 or 8 stalks of tobacco.  These sticks would be hung on scaffolding, several layers high in a big tobacco barn (hay barn in this case).  The tobacco would dry in a few months, be taken down, leaves taken from stalk, put into bales and sold at a tobacco market. 

The first year we grew tobacco, we had hung several layers of poles in an old house on the back side of the Stepp Home Place Farm.  About the time it should be dry ripe) Uncle Ray, my dad’s brother, would pull off leaves, wad them into a wad and chew tobacco.  He could tell if it was ready to process.  I was about in the first y ear of my teens when I asked Uncle Ray if I could go with him to check the tobacco in the old house.  He said yes and away we went.  To the far east, or back side of the farm, and the lowest elevation in that particularly 40 acre pasture. 

Uncle Ray extracted a wad of tobacco and started chewing.  Soon a look of great satisfaction lit up his face.  I asked if I could check a smaller wad and he pulled off a sample, wadded it up and gave it to me to start chewing on.

Uncle Ray turned away and started up the rather steep hill back to farm headquarters. I was starting to feel ill, but I started up the hill to follow him.  I made about 30 yards and went down, so sick, really bad sick.  I was down on my knees, retching for a long time, so dizzy I could not even stand up.  IN the meantime Uncle Ray had reached the top of the hill to sit down and rest.  He looked down and saw me,  but showed no concern as he sat there enjoying his chew.  Finally, I could stand up, so weak I  could hardly walk, but I did – slowly- but finally to the top.  I sat down with Uncle Ray, who said nothing for a time.  Then, “Wal son, that there first chaw can be pretty rough.  The next one won’t be quite so bad.”

I did not reply, except what I said to myself, “ There just won’t be a next time.”  I just never understood how anyone with good sense could actually chew that stuff!! Enough said.  WWS 

# 23 The Travelling Barrels

The Dirty Thirties was the nickname of the bad years of the great economic depression and the dust bowl days (no rain fell for 4 years, almost).   It was tough on all farmers, especially those that did not diversify.  Those farmers that just crop farmed lost their farms (purchased with loaned money).  Market corn was cheaper than coal or firewood so farmers used their ‘always dry year’ crops to heat their homes and cook with.  My dad, Burney Stepp, was big on cow herds and raising hogs.  If he did not squeak through with enough grain crops to ‘feed and fatten’ (cattle and hogs) he sold them to someone who did have.  But that was just the beginning of his diversification.  He milked 4 to 5 dairy cows most of the time; with a Sears Roebuck cream separator, he separated the heavy cream from the skim milk.  The cream sold on  the market, the skim milk furnished the protein for the pig crop after they were weaned.  My mother doubled her number of laying hens and sold big crate of eggs at the town market every Saturday night.  But the big money intake was from the 7-8 acre apple and peach orchards and summer melon crops (watermelon, squash, pumpkins, etc).

For 6-8 months per year, Saturday and Sundays were his roadside market days during the season; melons, apples, peaches, and strawberries.  Everything I have said translates in to labor.  There were a lot of us and everybody worked 7 days per week.  Buyers from as far away as 50 miles (a long way) would pull up to our roadside stand all day on Saturday and Sunday.  On most Mondays, Burney Stepp went to the Bank and made another payment on the farm mortgage.  He never missed  on the monthly total that was due. 

Burney Stepp never forgot East Tennessee and the Smoky Mountain kin folk.  Somewhere he found 2 fifty gallon size barrels, not big heavy oak whiskey barrels, but strong, lightweight barrels of he same size of whiskey barrels (lightweight wood).  Every fall, when the Jonathan and Grimes Golden Apples were right it was my job to fill those two barrels with apples of those two varieties, one barrel for each of the two.  My dad shipped the barrels by rail to his parents and relatives in Washington County Tennessee (Conklin, Limestone, Telford – all small towns plus the big town of Jonesboro, TN).  There was a ‘dividing up group’ that disposed of the apples per Burney Step's instructions.

When the barrels were emptied in TN, they were each filled with a new product: one with chestnuts (that was before the blight killed all the chestnut trees) and one with cured ‘long green’ tobacco—and back to MO went the loaded barrels, to be divided up among the NW MO Stepp folks.  And in our house we really did have roasted chestnuts by the fire, just like the song!

The barrels made the round trip for 15 years.  When they began to show wear and tear, Burney bought new ones. 

And I became a genealogist and wrote a book about us: The Stepp Family Chronicles.  And I researched in that barrel county.  One day I called an old house near the ‘Chucky’ river, near Conklin, TN.  I met a man over 80 years of age.  He had known my father, Burney before he had left Tennessee for Missouri.  He had been one of the two men who had laid out (prepared the body for burial) my grandfather, Civil War Veteran William H. Stepp, my Dad’s father.  He was one of the clan who saw to the fair and equal dividing up of the MO Apples.  Yes, they were fine apples.  They helped to save the Stepp Home Place Farm.  Their story really belonged in my book, The Stepp Family Chronicles, and that’s where it is.  Its something I know about.  I filled those barrels with my two hands, the hands I now use to write this study.  The traveling barrels were unique, one of a kind.  It all happened.  It was all real.  It’s true. I can still taste the roasted chestnuts, and I was by the fire when I ate them.

Pg 52

 

The Stepps: The Beginning

By William Wayne Stepp

Introduction

The Stepp stories will be presented to you be the owners of the new Stepp Website.  The stories will  be written by William W. Stepp, author and researcher of the “The Stepp Family Chronicles.”  They will consist of excerpts.  Our hope is that it will help make you better acquainted with our ancestors and will give you some idea of what we, all the Stepps, owe to the Stepps of our past.  The stories will be presented in ‘first person’ where applicable.  The author of the The Chronicles, this writer, wishes to give research credit to the more than twenty volunteer researchers.  The first edition of the “The Chronicles” was long ago sold out.  Two books remain of the second edition. I sold a copy to Mike Stepp, Plano, TX just last week.  There will be no 3rd edition—no more books. 

Off and on, in these stories, we will be referring quite a lot to two words—the word FROM and ORIGIN.  If Sampson Stepp said his ancestral Stepps came from Germany who knew what he was talking about.  He was absolutely right.  Four hundred mile south, Ralph Stepp said his ancestral Stepps came from Manchester, England.  He too knew what he was talking about.  He was absolutely right.  So were every other Stepp in the USA (and elsewhere) who said that their ancestors were from Cities and countries all over the world (by migration, by wars, by weather or by having ‘itching feet’).  All of them were right.  The Stepps have always been pioneers and movers.  But now we must talk about the word ORIGIN—meaning the beginning.  Where did the Stepp originate?  2 Up until the advent of DNA, only one researched origin had been found, along with the first major ????, identified mostly word were from the Ukraine—but who know how many other directions?

Robert Stepp (Florida Bob Stepp) has DNA educated me to the content I want to be.  He has spent the money to find and document 4 or t other Stepp origins—and he is still going at it.  So far he has ‘messed up’ some of the old time documented research in both my book, The Chronicles, and the Scalf book.  It seems that since the researching and documenting days of Rudolf Stepp (the Scalf book) and myself (The Chronicles) we have been forced to recognize ‘adoptions’ and the fact of apparent (but unknown) careless mating of the  two sexes.  Facts cannot hide from DNA.  It’s something that has to be dealt with if one has to be ‘DNA correct’.

Thank God the Stepp Stores you will hear about in the future, pictures the old time are of ‘ON-SITE’ research.  The kind that can send chills up and down you back –like talking to a 92 year old man (back in 1970-80 period) in the Virginia County of the Page Grays (color of Confederate uniform), county of Virginia.  And that old man guiding me down a long and bumpy road leading me to a secluded wooded area and point to the left—out into the woods.  I saw the fain trail, shrubs and trees showing me the way and the underbrush not so heavy.  I got out the car and started down the ancient trail till it ends ???? in a group of extra short trees, and I trip over a line of stones.  I follow the stones by using a forked tree branch as a rake and uncover a rectangle of – a foundation of a house—a home.  You stop, if it were you, and I did too.  I stopped.  I find the base of a fireplace and my rake hooked something down in the matted leaf mold area.  I pulled up and on my ‘rake’ was the iron bail of an old iron pot—the handle.  That’s when the the real ‘chill’ comes.  When I stroked the handle I was tracing the finger prints of may occupants of that log cabin. 3 I stand up  and look at the sky and I mentally saluted all those who came before me.  That is what you call genuine ON-SITE research – you are back in times—on a one to one basis with those responsible for my being here; I am in their house, alive and well.  There is nothing on earth about DNA that can equal what I have just described. 

When I started to research my ancestors after my retirement, I thought it would be mundane and laborious, something I had to do.  Not true.  I thought God in Heaven had assigned me to do a job.  Every time I wanted to quit, HE would not let me.  I kept on.  The result was “The Stepp Family Chronicles.”

Now with my Stepp Stories, I am going to share the path I followed with all of you who can see and read.  As Festus said on TV many times, I ‘gar-en-tee’ many of the stories will send chills up your back and a lot of times you will stand up and SALUTE the name of STEPP. WWS

Stepp Stories #1

In the mid 1950’s I was checking on my Cargill, Inc.  Sales Crew in NW Iowa.  The town was Manchester.  The name on the door of the nearly new office building read “James A. Stepp, MD.”  I knocked on the door and then entered.  A young lady asked if I had an appointment.  I said no, but I would like to speak to Dr. Stapp. She said he was too busy to talk.  I replied “Tell hem Wayne Stepp wishes to speak to him- he will see me.   She left and came back with the Dr.  We shook hands and he immediately guided me to the attractive mantle over the fireplace in his office.  Over the mantle, on the wall, was a beautiful sword hilt sticking out of a just as beautiful scabbard.  Dr Stepp pointed at the sword and said ‘When I did this sword goes to my grandson!” I replied, “that’s nice.”  He pointed to an inch high stack of pages on the mantle and said his sister and he paid $3,000 for that, to a researcher to find out who they were.  He asked my Dad’s name and I answered “Burney Stepp.” He said “that’s no help.” “Give me a relative of your Dad, a man’s name.” I answered my Dad spoke often about his Uncle Well Stepp.  He smiled and said “that’s better, his Uncle Well was short for Wellington, named after the Duke of Wellington, the Iron Duke.”  The Iron Duke was Sir Arthur Wellesley, after the Queen knighted him.  He led the armies that defeated Napoleon in The Battle of Waterloo in 1815.  The Royal Family had rewarded the Duke with that beautiful sword.  The jewels alone on the sword and scabbard are worth a fortune.

At the time I did not know how to spell genealogy, but that what I had stumbled onto.  I asked him to send me a copy of his research and name his price.  He said he would, but he never did send anything.  But I had touched the sword of the Iron Duke of Wellington.   I had unknowingly done my first bit of genealogical research!

Flashing forward to the mid 1980s, I had retired and was selling the first edition of my book, “The Stepp Family Chronicle.”  My dad’s uncle Well was born in 1823, eight years after the battle of Waterloo – and yes, he had been named after the Iron Duke but there was a reason for doing so, a far greater reason than just hero worship.  That reason was a blood in law relationship between the Iron Duke and a ship’s captain named John Stepp.

There had always been many parties and celebrations after all the wars where the Iron Duke had led his winning armies to victory.  A much younger sister of the Duke, but his favorite apparently, for he had given her his most beautiful sword and scabbard, probably to keep it out of his will, had attended all of those celebrations and had fallen in love with one of the Iron Duke’s military staff.  They became engaged and were planning to marry.  Fate butted in.  her lover had been sent with the Duke to Spain where they had defeated a French army and where her lover was wounded and later died from his wounds.  Mary did not know she was pregnant at the time he left England.  The baby was born in secret and Mary made plans to sail along with her baby to the English colony of Virginia. 

The trip was very long on the American Ship.  The Master of the ship, John Stapp, attended to every need, both Mary’s and her child’s .  A love match was born on the voyage and a marriage occurred in Virginia (Scalf’s book, researcher Rudolf Stepp, describes the location of the various Stepps and Stapps who where ship builders, ship masters and all else it took to run a shipyard.  They sailed tobacco and cotton to England and returned with all the items needed by the Colony, and tea of course!

No wonder a Stepp family in Virginia named their son “Wellington” after the Iron Duke.  Future stories will tell of the sword the Iron Duke as the sword travels from Stepp family to Stapp family and from war to war by military men named Stepp and some named Stapp.

Stepp Story #  2

There is much more to be said about The ‘Iron’ Duke of Wellington.  It will take this story and one other to do the job.  The data on our story we owe entirely to Robert (FL Bob) Stepp.  My paternal grandfather was a brother to his paternal grandfather.  Florida Bob is the best researcher of Stepp data in times past, right now, and in the future.  He combines the knowledge of ‘know how’ of both Rudolph Stepp and myself plus going all the way and real deep with the DNA science. 

Arthur Wellesley was born in Ireland in 1769 the 4th son of Garrett Wellesley, Earl of Mornington.  He was educated in Eton College and at a military college in France.  He was a ‘warrior’.  The following will prove it:

1.       He first saw combat in 1794-95 under the Duke of York-Holland. 

2.       Sent to India in 1796, promoted to Colonel and to Major General in 1801. In less than 4 months he firmly established British power in India.

3.       Elected to Parliament in 1806.  Appointed to Chief Secretary of Ireland.

4.       In 1808 Spain revolted against Napoleon.  British sent help for Spain. The Duke, promoted to Lt. General, was given command of a division.

5.       In 1809, Wellesley made commander of all forces, Spain and Portugal.  In 1814 he entered France, Napoleon abdicated.  The war ended.

6.       When he returned home, he was given title “Duke of Wellington”.

7.       IN 1814 he made Ambassador to France; Napoleon escapes exile, raises army.  In command at Battle of Waterloo 1815.  Defeated Napoleon. 

8.       Remained in charge of Army Occupation until 1818 in France.

9.       In 1827, Commander in Chief of the Army.

10.   Prime Minister in 1828.

11.   Commander in Chief again in 1846.

12.   Died September 15, 1852, buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral. 

There is no doubt the ‘Iron Duke’ was the very best there was.

Churchill in WWII comes close in England’s rating of their great ones, but his moment of glory (WWII, just before and briefly after), was very short compared to Arthur Wellington’s life long service to his country.  Our president George Washington comes much closer as a rival of Arthur Wellington’s long life of service to his country.  I shudder to think what might have happened in the last days of the Revolutionary war at Yorktown, where Washington won his greatest victory and where the stage was set to make our thirteen clusters of colonial population into what we could call a nation.

Mary Wellesley Stepp carried the gene code of the Iron Duke and everyone of their children carried those famous genes, and down the genetic ‘ladder’.  Some of the ships the clan of the Stepps build fought on our side in our war of revolution.

I cannot write the second story on the name Wellington until I stop and study my own book, but I do remember one item—that there were more than half a dozen more Wellington Stepps.  In my own personal research I never found a single one who could equal that life lived by the Iron Duke, or even come close.

The wife of my Uncle ‘Well’ passed away and is buried in the Washington College Cemetery in east Tennessee.  Most of their children had moved from Tennessee and Uncle Well was lonely.  So he moved to Northwest Missouri to live with his married daughter, Iva Clara Stepp Peoples.  He died in old age and is buried in the cemetery very near to my farms at Watson, MO.  What an oddity: My knowledge of the word “Wellington” began in NE Iowa in the mid 1950’s and it ended in NW corner of MO within 3 miles of the farm of the Stepp who became accidentally acquainted with the Stepp who owned the Sword of the Iron Duke.  Strange things do happen.  Surely there must be one of the those times.  WWS.

Stepp Stories #3 The wagon Train Massacre

If some of my story titles sound the same as some chapters in my book The Stepp Family Chronicles its because they are the same.  The difference is in the style.  I tell the research necessary so as to be able to tell the story.  These are two very different bits of writing.  One much harder work than the other.

I was researching the USA southwest, CO, AZ, and NM mostly.  My name for the area was ‘New Mexico Bob Stepp Country’ or ‘Silver City Bob Stepp’ country.  I was visiting a Stepp in Mesa, AZ, sort of headquaretering there.  I honestly forgot his first name.  He was retired and a collector of big tall antique clocks.  His pride and joy was a clock so tall that the clock face was so high he had to cut a hole in the ceiling in the corner to accommodate the height of the clock.  I think he had a $10,000 price tag on it.  He asked me where I was going next and I said probably Tucson.  He answered  out of the blue, “How would you like to visit some Pima Indians named Stepp?”  I left my car with him and off we went, south of Tucson.

We did most with two brother with the surname Stepp.  They were, and looked like, Indians.   I will make the story as short as I can.  There was a wagon train massacre.  On e wagon had been a Stepp man and wife and two very young boys.  He started to educate me in Indian murders: Apaches killed all adult whites including all children over 10 or 12 years old.  The Pimas wanted only orphan white children and being on good terms with the Apaches they were given the boys.  One of them had been the father of the two we were talking to.  The original two, being old enough to remember their name, but never used it until there was a reason to,   The reasons were that Pimas were to be paid some very good money etc. etc.  The apparently though it wise to start using the surname Stepp and they were right.  They were then receiving payments.  I tried to ‘pump’ them and received very little information other than their people had ‘handed’ down the information that their parents had been killed by the Apaches.  There were other Pimas with the Stepp name.  A sort of remember my drivers name—I thought it was Glenn Stepp.  He had to get back to the Mesas so we did not tarry any longer than necessary to get the basic information. 

Later, when I found out hot to learn it—I found that all the western states had suffered wagon train massacres had that information in their state archives.  I always intended to get the list but never found the time to do that much driving and staying away from home headquarters (Independence, MO) that long.

I should add a few more things.  Both Pima men we talked to had white facial features but Indian colored skin—at least on their faces.  They did not use long sentences when they talked.  They had attended school, but I forget where they attended school.  Their parents lived on the reservation, but they did not because they had employment off the reservation.

All in all it was an interesting trip.  I had received a lot of information about antique clocks and I really did see and talk to, Pima Indians with the authentic name of Stepp.

In my case, starting on my 94th year of life, it has been a long time ago when I was read stories (westerns) about the ‘wild west’ with Indians, cowboys, silent western movies with Tom Mix, Rileved Dix, the Singing Cowboys etc)  so it did bring back a lot of good memories—like getting my 15 cent allowance to watch the Saturday night movies for a long time.  Silent movies and finally we hit the big time, the cowboys started to talk and a few of them started to sing “Home on the Range” and what else was the rage at the time.

Stepp Stories #4

After my retirement, I had started to educate myself on ‘how to research.’  The Utah based Latter Day Saints Church had schooled me to some extent and even had some dibs and dabs of Stepp names and history.  It dawned on me what a big task I had undertaken.  I did not (and could not afford $60 an hour), so how could I possibly get the job done alone, with no help.  My wife was understanding of my interest but had no interest in genealogy.  And then I  saw an ad in the  Utah magazine I had subscribed to. For $25 they would send me a list of 1000 surnames.  I answered the ad; they had my name; I ordered; I recovered the list and I wrote a letter and a 1,000 copies of that letter. 

In my letter I gave information on myself and what I wanted to do.  I asked for 20 volunteer Stepps to help me.  They would give me a ‘start up’  2 or 3 generation list using a certifying system that I intended to use a lot later on.  They would try to expand their list; I would be doing the same.  I would begin to ‘connect’ the information where possible.  My way would be the same except I would be running ads and paying for them, in the LDS Genealogy Magazine. 

First: Out of the 1000 letters (postage was cheaper then) I received answers from 355 Stepps.  I did get my 20 volunteers and most of them sent their start up names, using my chart system.  The other 15 were chatty letters  or giving their parents only.  One letter was from a very honest person.  He said he did not have time to help me research, but wanted to keep in touch with me.  I answered all 35 letters of course.  I did have my basic start.  The 1000 list of Steps I had mailed to had the name of ‘David’ for first or middle name in the case of the 30 letters I had mailed.  Two of the 35 answers had David for a first name.  The San Diego David kept his promise; about every 4 or 5 months I would get a letter from him, mostly inquiring how I was doing and of all that was going well.  No other responders wrote a letter like that.  He was always interested in new names I had come by and finally he told me his parental grandfathers name.  I did not tell him so, but I shifted a lot of my time to him, backing up into time a generation at a time.  I finally had his line intact back to his great grandfather and I was stuck on that one.  Finally my very good friend (more like a son) are as close as any father and son or Uncle or whatever.  I inherited a very sweet and loving friend and his wife Linda and I became the Godfather of their beautiful daughter Ondrea.  I was rewarded for all my labor. 

One other thing brought us together besides genealogy—San Diego David became a rancher in the business and in doing so had to become a farmer.  Well, I was and am a farmer with my undergraduate degree in Agronomy (crops and soil) and a minor in both Animal Husbandry and Forestry (Iowa State University).  We talk farm and ranch as much or more than we talk genealogy. 

Now about the name David (like in the Bible with the slingshot and slaying the giant).  I wrote a letter suggesting that they 9 or their wives) become pen pals.  That did not go over well at all.  Not a single one of the 14 even answered me to say no—just total silence.

And another thing I enjoyed: I was privileged to introduce CA David and Linda to Maryland David and Linda Stepp – both Davids with beautiful wives. 

And lastly, the two of us did find his great grandfather in the Black Mountain area of the Carolinas.  They are all great and wonderful friends.  I love them. WWS. 

 

Stepp Stories #5 Writing a Book on a Mountain Top

About 1983 I estimated I had enough bits and pieces to make a lot of connections of he Stepp names and enough to start writing the book that was to be the firs edition of The Stepp Family Chronicles. I started to try and do this work in my home in Independence, MO.  Our family phone was ringing two or three times per hour (genealogy plus farm business) and I would just get started and then to stop, over and over again.  My wife was busy in her house office (law practice) on her phone.  I finally just gave up trying.  I was complaining about my problem to one of my incoming calls (Silver City Bob Stepp) and I guess Bob thought he should come to my rescue, and he did – but in a rather strange way.

I had an invitation to come to his home in Silver city, New Mexico and work on my book there (I thought it would be in his house).  I accepted his offer and packed up my book in the making, packed my suitcase, kissed my wife so long for a week (I estimated) and in a day and half a night I was at Bob’s home.  He had not told me his home was loaded with company and that he had other plans for me.  On the top of another better than a mile high Denver mountain he owned what use to be a four cabin tourist set up.  He had forgotten then the altitude would scare away a lot of vacation cabin seekers.  He had closed it up as a lost cause, but kept one cabin in livable shape, with a stove, table, a chair or two and bed clothing.  (It would be a 322 page book, born there).

He ‘sold’ me on the idea that the high up cabin is where I should try writing my first draft copy.  He was sure right when he said that I would not be bothered by phone calls or people, or anything else!  He loaded his pickup with ‘grub’, firewood, plus some starter kindling material.  It was mid summer but it felt still like Pikes Peak in Colorado in the summer.  The two rooms were separated by a very tight door which would only be open during the time I would be sleeping.  The little kitchen table had a smooth top covered with an old fashioned oil-skin covering.  He said he would drive up every other day to check on me.  He did that and usually brought me some kind of treat when he came.  I was not totally alone.  I had brought a radio with good batteries and a tall aerial—and I did see a mouse now and then. 

I had never ‘felt’ so much quiet in my life.  While working in that cabin I was doing nearly a half days work in an hour compared to my home in Independence.  I used my radio sparingly, mostly just to get the weather.  I had to put the following sections of my book in the proper sequence, expand my sentences so as to be seeable and doable for a typist that would be hired to change my scrawl to a neat typing job.  On a lot of 8 ½ x 11 white pages; the first few paragraphs were:

Blank white sheet

next:  The Stepp Family Chronicles

A history of the ancestors and descendants of John Stepp, Sr. II of Rockingham County, VA.  A source book by William Wayne Stepp in collaboration with the Stepp researchers listed here.  Printed Privately. 

Copyright 1984, By William Wayne Stepp.  All Rights Reserved.  Privately Printed in the United States of America by Weeprint Copy Center, 3423 South Noland Road, Independence, MO 64065. Typed by Janet Lynn Pirog Bamael, Raytown, MO.

Dedication to my daughter Sheryl Diane Stepp Feiser, son Arthur Wayne Stepp and Aaron E and Mathew W. Feiser, my grandchildren and all those who participated in providing the contents of this book. 

Acknowledgements

Table of Contents.

I used a poem to introduce my book: Echoes of Our People.  From there on it was a matter of putting in order all of my work; about 70,000 miles on my Ford fore each of two years, about 75 motel nights during the two years, plus, weaving in all the volunteered information.  The work was a bit related to working a jigsaw puzzle.  In the end it all boiled down to thousands of names. I chose the  name john Stepp, Sr. II as my point of departure (so I could work both forward and backward in time at the same time and as I had material with which to do so.  I felt that I had enough information to go backward in time all the way to Abraham Stepp/Stapp (both spellings were used).  Another way of saying it would be to say I cam starting my book with Abraham Stepp.  No matter which direction I wanted to go I would use the generation system.  There might be four generations from Abraham  to John and there might be six generations from John to the present day.  We are not talking about 100 years when we talk of a generation.  A genealogy generation is the number of years from birth o a husband and a wife until the last of their children are born.  Generations differ in terms of numbers of year involved. The younger the marriage, the longer the generation, usually.

In doing all of the above, I will be doing a lot of charting.  Most old  time researchers might use 8 to 10 sheets of paper to record 3 or 4 generations.  I can illustrate all of their 8 to 10 sheets of information on ONE SHEET of paper using my advanced system of charting.  Its so very simply I cannot understand why all researchers do not use it.  The major drawback of my charting system is that it tries the patience of even the best typists, it slows them down.

I finished the job in 5 days, living in my mountain habitat.  Silver City Bob delivered me off the mountain back to his home.  This Robert Stepp is another WWII veteran (we are dying now at the rate of 3,000 per month).  He owned and ran a huge Army/Navy supply store, covering a city block or more.  Hw has the largest Southwestern library book collection of juke boxes.  He purchased Santa Anna’s bed for his daughter’s bedroom.  Japanese buyers were skimming silver from the sandy surface of the thousands of acres that the Silver City Bob owned.  He made a lot of money.  He have away a lot of money.  I spend a lot of time with him.  He was Stepp that all of us should be proud of.  WWS.

Stepp Stories #6 Naming a Mountain

This story ahs taken quite a lot of research and I still do not have all the details that I would like to have.  The centerpiece of this story is Mt. Mitchell, the tallest mountain in the USA east of the Mississippi river.  It takes it name from the man who proved it was the tallest of all the Smokies east of the Mississippi River.  The story ahs to do with a restored log cabin that is part of a museum.  The original cabin had a one half upper story.  The front of this cabin bears the name of Stepp.  At one time it housed the large family of a Robert Stepp and it also served as a sometimes resting and sleeping place for a Dr. Mitchell in between his climbs to the top of what was to be later named Mt. Mitchell.  Robert’s middle name was Jessy and at the time I am let to believe he went by his Jesse name.  I am going to call him Jesse.

Jesse was a typical half mountain, half farmer type of Stepp.  He was hired by Dr. Mitchell to be his guide for all the trips he had to make to the top of that mountain.  Dr. Mitchell had a lot of equipment to carry to the top in order to do his measuring.  Sometimes one of Jesse’s many sons climbed with Dad and Dr. Mitchell.  It must have been very rough climbing for city scientist.  It was never an up and down in one day, they had to carry whatever they chose to take along to eat, water  supply and the equipment.

There was another very tall mountain peak to the North that was claiming to be the tallest east of the Mississippi River and Dr. Mitchell was also involved in the measurement of the at peak.  Being a typical scientist his main interest was to prove which was the tallest and probably had no preferences.  I have no way of finding out how many trips Dr. Mitchell made with Jesse as his guide.   It would have had to be quite a few.   Jesse had warned the Dr. never to attempt to climb the mountain alone.  Carrying a minimum of equipment he was very likely to fall, slip and fall, or be snake bit by making the trip without Jesse.  Somehow Jesse did not hear about the Dr.’s solo trip up the mountain until the next day and I do not know how or in what way he did hear about it.  When he did he sent his oldest son up the mountain to assist Dr. Mitchell in any way he could. 

The son was only absent half a day and he returned alone.  Dr. Mitchell was dead.  He had fallen several feet and had sever bruises on his head.  I wish I know or could remember the sons name but I cannot.  He must have been a sharp lad.  After seeing Dr. Mitchell was dead he fixed a temporary protection of branches to protect the body from the animals.  The decision was made to take up enough men and power to take the body to the top of the mountain and they buried him in a choice spot.  Today there is a monument there. 

Apparently the math used in sourcing the correct altitude of the peak had been completed.  The stat proclaimed the altitude to be the true and correct height of the Smoky mountain peak and to be the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi river. 

I am not sure if the Stepp Cabin is within the Museum of not. It is said to be in the exact spot of the where the real cabin had been.  The museum goes by the names of The Old Fort Museum, in Old Fort North Carolina.  In very old times there had been a military fort on the site, now occupied by the museum. 

Many people have seen that name Stepp on the Cabin and perhaps, like me, they reached out and touched that name.  The name of a mountain climbing Stepp.

Stepp Story #7 The Wyatt Earp Connection

Just about everyone has heard of Wyatt Earp and The Gunfight at the OK Corral, attended movies about him and read about him.  In my research in the SW of our USA, I had picked up the name of Wyatt Berry Stapp.  It was not unusual to find the Stapp spelling in the SW, but I had never run into the name Wyatt before.  A story in The Kansas City Star helped me out.  Wyatt Berry Stapp was a Col. In the US Army in the Mexican War.  Wyatt Berry Stapp became close friends with a Captain in his command named Nicolas Porter Earp.  They became close friends in battle and in civilian life.  When Wyatt was born (to Nicolas and wife) in march 1848, they named him after their dear friend.  The baby was named Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp.  The above was enough to excite me to try and fin out if we were blood related to Wyatt Earp himself.

I have to divert a way form Wyatt Earp for a bit now.  In the Texas Ranger hall of Fame in Waco, TX I found a fast draw famous ranger named J.M. Stepp.  His picture was on the wall (only part time; I later learned that there were too many rangers to display them all the time, each had to take their time in storage).  I had found this same J.M. Stepp (James) listed as a First Sgt in the Muster roll of Indian Fighters of the Eastland county Texas.  His age was 24 years in February 1824.  The mustered names in this roll-call also served in the Civil War.

The story now becomes more complex. In Kit Carson’s autobiography by Milton Qualfa on pages 97 and 104, the Step listed twice, has to be the same J.M. Stepp – about 20% of the time the second letter p was left of the spelling of both Stepp and Stapp.   The dates and places of the three periods of service by the name Stepp/Stepp all points to the same Stepp.  The three periods of service of this Stepp  are as follows: 1. Hired by Fremont and his band to search for the best mountain passes.  2. As First Sgt. In SW Indian Wars and Civil War and 3. A period of time as a Texas Ranger.  If you want to take the time to do it (I did) you will see that the dates in the time allows substantial and sequential periods of time (service) to prove that this Stepp was one and the same in all 3 of the service periods. 

Now we can come back to Wyatt Earp.  History shows that the Wyatt Earp (of the OK Corral) used the name of William Stapp as an alias. To confuse things a bit more, another Stapp of the SW USA was also very famous as being “The fastest man on earth.”  This man was Col. John Paul Stepp, MD, a career Army MD who made Colonel.  He probably ranks as the most famous Space Scientist of all time.  He risked he life many times to find out the answers necessary to protect the ‘outer space exploring to be done in the future.  There will be a story later on Col. Stapp.

Much as I was hoping to find that I was blood related to the Wyatt Earp of the OK Corral, I was unable to do so or find any other researchers who had been about to do so.  But the title of the Earp story will have to be the sum and substance of the kind and type of relation we do have.  I found the answers to how we were related: We have a connection, a connection of happenstance.  No blood relationship.

I am sure there will be more movies made about Wyatt Earp.  Each one will change a few things as compared to the last movie made of him.  We will have to settle the story with the fact that a lot of men, (and their wives), by the name of Stepp and Stapp were on the same stage of time.  We will have to settle for that.  Wyatt Earp died January 13, 1929 in Los Angeles, CA – without a gun in his hand.  WWS.

Stepp Stories # 8

There is a bit of unforgiveness in genealogy.  It’s all because a woman loses her surname when she marries.  But the genes are still carried down the line.  In those cases where all the newborns are female, the % of the original gene patch becomes smaller and smaller and the research becomes more and more difficult.  There is  very little to  be done, none, that I have ever seen or heard of in ‘Big Book” form.  I have never tried it.  But a woman named Brown did try it and she did it great.  Also she was from the state of Georgia in the USA. And also, she was very sweet lady.  Put all that together and you come up with the name Sweet George Brown. And that’s the title of a song and it’s a sweet song; the title is Sweet Georgia Brown.    

The lady that did try the female researching was Linda Brown, and I want to take time out in this story to talk about woman with the name of Linda and the name used as a first given name as opposed to a middle given name.  In my researching years, and there has been a lot of them, I have met up with at least 50 Lindas; in person, by mail, by phone, and with help, by computer.  Most of the Lindas have been (single or married), professionally inclined as opposed to being a housewife per se.  Most of them marry men who are professionally inclined or become so later in the marriage.  And the Linda’s I have met in person or seen in pictures, are not just pretty, they are beautiful.  I do not know why it has been that way.  It just was, and is.

Now back to Sweet Georgia Brown.  I met this fine lady at Stepp reunions, at least two and, more likely, three.  She, besides being a nurse, was an expert seamstress and on the back of her sweatshirt she had embroidered her pedigree, about 4 or 5 generations of it all in beautiful colors.  Fore those of you who want to know more Linda Louise Wandell Brown and are the proud owner of a copy of The Stepp Family Chronicles, may learn a lot more by turning to page 115. 

In the early days of the Stepp reunions, we would have some of the clan who where musically inclined (bluegrass mostly, but a lot of other good songs.  I would always ask them to play Sweet Georgia Brown.  Enough of the reunion attendees who came to know this Linda, would all start clapping their hands until Linda would stand up and wave at all of us.  In several reunions the music was performed by Rent James Stepp, who cut their own records just for fun and sold them.  The records were sold by Elbert Stepp II, Shenandoah, VA.

This Linda descends from James Stepp II 1754-1821.  After two genealogy generations of the name Stepp, the female gender took over and then back and forth with both male and female genders taking over the charting process.  The chart on page 115 will explain why there are not many more charts, it s a matter of jumping back and forth with first a male gender in charge and then back to another female taking over.  All this is research talk.  I hope you understand.

If you study my book, “The Stepp Family Chronicle”, you will see I have portrayed many other female born Stepp woman, sometimes in their birth surname but more often in their married surname.  It was unusual when women like I am now writing about would write this Stepp author with their name, their descent pattern and their present status, proving what I have just mentioned—that they are professionally minded than the majority of women of the most of the hundreds of charts you will see in Chronicles.  As my lawyer wife would say, “ I rest my case.” Linda’s are professionals.  WWS.

Page 20

# 9 A Korean USA War Veteran

Being a WWII USA Korean Veteran, I am a lot more acquainted with WWII than any of the wars of our country.  The Korean war was often called by other names, like a ‘peacetime action’ or some other name just as crazy.   This Stepp story is about another Warrior taken right out of my book, The Stepp Family Chronicles.  For a short while now we will be writing about Kenneth Dale Stepp 1931-1994 and another Stepp that he was like a dear brother and he held me in his heart the same way.

Kenneth Dale Stepp lived right in the middle of a hot bed of Stepp names in and around the small city of Morristown, TN.  Somehow I had come by a phone book of that area and I think in that book and two more of bordering areas I think there were 30 Stepp names.  The phone book gave me their names and addresses.  That plus 30 sheets of paper, 30 envelopes, and 30 stapes received a form letter from me; this action took place while I was searching where ancestors and relations of California David Lee Stepp were located.  I had two answers from the 30 mailings.  One from the State of MD, USA (who received my letter which was forwarded to him) simply saying to let him know if I planned a Stepp reunion.  The other letter was from Dale Stepp.   It was a two page letter.  He told me he was a ‘K’ vet and was not well but he would like to help me try for a Stepp reunion somewhere in East Tennessee.

At that time I was the only Stepp I know of that was interested in a Stepp reunion.  For two years I had been holding them in Northern VA.  We exchanged phone numbers and we wrote letters and we talked on the phone a lot.  He and a close relative of mine, Robert S Stepp of NC and FL were my two pushers and helpers in planning for the 1st East Tennessee Reunion (in Washington country).  We chose Washington County because in real early days of Washington Country, (Jonesborough), was all there was of Tennessee and it was a hot bed of the Stepp name.  And also: All of my immediate ancestors were born and lived there and in adjacent NC. 

Dale and I became very close.  In the beginning, each of us knew what the other looked like before we met.  This was 1993.  Sometimes we knew what the other was going to say before we said it.  It was strange.  Dale roused up all the Morristown, TN crowd, all those that had received my letters, and most of them attended the East TN Reunion.  California David helped on the Reunion also and he attended.  IT was like no other reunion that we were to have in the following years, in that in addition to the Reunion Day we held two automobile tours of the old, old, Stepp Country history (old homes, cemeteries, churches, small towns etc.) We had a large crowd.  I do not know if CA David had it on a website or not.  I had paid for 2 ads in the LDS Genealogy Mailer (magazine) and that pulled some far away and NEW Stepps that were interested in learning about themselves.  LDS= Latter Day Saints

Dale kept working as he kept getting weaker from a peace time enemy more sure of death then gunfire, cancer.   And finally to a Veteran’s Hospital in Johnson City, TN.  I shipped him Salem and Winston Cartons of cigarettes.  The nurses would wheel him to a phone and as long as he could talk he would try his best to get out enough words to make sense.  It was a sad time for me back in Independence, MO, and a much sadder time for Dale and his loved ones.  In Tennessee.  In 1994 he gave up in his war to keep living.  His folks kept me informed to the very last.  This man, Dale Stepp survived a mean and awful war.  He was a hard working ‘author’ of the Stepp Reunions.  I will never forget him.  I tried to keep in touch with he sons, but failed.  I was proud to have known him.  Dale Stepp was a warrior.  WWS.

Stepp Stories # 10 Alva Stepp- Age 100

IT was the year that man first walked n the moon.  I had taken my son Arthur with me on a trip to Stepp Country in East TN.  There were several things I wanted to do on the trip and the first won was to locate the log cabin my grandfather William H. Stepp last lived in just before his death which had been in 1927.  I knew the approximate area to scan so we started driving the country roads North and East of Conklin, Tx.  Art was getting his first look-see of the land of his great grandfather. 

Nothing was turning up to interest me until I spotted an elderly couple in a swing under a big shade tree.  I wheeled in, parked, and we got out and approached the white haired old man.  I asked him if he know where the Stepp cabin was.  I also told him my grandfather’s name and he said he had known him will.  And yes, he owned the 40 acres the cabin was in (he kept on using the word ‘was’).  He rose from the swing and pointed to two large trees about a quarter mile away and said it was in between those two trees until I moved it.   That got my attention and I asked what had happened to it?  He said my old woman wanted a chicken house to replace out old one that blew down in a storm.  Its rot out thar he said, pointing to a log structure 50 yards away.  I as to see it and we fell in behind him to an old log cabin.  A head high door on leather hinges was fastened open.  A partial divider wall separated the inside with chicken roosts on one side and hen nests on the  other.  Just above the top row of hens nests was an old 2x4 with a row of old rusty spike nails and just below that was a patched in square space of new lumber.  My host said that was the fire place.  I touched every spike nail.  In my mind I saw pans, skillets, days spoons etc, hanging there.  What a come down.  My son asked, “did someone really live in this old shed?”  I answered, Yes, with no other comment. 

We then returned to the yard where the swing seats where I started pumping questions at him but Gene (his name was Gene Evans) headed me off. I can’t answer your question buy my Dad can, I’ll call him.  He walked to the screen door and shouted “Dad, come on out.  Dad came out, white haired, tobacco stained white beard and spotted my 12 year old son first and said, “Hey boy, you take a chew of this here backer.  Itle make yew grow tall.  Art retreated to the shade tree.  Dad spotted me next and then son Gene Evans said, ‘This is my Dad, Alva Evans.  He just made 100 years old. “  I was already pretty speechless after seeing the ruin of a log house and I had trouble remembering the questions I wanted to ask.  I began by telling him my Dad’ name and he jumped a bit and said, “That thar lad clumb that thar low lying mountain over that with me,” pointing to the east.  He could answered most of my questions.  His mind was clear.  He used an old homemade cane. 

Art and I had a great vacation, including watching men walk on the moon in the home of one of my relatives that we were using as our headquarters.  I got to renew my friendship with a lot of Tennessee relatives and we soon were on our way back to our Independence, MO.  Seven years later our Kansas City Star newspaper had a news item about the death of a man 107 year old East Tennessee native- Alva Evans by name.  The article went onto say that his son Gene had been trying to get his Dad to apply for Social Security for over 5 years and finally at the age of 106 he agreed to apply for Social Security.  The article said he had drawn only 3 checks from social security and he was fussing at him because would not help him to write letters and repay the government the amount of the three checks!

It was quite a trip and now this.  I remember hoping I could live as long as old Alva, even if I did not chew tobacco.  WWS.

#11 About Mr. Elijah Stepp

This story about Elijah Stapp of Texas (formerly of North Carolina) has to begin with three state of TN congressman; Jim Bowie, David Crockett, and Sam Houston.  Houston and his family had relocated to Texas and had a good sized tiff ongoing with a Mexican named Santa Anna.  At that point in history Santa Anna was planning on an invasion in to Texas and his target was a religious building, The Alamo. Houston’s army were all in the Alamo and it had been turned into a fortress for the Texans.  Sam Houston knew he was greatly outnumbered when he sent a horseback message to his two best Tennessee friends; Bowie and Crocket. His two TN friends, raised and equipped a 250 man army, which in less than 3 days, using 2 horses per man, arrived at the Alamo in time to defend it. They, along with the rest of Houston’s army died in battle.  The rest is history.

The Texicans won and defeated Santa Anna in so doing.  For a long time, Stepp and Stapp men (many with families) had been relocating to Texas, bearing out the research fact that men of the Stepp and Stapp name were movers, they could  be called pioneers.  It was direction of movement that furnished as many Stapp spelled names as there were Stepp named.  This researcher found many examples of Stepp and Stapp men who had broken the law in Virginia, North Carolina, and later Tennessee, and then moved to Texas to escape prison or even hanging.  Many of those were victim of bent politics of almost the same kind going on in the US. I as an OC (Officer Candidate) school, had been invited to a Sunday meal (in the Abilene Texas area) had actually been (there grandparents). one of those Texicans to be.

This was long before I even new how to spell genealogy.  The size of camp Berkley at Abilene actually dwarfed the size of the City of Abilene, TX. 

At that time, a branch that grew from the tree of Abraham Stepp/Stapp was my branch which included both an early day William Stepp and an Elijah Stapp.  (time out for a bit: my daughter liked big, glass covered, fancy framed western and south western pictures.  She had a picture of the Declaration of Independence of our great nation- the United States of America.  And being a ‘mover’ Stepp with a name changed to her husband, also had picture of the Declaration of Independence of Texas.  Both of the picture had the signatures of the signors under the declaratory portions.  I stop and admire every time I visit her home.  On one such occasion, I had my large magnifying glass with me, long after I had been selling my family (The Stepp Family Chronicles.) and decided to scan the pictures of both.  And there it was in big bold letters, ELIJAH STEPP.  It was not printed, but it was a sort of stylish script.

I had to change my tune a lot.  I had never cared much for Texas, probably for the rough treatment I had in winning my gold bars as  an officer, a Lt. in the medical administrative corp.  But it was no problem to keep my mouth shut about my discovery.  A couple of Stepps in NC did a little research for me.  They found that in an early day clan that both spellings were used (that’s no surprise).  And so far as their search was concerned, the clan of Elijah as clean. (no G.T.T. gone to Texas) in any court cases.  In fact, no court cases at all.  Everyone is entitled to their 15 minutes of fame.  Maybe Elijah was my 15 minutes. WWS.

# 12 World War II Bomber Pilot

Larry Kennedy attended grade school and high school in a country school near Fairfax, MO. Irish Grove.  He was the great grandson of Wellington Stepp and the oldest son of John Silas Stepp, Jr.  Who was the clan leader of the Stepp migration to East Tennessee in 1855.  He was a superb student and athlete.  He graduated from college at Terkio College in that country town.  While employed in Minnesota he took civilian flying lessons.  War was coming, Larry enlisted in the Air Corps, then a part of the US Army.

He made his place in history when he notified his hometown paper he would be flying over Fairfax MO on his way from his southern base to Omaha, Nebraska.  He announced the same information to his family and friends. He did exactly that, flying in a giant circle before heading up on north.  You can imagine the size of his audience.

Near to his last bombing mission (European theatre of war) over the Polish oil fields they were shot down and crash landed on the shores of the boot of Italy.  Larry brought the big bird down right side up.  Part of the crew were killed.  The pilot, Captain Kennedy, was knocked out and would have drowned had not his navigator pulled him up above the water.  Those who lived were prisoners of war, first in Italy and just as the Allies were taking Italy over, they were moved to a Germany.  He was in two breakout attempts and finished out the war in a German Stalog (prison).

While in the War, Larry’s parents left MO and settled in Arizona.  Larry returned to a home which was new and strange to him.  But, he pronounced it wonderful.  After marrying, he gained his Master’s and started teaching and became principle of his high school.  Larry’s navigator, David Westheimer, returned to his home state of California.  Larry was a long time principle of Lafayette School, which now goes by the name of Captain Larry Westheimer School.

On a sad day in March of 1980, Larry’s wife returned to their home and found Larry sitting at the kitchen table with his head in his arms.  He was dad.  On the table was a letter, half written to his old Bomber, navigator, David Westheimer.  His wife immediately called Westheimer in California and asked him to come and officiate at Larry’s funeral.  He came and he did that.  In his eulogy for his pilot, Captain Larry Kennedy, Westheimer once again guided his pilot on his last flight, the one destined by his maker and the one reuniting him with his loved ones and with those of his wartime crew who had passed on before him.  Listen!! You can almost hear the roar of he giant bomber on its last run!

Westheimer was a very successful writer.  His first book was ‘Von Ryan’s Express’.  In the movie Frank Sinatra played the part of a captured Captain and being the senior member of the prisoners, he was in charge of all prisoners, a very severe one.  So they gave him a name, a mean sounding German name – Von Ryan.  It was a pretend story.  His second book, “Sitting It Out,” was a real story about the long and many months of bad food in German Stalogs.  In the real story, captain Kennedy had the planes painted on both sides of the nose.  It was ‘The Natchez to Mobile, Memphis to St. Joe’ – a great plane, flown by a great pilot during 28 major missions.  If they had made 30, they would have been shipped home and the famous plane would have been retired. 

Iva Dell Stepp, daughter of Silas Hinton Stepp, married Lawrence Oliver Kennedy.  Captain Lawrence Clair Kennedy was the second born of seven children, four sons and three daughters. 

Westheimer authored 7 or 8 books.  The two war time books, Von Ryan’s Express and Sitting It Out, can be purchased at most any large book store.  I am proved to be a close relative of Capt. Larry Kennedy – a major member of the Stepp Warriors. WWS.

Pg 28

# 13  When I Tried to Surrender

On the day I am writing about I was having a real bad day.  About everything that could go wrong went wrong.  Murphy’s Law was having a real heyday.  About 3:00 pm I had arrived at the genealogy Branch of The Independence MO Library, the one real close to Fire Station #1.  The library had just received the total shipment due them of the newly released census year.  There was a census tract law that said the public must wait a certain number of years before anyone census data could be put on film and released to the public.  If they were releasing data for the year 1970, you would not be able to get it on microfilm until 1990, or whatever year was designated by law.  I forgot how many years it had to be.  Anyway, it was  the first week of the newly released census data.  Lots of researchers were a the Library to get their look-see at the newly released data. 

I was not after information on the newly released data, but I had to buck the crowd that was.  With help I was finally able to check out the State and County of the year I was interested in.  I was almost certain there was a family of Stepps newly moved into the county and state I was interested in.  This microfilm was clear and clean and easy to read, after I had waited an hour to use one of the 10 machines that were being made available on the day I was there.  During the first hour of my search of two counties for Stepp (or Stapp) names and I had not found a Stapp or Stepp name.  I checked the film in and quit for a time, relaxing in the break room that was available to use with table space.

When I returned to check out more new film, I was lucky again and able to get the county I wanted.  Another hour of work and again no outcome – no luck.  I turned out the reroll system and checked in the county I had been checking.  By this time I was really getting hot under the collar.  I put on my jacket and left the building, walking around the block.  I started thinking how dumb I must bee to spend all this time and not gaining any reward for my time spent .  Maybe it was time to quit the whole bit and just admit I was not a genealogist at all.  But I went back in and checked out the two counties my name had to be in and to rerun both rolls.  Again after an hour or more, I had to scan everything I had checked out.   No luck.  I decided to give up and go home.  I turned both rolls back in, gathered up my gear, and put on my coat to leave.  I had just opened the door to step outside and for some reason I stopped in my tracks.  I was not sick, something had stopped me.  I tried to leave again and something said ‘no’ again.  So I went back inside again.

I am sure the lady who had been helping me must have thought I was crazy when I checked out the same two rolls again.  I chose a different machine that time.  I chose one county and began a slow roll of the film.  It could not have been more than 5 minutes after I started the roll the name Stepped popped up on the screen.  I leaned back in my chair and pinched myself to see if I was all there.  I decided I was.  I finished taking down all the data that I had helped to find—even more than I thought I might find.

My mind was starting to try to find out how all this had happened and when if happened, if there was a ‘why’.  There could only be one answer.  The God I believed in had chosen that day to teach me a lesson.  He had surely succeeded. I was not supposed to surrender.  I had been trying to be a quitter and I was not supposed to be.

From that time on, there were more times I wanted to quit; I just pushed them out of the way and finally there was a book, The Stepp Family Chronicles!  WWS. 

# 14 Burney Stepp’s Fast Draw

Burney Stepp was my father.  In all of my research, I never found the name Burney anywhere again.  He was born 21 Feb 1872 and died 6 Dec 1948.  He married my mother, Laura Prather.  His father was William H. Stepp, Civil War Vet, Union Army.  They farmed the three Prather farms (latter called the Stepp Farms) near Watson MO and the home place farm NW of Fairfax, MO.  The farm Laura and Burney purchased in late 1800s.  The home place farm was an ideal livestock farm.  They had a beef cow herd, they farrowed pigs twice a year, from 30 to 40 sows.  He graduated from school at the end of his 3rd year and could read, write, add, subtract and multiply.  He and the rest of his family lived near the Chucky river, very near the little town of Conklin, TN.

I was born and raised on the Home Place Farm.  By the time I could remember it was dust bowl days and the big depression years, where all the banks folded up.  My parents lost $3,000 when their bank folded.  Many men lost their farms but Burney and Laura did not.  That’s a long story for another time. 

Burney raised and marketed about 260 head of fat hogs per year.  By marketed, I mean raised the baby pigs to 200 pounds or more and sold them on the Livestock Market at one of the several markets in nearby cities.  He calved about 60 head of beef calves per year, fed them out to beef steak size (800-1000 lbs.) and sold them.

In the early spring he would farrow 16 sows (about 8-10 pigs born per litter) and when the baby pigs were 3 weeks old, they and their mothers were moved to pasture location in small houses.  The mothers were fed their diet and the babies gradually weaned from their mothers mild to their own feeders with a diet suitable for the little ones.  All this was repeated again 6 months later because the sows were bred twice a year and the sows gave birth twice per year.

On a certain early spring day, it was time to wean the pigs from their mother.  It was a Saturday, so I was available to help my Dad and I was very necessary help.  The 16 sows, each with their babies to be weaned, were scattered about the area surrounding their small pig houses.  My job was to grab (steal) one baby pig at a time, run with it to the nearest pig house and put the pig over the door into temporary captivity.  If he sow had 8 baby pigs, I had 8 trips to make each time.  And I had to try to capture a baby and get them away from their mother.  The last pig to capture, of 8 pigs was the most difficult.  By then the sow mother would be in a very bad humor and was faster on foot than a big fat sow was, which normally would be no problem.

My dad always wore overalls that had a loop in the right leg of the overalls so the farm/livestock man could always carry a hammer.  We were working on sow #16, the last one.  I was down to only 1 baby left.  The sow was mad, really mad.  But, I had no trouble grabbing he last pig and running away with it until I stepped in a hole and fell flat down on the ground.  I could hear the sow’s hooves beating on the ground, the sound getting louder and louder.  And I was trying to get up and out of there when I heard a heavy thud noise as I was rising up and saw the sow fall to her knees and roll over, knocked out.  I look at my dad; he was picking up his hammer and putting it back in the pant leg loop.

Tennessee boys had strange toys, homemade and they included homemade tomahawks.  My dad had drawn and thrown that straight clawed hammer in one motion, like it might have been a six gun.  I rose up, unhurt.  I asked my dad where he had learned how to do that.  He looked up with a faraway look in his eyes and said, “On Saturdays, on the bank of the Chucky River,” meaning the Noleachucky river.  He must have had an expert teacher!

#15 A Memorial to Keith Stepp

Keith Stepp was born 3 July 1911.  I do not have his exact death date.  It was in the decade of the 1990’s.  He was the son of Hinton Stepp and the Grandson of The Wellington Stepp.  He lost his first wife to cancer and remarried.  From his first wife he left a son, grandson, and great grandson.  He was first cousins with to the Kennedy Stepps.  Keith and myself were not only close cousins, we were close friends.  At his death one of his Kennedy Cousins wrote a memorial to Keith.  Her name was Ruth Kennedy Bigley and the following is the memorial:

What was that long-lost sound I heard?

Was it angel? Was it bird?

Today I shed a tender tear

Over yonder funeral beir

Here Keith’s body found a home

In Missouri’s soft, warm loam

I must search back many years,

Stepping-stones, my latent fears

As organ plays Amazing Grace

I conjure a dear familiar face.

What was sweet whistle I once heard?

Was it boy? Was it bird?

Clear and piercing as a flute

Mellow sound of muted lute

Echoing down the winding hill

Melodious mix of warbling trill.

Each day he burst into my sight

Spinning wheels in morning light.

Black curls tossing in the wind

Avoiding stone wall around the bend.

We ran to meet him on the way

Feet hardly touching he level pecked clay,

Brave foot points in the amber dust

Ignoring sand burt’s cruel thrust

Preceded by our boisterous shouts

Belaying all our childish doubts.

We stopped at unchained wooden gat

Its wide swing slats bore all our weight

Oh, hw was more than casual kin

Like our brother and our friend.

Half-orphaned by his mother’s death

We, saddened by his sobbing breath.

My mother opened her crowded heart

Divided love in seventh part

Washed his smudged and reddened face

Dampened by his morning race.

Slaked his thirst with lemonade

Hunger vouched by breed, homemade.

Now was time to start our play

On sumac chargers, sleek and bay.

Race down hidden narrow trails

Hoof covered prints by pooled fence veils

Bordered by huge jimson weeds

Adorned by trumpet flowers and seeds

We, hot and jaded rode each horse

Panting down our dusty course

Till into trough at tall windmill

Plunged our faces, drank our fill

In icy waters, flowing free

Tethered steds beneath a tree

How quickly did the time rush by

When sun slid west, down burnished sky

Then once again he’d mount his bike

A slower ride, a weary hike

Back to his home for a needed rest

Like a sleepy bird, secure in nest

Till mourning brought another day

And winding down the happy play

The hours grew short, leaves turned to flame

With heady haze, the autumn came

Our priceless time wound to an end

We grew adult-- women, men.

Frivolity gave way to truth

As serious matters claimed our youth

Soon circumstances brought parting ways

Nevermore those matchless days

Passing years and failing heart

Tore dimming memories apart.

Now roosting on ancestral ground

Above him heaped a new made mound.

My cousin’s body found a home

In Missouri’s soft brown loam.

What was that long lost sound I heard?

Was it angel? Was it bird?

 

All the Stepps and all the in laws loved Keith Stepp.  He helped anyone who needed help.  He never had an enemy in his lifetime.  Ruth Kennedy, you wrote a wonderful, loving memorial for a great and good man, Keith Stepp.  WWS

 

                                                                                                                                                               

Page 35

#16 An Old East Tennessee Mountain Dictionary

My dad, Burney Stepp, was the son of an East Tennessee Smokey Mountain Man.  Mountain folks had their own dialect.  Due to the courtesy of Ms. Lillie Moore, a Tennessee native, I am going to provide the Website with an ‘old time’ dictionary, starting right now. 

brung – to bring something.

Vittles – food or victuals

Skeeters – mosquitoes

Jints – joints, like knee joints

Spiled – spoiled

Peaked – pale

A-fixin - getting ready

Book read – educated

You’ns – you or you all

Furpiece – a great distance

Biggetry – stuck up or high brow

Wupped – whipped or spanked

Crick – creek

Wider – female who lost husband

Clum – climbed

Kivver – cover

Drapped –to drop something

Smack dab – exactly

Plumb – completely

Lollygagin – gossiping or wasting time

ET – eat

Hot-up – upset, bothered

Gully washer – very hard rain

Holler – a small valley

Askeerad – afraid

Churched – accused in front of church audience

Bandanner – handkerchief

Pizer – poison

Skittish – nervous

Put out – angry

Hush up – become quiet

Shed of – get rid of

Avish – drafty, chilly

Shot – shut

Fetch – bring

Windor-window

Poorly – feeling bad

The above is not a very long dictionary but its longer than American Indian sign language.  I tried to make a full sentence using only words in the above dictionary.  I gave up.  Remember they did have school houses and a man or woman was teaching readon, writn, and ciphering and using most of the words in the dictionary above.

Now I  am a-fixin to end this here tale and had for the holler to shot that thar gate I left open.

I know and visited many of these people.  There were my ancestors.  As far as I am concerned, they were the salt of the earth.  These people descended from white shirt and neck-tie ancestors across the sea.   And their descent will once again produce (50% wise) more generations of white shirt and necktie people.  This writer is a hybrid.  I descended from a mountain man and a Kentucky finishing school mother and I am equally proud of both, and thankful!!! WWS.

 

#17 A Language Lesson My Brother George Taught Me

My brother George was born in 1906.  I was born in 1911, a 10 year spread.  We were not playmates.  I liked him and I loved him.  In one sense we were alike – in parentage- in another sense we were as different as day and dark.  My parents had to buy George an expensive watch to get him to finish the8th graduated in country school.  But he became a smarter business man than I have ever been.  All those years I was preparing myself (three degrees from college) for my adult life, George was already out there and doing, not preparing.

I found my parents all the way regarding education:  I did not want to finish the 8th grade; I did not want to go to high school; I did not want to finish High School; I did not want to get my undergraduate college degree.  By the time I had earned another college degree from Uncle Sam (WWII, nearly 5 years).  I did have sense enough to use the free education and my masters came because I wanted it.

Now, flashing back to the month of my graduation from Iowa State University (Ames, Iowa), December 1937, I had rolled up my hard won degree and had arrived home (The Stepp home farm) near Fairfax, MO.  My parents had prepared a great home coming for me on that special Sunday.  My brother George and his wife and my three sisters and their husbands.  About a table of eleven people.  I was getting on forward the 1937 Christmas and some of them had brought me Christmas presents. My parents and siblings looked upon me as being bookish. All in all, for the first time in my life as a grown up, my entire family was there and paying homage to me.  I did lots and lots of thanking. 

From start to finish there was a lot of talking during the meal.  They were all (siblings mostly) asking me questions, especially George, my brother.  My answers were taking up a great deal more time than their questions.  Bear in mind that all my siblings, even George’s wife, had not seen me in years and some of the questions were like, “Is there going to be a war?” etc.  My vocabulary was mostly exactly as it would have been on any one day of my senior year.  I was using, without knowing, a lot of words pertinent to my degree and all of them new and strange to my family.  Finally George got in a question or two and in order to answer them I had to explain some background factors to give a sensible answer.  What I thought was sensible anyway.  When I finished George said “Wayne, that last sentence you said about water aquifers, will you give me your answer again.  It sure did sound good and I’d like to hear it again.  He said all this with a half smile on his face.  I got his intent immediately.  He was ‘talking me down’ for using big words, all new and strange to him.  I paused a bit and smiled back, and repeated it again.  All the while he was half smiling, half laughing.   

I deserved what he did.  I had not stopped to realize that for over 4 years I had been talking a language almost completely new to everyone at that table.  I saved face a bit by backing up and changing the subject to items in their present day vocabulary and activities.  From that day on, I loved my brother more than ever.  A man who had established (along with his wife) a restaurant (The Stepp Inn), a pool hall and a bowling alley in a little country town on an 8th grade education.  He was entitled to make me speak ‘his language’ instead of vice versa.  George Stepp was a great brother.  I loved him.  WWS

 

# 18 Dr. Gray’s Saturday Night Prescriptions

Going away back in the late 1930’s/early 1940’s, before President Franklin D. Roosevelt, FDR.  Before they ended the law that said no booze of any kind in the USA could be sold.  Everything was dry, dry, dry.  Not even any beer or wine.  Since some drug items that were laced with alcohol were classified as medicines they had to make exceptions – drug stores could sell whiskey, beer, wine, or anything else alcoholic IF a doctor had written a prescription for the sick and ailing person.  Suddenly, new brands of cough syrup were taking up a lot of space in the drug store.  New shelves had to be installed.

Dr. Gray was a very legitimate MD and a very good one.  He was the only doctor in Watson, MO and the surrounding area.  Dr. Gray had to expand his office space in order to furnish his patients with prescriptive cough, sore throat medicine and other items to similar to some old time ‘syrups.’  He had to hire extra help because the demand was so heavy.  Starting early Saturday morning Dr. Grey would begin looking down the throat of dozens of ‘sick’ citizens.  His nurse would write the prescriptions as fast as she could write and Dr. Gray would (ever so often, between ‘throats’) sign the prescriptions.  It was the beginning of the ‘’bath tub” gin days in the big cities, the speak easys with tiny glass windows in a big heavy doors etc.  It was boot-leg booze bonanza!

If patrolman stopped a car that was weaving around in an unsafe manner and asked to see the drivers prescription, he was okay.  No arrest was made.  Yes, the number of auto accidents did increase.  The demand for degreed (licensed) druggist boomed.  Colleges had to expand in that department.  One could actually be a licensed, degreed druggist, hang out his drug store sign and be very busy in a hurry.  A few adventurous farmers started making White Lightening – corn whiskey- just like Smoky Mountain men in East Tennessee, North Carolina, and elsewhere had been doing for a hundred years.  Some rural folk started expanding their gardens to make room for a hundred or more rows of corn.  The city folks soon caught on, took their how to lessons from their rural 9country) friends and produced their own ‘cough medicine.’

Those of you who know your history know what happened next.  Ban Booze signs started up like weeds after a rain.  Too many accidents, too many deaths, too many ‘booze gangs’ fighting each other in the big cities.  Gang fights in all the big cities.  The outcry grew louder and louder and finally, when FDR was elected, very, very soon 3.2% beer, wine, and other light drinks were legal and then the birth of the liquor store.  And gradually the law was expanded to approximate the more or less wide open booze parlors all over our nation that are operating today.

Study the cycle: A dry, dry, dry nation, then a damp nation, and then a very, very, wet nation.  Even so there are still dry counties, even dry cities.  Some areas are trying for the old dry, dry status.  Somewhere between wet and dry will continue to be the answer at this time.

Dr. Gray had to let his  extra help go.  He had to tear out the extra shelves.  He could work shorter days again.  He was eventually elected to high office in the stat capital and very soon closed up his office and retired his practice.  His patients had to find another, not so close doctor.

I am sure there are books and books written about what I have been writing about and much more accurately than I have written in the story.  Remember this: In the first three years of our bloody Civil War in our USA, whiskey was all they had for germ killing and for knocking out the patient who had to undergo surgery.  For everything there is a ‘time.’  For everything there is a purpose.  A power above all other power has seen fit to make things as they have been as they are now and will be. 

#19 My Visit To Stepptown, West Virginia

The kids were out of the nest and Marg and I were on a week or so of vacation time.  Our route was to KY and TN, VA, W.VA and then on north.  Stepptown, W.VA was almost on the east bank of the Tug River which is the boundary of KY and WVA.  We spend a lot of time in KY cruising around the horse country of KY.  It’s a beautiful part of KY, the pretty white fences, the bluegrass pastures and the fine horses all make a wonderful “real” picture.  And we visited The Moses Stepp Monument on the Airway very near the town of Lovely, KY.  And then on to the small town of Stepptown, W. VA and yes, it is on every Rand McNally Map!

There was a city limit sign and we drove into an area, very beautiful kept, grass, mowed no trash blowing, everything nice, neat, and orderly.  We parked under a large (trunk size) and tall tree with the side of our car facing a park-like bench under a tree, on which sat an aged man.  We got out of the car and slowly walked toward the man on the bench.  The aged man rose from his seat and with the help of his cane, started to meet us.

I was in no hurry to identify ourselves and he did not try to introduce himself.  Hw was unable to see our license plate even if his sight had been good because the car was parked so as to hid the plate.  I broke the ice by saying what a pretty little town he lived in.  His reply was to say, “we watch every stranger that come in ‘har’.  They might be up to no good.”  I then handed him my drivers license but spoke no word to him.  He pulled an ancient pair of spectacles from his shirt pocket and proceeded to inspect my card.  It took a while, but soon he said “Be you’n a Stepp?”  My answer was short and friendly. I said “I be.”  He replied, “That’s rot good, you be welcome.”  I do not remember his first name, but he was sur nuf a Stepp.  By that time another car had driven up and parked next to us, two men in the car.  I am guessing that they were reinforcements if necessary.  The aged one introduced the two men and all of us ended up sitting on benches or what not close enough together so as to be within talking (visiting) range.

I had some questions to ask, so I ‘broke the ice.’  I will try to list my questions and the answers:

How big is Stepptown?

We are under a hundred now. We got two empty houses (was that an invitation?).

To the aged man, how old are you?

I air ninny three

Do you have a Mayor?

I be the Mayor.

Have you ever seen or heard of a book telling about the Stepp people?

No, but one of my boys across the river had one.

Have you ever been to any of the Stepp reunions at Inez, KY?

No, but I have heard about them.

Were you ever acquainted with any of the KY Hatfields and McCoys?

No, weens her don’t cater to that killen.  It be wrong.

Is your wife living?

Yes, she be rot puny (sick).

I then said, “We would like to drive around the town, but we won’t get out of our car, is that all right with you?”  For such a small place and considering that age of some of the people it was really a clean town.  There were several boats upside down on some supports so apparently someone liked to get on the river. As we finally left the town, we waved goby to the Mayor and headed back to the KY side of the river.

Since then, many times I have spoken about Stepptown to various one and most don’t believe me.  I just tell them to get out your map and your Rand McNally, look up and down at the boundary of KY and W.VA and you will find Stepptown.  It was a nice experience.

                                                                                                                                                               

#20 The Hat Pin Church Revival Meeting

My dad, Burney Stepp, told me this story.  I think it has a 90% chance of being true.  He said his folks and his buddy’s folks insisted the two boys should attend the church revival service (in a tent) on a Sunday evening.  They had attended it the day before.  Both boys had their own sadly horse and both had a small just of white lighten attached to their saddle horns.  That was not uncommon in the day and age f or 18 year old lads.  Most (not all) knew the power in the jug and respected it.  They had about a 40 minute horseback ride to the tent site.  They took their horses into the timber and finding a tree with no horses tied to it, they tied theirs and started to the tent not realizing they were at least 30 or 40 minutes late.

They approached the tent from the backside of it and hearing the loud preaching inside the tent the stopped to listen.  The preacher was a lady and judging from the big bulge that appeared on the back of the tent, when the preacher lady rammed her backside into the tent wall, she was very well  endowed.  When they realized they could not understand a word the preacher said, they knew she was speaking in tongues.  They had heard it before.  Probably neither boy had really wanted to attend that revival meeting; perhaps they had heard this same heavy set woman before.  Anyway one or the other of them thought of a rather unkind thing to do. My dad never did explain why either one of the young men would have a woman’s hat pin with them, but one of them did.  A hat pin was about 8 or 9 inches long with a knob on one end to grasp as the pin point would be thrust it thru the hat surface into the woman’s hair, back out thru the had surface, thus securing the hat to the head of the woman.  So much for hat pin usage instructions.  The big bulge in the tent wall was just too tempting. One of them jabbed the hat pin into the center of the big bulge. My dad said the talking in tongues ceased immediately and the woman let out a very loud yell and then let go with one of the most professional cussing either of the boys had ever heard.  She did pause long enough to yell, “go get them! Catch them!”  Apparently no one in the audience knew what she meant when she said go get them.  It would not have done any good if some had started after them, both boys were long gone, headed for their horses.  Later I wondered what happened to the hat pin.  I had not thought to ask my dad that question.

I remember when I was 18 years old and a stunt I was in on (that’s another story I will be telling, but there were 4 of us in on the stunt I will be describing).

Later on I got to thinking about his story and a lot of questions entered my mind.  Did the parents know they had jugs tided to their saddle horns?  Was that a very good thing to take to church instead of a Bible?  Also how were the boys so knowledgeable about the cussing words that the very heavy set woman was using?  If I had tried something like that I would have been in very deep  trouble, not that I was ‘lily white’, I was not.  Also did the two Tennessee boys know or believe, that the preacher was a fake?  (as she probably was?  But I never questioned my Dad on these matters, mostly I was too be seen and not heard.

My dad’s father, William H. Stepp, was voted the most handsome soldier in his cavalry company I (eye).  I personally read that in the old diary of my grandfather’s brother.  Maybe there was a few wild genes in the Stepp clan??

Whatever we are, that’s what we are.  My parents had faults, but it did not stop me from loving them.  I had faults, but it did not stop my parents from loving me.  We all have to be teachers of sorts.  I have met and to and extent know, thousands of Stepps.  There have only been 3 or 4 that I do not want anything to do with.  I will accept that record, any day, any time.  WWS.

# 21  Fastest Man on the Earth: The Man With the Right Stuff

The man we are talking about is Col. John Paul Stapp.  He hurtled across he new Mexico desert in Dec ’54 strapped and tied and locked into the seat of a rocket sled pushed to 632 miles per hour before slapping into a column of water that crushed its motion in one and two fifths seconds.  Col Stapp was in dozens and dozens of other tests.  He suffered cracked ribs, fillings fell from his teeth, eyes hemorrhaged and coccyx fractured.  He would be blind for eight minutes after each test.  Later he would say he felt like a fly aboard a 45 caliber bullet.  Actually, he was going faster than a bullet.

These tests were to find out how the human body would cope with motion at super sonic speed. He dared to find out.  This from a man who was afraid to ski because it was too dangerous!!  Col Stepp was also a Dr. Stapp, en MD.  Many of his tests were at high altitude airplane flights.  These were to sort out the ‘possible’ data from the ‘impossible’ data.  He also applied answers gained to use in car crash research.  On Sept 12 ’55, Time magazine named him Space Surgeon Stapp.  He proved his sense of humor when he said those tests were necessary to insure that these macho pilots wouldn’t be sterilized.

Now, fast forward into May 15, 2009 and think of the following:

1)      Space trips back and forth to a permanent station in the sky.

2)      Telescopes stationed in space to increase ‘seeable’ distance.

3)      Two nations (USA and Russia) working together, living together in space, trusting there lives to each other.  (Wonder if that will ever be possible on the face of the earth?)

4)      A man, an non-scientist paying a million dollars to have a ride into space and back again.

5)      Scientific conversations about planting communities in space.  And, much more.

Like many of the projects of the past, many taxpayers are saying we should not be spending billions and billions of dollars for both present status quo research, plus all the new probes into outer space.  Some are saying we must and eventually will find a planet like our planet earth and we can begin to plan on how to shift a lot of earth population to the new ‘earthlike’ planet.

Back in the covered wagon days when man and woman would ride, float, or walk from East Coast USA all the way to the West Coast, USA, they now those leaving would never see loved ones again, and vice versa.   Will outer space travel and homesteading be repeating the ‘sadness’ of separation of loved ones?  It’s scary to think of that?  But men and women will dare!

There is one factor that belongs in this chapter that I have left to last end on purpose.  The USA, in the majority, is a ‘One God in Heaven’ believing nation.  I am in that category.  I believe that the some of God, both in Heaven and on Earth, died, gave his life, to save me from eternal death.  God built what we call “The Universal.”  God in Heaven will do the Directing.  He has proven in the past that He is in charge.  The job assigned to we mortals is to try and recognize His plan, his Directing and His intentions.  As I see it, our job, the job of we mortals, is to help Him, as individual earth occupants, to help, not hinder, God’s plan.   

#22  Chewing Tobacco

I first heard about ‘tobacco’ as a very small lad where I would see my East Tennessee mountain born father take a bite from a brown looking bunch of leaves and chew it, and/or see him crumple some up and stuff it in a thing called a pipe—and then stick the pipe in his mouth.  As a teenager in NW MO, on the Home Place Stepp Farm, my dad raised tobacco.  One planted seed is a ‘hot bed’ covered with a see thru material.  As soon as possible the cover was taken off and the baby plants loaded onto the horse drawn tobacco planter.  My job as a small lad was to ride on a seat about 6-8 inches off the ground and stuff a plan into a hole made by the machine and a container of water let loose a small borage of H2O into the hole containing the plant.  I think the plans were about 12-14 inches apart and the rows were the same distance apart as corn rows. 

The plants were cultivated the same way as young corn plants, destroy the weeds, cover fresh soil around the plant, bracing it so as to withstand the wind.  When the plan was about 2.5 feet tall, it was too tall to cultivate and just right for the very ugly, horny tobacco worm to start chewing on the tender leaves (very big leaves).  My job was to ‘worm’ the fields of tobacco.  I walked the rows carrying a ½ gallon can half full of kerosene or gasoline.  Wearing gloves, I picked the ugly things off the plant leaves and dunked them into the can, killing them.  As I walked around and wormed the rows, one on each side of me.  At the end of he row, I would screen off the gas or kerosene into a second can and dump out the dead worms.  I did not like the job, but I did it.  I could worm a 20 acre field in a day.

At harvest time, when the leaves were ripe, each stalk of tobacco was slit so as to allow the pole to be slid through the slit.  A stick would hold about 7 or 8 stalks of tobacco.  These sticks would be hung on scaffolding, several layers high in a big tobacco barn (hay barn in this case).  The tobacco would dry in a few months, be taken down, leaves taken from stalk, put into bales and sold at a tobacco market. 

The first year we grew tobacco, we had hung several layers of poles in an old house on the back side of the Stepp Home Place Farm.  About the time it should be dry(ripe) Uncle Ray, my dad’s brother, would pull off leaves, wad them into a wad and chew tobacco.  He could tell if it was ready to process.  I was about in the first y ear of my teens when I asked Uncle Ray if I could go with him to check the tobacco in the old house.  He said yes and away we went.  To the far east, or back side of the farm, and the lowest elevation in that particularly 40 acre pasture. 

Uncle Ray extracted a wad of tobacco and started chewing.  Soon a look of great satisfaction lit up his face.  I asked if I could check a smaller wad and he pulled off a sample, wadded it up and gave it to me to start chewing on.

Uncle Ray turned away and started up the rather steep hill back to farm headquarters. I was starting to feel ill, but I started up the hill to follow him.  I made about 30 yards and went down, so sick, really bad sick.  I was down on my knees, retching for a long time, so dizzy I could not even stand up.  IN the meantime Uncle Ray had reached the top of the hill to sit down and rest.  He looked down and saw me,  but showed no concern as he sat there enjoying his chew.  Finally, I could stand up, so weak I  could hardly walk, but I did – slowly- but finally to the top.  I sat down with Uncle Ray, who said nothing for a time.  Then, “Wal son, that there first chaw can be pretty rough.  The next one won’t be quite so bad.”

I did not reply, except what I said to myself, “ There just won’t be a next time.”  I just never understood how anyone with good sense could actually chew that stuff!! Enough said.  WWS 

# 23 The Travelling Barrels

The Dirty Thirties was the nickname of the bad years of the great economic depression and the dust bowl days (no rain fell for 4 years, almost).   It was tough on all farmers, especially those that did not diversify.  Those farmers that just crop farmed lost their farms (purchased with loaned money).  Market corn was cheaper than coal or firewood so farmers used their ‘always dry year’ crops to heat their homes and cook with.  My dad, Burney Stepp, was big on cow herds and raising hogs.  If he did not squeak through with enough grain crops to ‘feed and fatten’ (cattle and hogs) he sold them to someone who did have.  But that was just the beginning of his diversification.  He milked 4 to 5 dairy cows most of the time; with a Sears Roebuck cream separator, he separated the heavy cream from the skim milk.  The cream sold on  the market, the skim milk furnished the protein for the pig crop after they were weaned.  My mother doubled her number of laying hens and sold big crate of eggs at the town market every Saturday night.  But the big money intake was from the 7-8 acre apple and peach orchards and summer melon crops (watermelon, squash, pumpkins, etc).

For 6-8 months per year, Saturday and Sundays were his roadside market days during the season; melons, apples, peaches, and strawberries.  Everything I have said translates in to labor.  There were a lot of us and everybody worked 7 days per week.  Buyers from as far away as 50 miles (a long way) would pull up to our roadside stand all day on Saturday and Sunday.  On most Mondays, Burney Stepp went to the Bank and made another payment on the farm mortgage.  He never missed  on the monthly total that was due. 

Burney Stepp never forgot East Tennessee and the Smoky Mountain kin folk.  Somewhere he found 2 fifty gallon size barrels, not big heavy oak whiskey barrels, but strong, lightweight barrels of he same size of whiskey barrels (lightweight wood).  Every fall, when the Jonathan and Grimes Golden Apples were right it was my job to fill those two barrels with apples of those two varieties, one barrel for each of the two.  My dad shipped the barrels by rail to his parents and relatives in Washington County Tennessee (Conklin, Limestone, Telford – all small towns plus the big town of Jonesboro, TN).  There was a ‘dividing up group’ that disposed of the apples per Burney Stepp’s instructions.

When the barrels were emptied in TN, they were each filled with a new product: one with chestnuts (that was before the blight killed all the chestnut trees) and one with cured ‘long green’ tobacco—and back to MO went the loaded barrels, to be divided up among the NW MO Stepp folks.  And in our house we really did have roasted chestnuts by the fire, just like the song!

The barrels made the round trip for 15 years.  When they began to show wear and tear, Burney bought new ones. 

And I became a genealogist and wrote a book about us: The Stepp Family Chronicles.  And I researched in that barrel county.  One day I called an old house near the ‘Chucky’ river, near Conklin, TN.  I met a man over 80 years of age.  He had known my father, Burney before he had left Tennessee for Missouri.  He had been one of the two men who had laid out (prepared the body for burial) my grandfather, Civil War Veteran William H. Stepp, my Dad’s father.  He was one of the clan who saw to the fair and equal dividing up of the MO Apples.  Yes, they were fine apples.  They helped to save the Stepp Home Place Farm.  Their story really belonged in my book, The Stepp Family Chronicles, and that’s where it is.  Its something I know about.  I filled those barrels with my two hands, the hands I now use to write this study.  The traveling barrels were unique, one of a kind.  It all happened.  It was all real.  It’s true. I can still taste the roasted chestnuts, and I was by the fire when I ate them.

Pg 52

#24 The Jesse James Story

Jesse James was as famous and Wyatt Earp, Jess’s close partner was his brother Frank James, Wyatt Earp had 2 or 3 brothers.  Both men were active during the Civil War. Both leaned heavily on being a Confederate during the Civil War, James more so than Earp.  Earp was pretty much a ‘law and order’ man.  James was the opposite, a bank robber and a train robber.

I do not have access to the details of the life of Jesse James, but I do know a little.  What little I know is this:  He and his gang, always including brother Frank, started robbing banks because they were crooks and thieves.  Something led them to know about the trains, the railroads were earning big money, enough to dwarf the average bank robbery take.  One train robbery was enough to ‘sic’ the railroad police on the trail of Jesse, Frank and the gang. Their attention was drawn to the James home. For reasons unknown to me, they bombed their house and in doing so, severely injured the mother of the James boys.  That set the stage for heavy action by the James gang and from then on they majored in train robberies.  The railroad people never were able to capture the James brothers. 

And finally they, the James Gang, drastically changed their target to the far north to a big bank in Minnesota.  The 2 brothers plus 5 or  other gang members were pretty well shot up in the robbery attempt. Someone had tipped off the bank and they knew the gang was going to rob their bank.  Some of the gang were killed, all the rest wounded, including Jesse and Frank James.  In ways unknown to me they worked their way back to their old home to recover, and they scattered here and there.  Jesse and Frank separated.

And now a change of scenery to the city of St. Joseph, MO, where my sister and her husband lived.  Herb Williamson was my brother in law, husband of my sister Blenda.  My mother lived with them the last few years of her life.  He was very good to my Mother.  Herb was a WWI veteran; he was a motorcycle dispatch rider 100% if the time he was in the war.  I remember him saying how he hated motorcycles.  He never owned one.  He and 5 or 4 other War vets gathered in the back room of a saloon to gamble every Saturday night.  Herb and another vet became close friends. One or the other of them would pick the other up for gambling night.  Herb was a traffic manager for a large truck line headquartered in St. Joseph.  I never heard him say whether he was a winner or a loser as he plied his hobby on Saturday nights. I doubt that the gambling was legal, hence the ‘underground’ gambling room.

On a certain night Herb was a very big winner  , he won a lot of money.  It was a night that both men had walked into the saloon.   His friend, whose last name was Howard, offered to walk home with Herb and patted to an inside pocket of his jacket, moaning he was armed.  He saw Herb home safely and went on his home where his wife was always waiting up for him (he said).

Both the morning paper and the radio were blaring the news early the next morning.  Jesse James had been shot and killed.  He and his wife had been living in St. Joseph for over a year, using an assumed name.  The funeral service was held in St. Joseph and not in his hometown of Liberty, MO.  There was standing room only. Herb, like many others, attended the service—everyone wanted to see the body.  It was his gambling buddy who had one night walked him safely home!!  A former gang member had found the home of Jesse James and called on him (as a friend).  Jesse’s wife was worried about the picture on the wall not being level.  Jesse climbed up on a chair and reached up to level the picture. At that time the ‘friend’ shot Jesse James in the back and killed him, and later collected a big reward.  There were poems and stories written about the murder.  One was “The dirty little coward, he shot poor Jesse Howard.”  There were more lines I don’t remember. A few years later Frank James was granted a pardon and he turned himself in.  In St. Joe they had Jesse James. In tombstone, they had Wyatt Earp. 

#25  My First Night In Inez, Kentucky

During the time I was doing heavy researching, I was in Virginia working my way to West Virginia and Kentucky.  The Stepps had been holding a reunion at Inez, KY since 1935.  I maneuvered my schedule so as to be in Inez, KY on the Sunday of the reunion.  Inez was in low lying mountain country (coal mining country) just north of the Hatfield and McCoy feuding country.  I had never been in Inez before.  I arrived there about noon on the Saturday before the Sunday Stepp Reunion.  The first thing I wanted to do was to get a motel room, assuming there might be a run on motel rooms because of the reunion.  I was able to get a room.

I decided to tour the town.  I passed by several stores with the name Stepp on the store window or up high above the entry.  I parked and started calling on those stores.   All it took was showing my drivers license to people in those stores and I was welcomed like royalty.  I finally got into questions about the Stepp Reunion and every time I was advised to visit Viny Preece, a Stepp woman who had married an attorney named Preece.  I had been directed to her house where she still lived, no alone since her husband’s death.  I parked and knocked on her front door.  Viny answered my knock and I identified myself, showing my driver’s license she literally pulled me into her house, seated me across from what was obviously her chair and asked me what I would like to drink.  She brought me a cold soda and asked me if I was staying for the reunion, and I said yes.  Viny said, “You must stay the night here with me”, to which I replied I had reserved a motel room.  She immediately rose from her chair and pulled me out of mine.  She said, “Come with me, we are going to your motel!!”

We arrived at my motel and entered. She called the desk clerk by her first name and said, “This man is a Stepp, a long way from his home.  Give him his money back.  No man or woman named Stepp ever stays in a motel in this town!”  The lady behind the counter jumped up and I had my money back in an instant. She yelled at a young man and said, “Go with this gentleman and get his baggage from his room, and put it in Viny’s car.”  Viny thanked her and off we went and soon back to her house.

Viny was talking a storm.  I was taking down notes as best as I could—names, places, dates, etc.  I was informed that the beautiful new like home across the street was the home of her daughter ‘Amy’, who was now an Allen.  A very high priced car sat in Amy’s driveway.  We were made welcome there and Viny departed, saying “I have got to get Wayne’s room ready for him.”  Calling me by my first name sounded wonderful!

If my readers remember how Hedy Lamar, movie actress, looked, then you know how Amy Allen looked.  She was just beautiful, and I told her so.  She had the Stepp woman ‘cupid bow’ lips.  Lips that most actresses have use lipstick for their cupid bow lips look.  It was a genetic item on Stepp women, just like crooked little fingers on Stepp men were a very common sight.

All I had to do was listen.  Amy did the rest.  Here attorney father was ‘coal mine’ rich. All of his clients, for years, had always paid him with deeds of mountain space, all loaded with COAL.  Without her having to say so (she never bragged about it even for a minute) I know they were very, very, wealthy.  Soon her husband came home, with lots of coal dust on him.  We visited a lot and he left to clean up.  Viny and Amy took me with them the next day (Sunday) where I had a wonderful time, meeting lots of Stepp men and their wives.  There was a separate area for the children, and they came by the double dozens!

Long tables, filled with KY food that looked like, and tasted like, East Tennessee food.  Many helped me by writing down their names and addresses as I poked a pen into their hand along with a notepad.

And all the time I was making mental notes on how I could start up a Virginia or Tennessee Stepp Reunion.  With help in both VA and Tennessee reunions were born, briefly in VA, but for a long time in Tennessee.  Viny and Amy were wonderful.  I loved them.  WWS.

#26 The Young Squirrel Hunter

This may be a longer story than usual.  The young squirrel hunter plays a very small, but very important roles, so I decided to use him for the name of the chapter.  This story is about a Tennessee White Lightening making man named Stepp.  I know his first name but I won’t use it.  Call him “My Stepp.”  There is a somewhat similar Stepp or Stapp white lightening story in Scalf’s book, Stepp/Stapp Families of America, but my story is not that story.

It was a time where bootleg spirits were illegal.  Many folks made their own, various kinds in many ways.  A problem in all such booze making was finding a place to do it that would be very difficult for the revenuers (the men who find the stills and arrest the booze maker) to locate and put out of business.  The revenuers were usually men and usually not in very good physical shape, so up in the Smokey Mountains was an ideal place to build a ‘Still’ to make.  White Lightening.  “My Stepp” was a man who looked ahead into the future and planned ahead, way ahead.  He wanted to locate in Tennessee/North Carolina area and pick an altitude high enough to discourage a revenuer but not so high as to make it impossible to have a mountain site farm area.  My Stepp wanted to raise a litter or two of pigs twice a year.  That took planning.  He and another lowland farmer traded pigs, so that each would end up with a male and a female pig, unrelated.  That was simple.

In the beginning the first thing was to pick the site, fairly high up, heavy timber with a now and then leveling out area, or as near to level as possible.  This would be his hog yard area or as near to level as possible. This would be his hog yard area.  He would hope to produce a lot of mash to feed the pigs.  The base of their diet would have to come from mother nature- acorns etc.  Then  up the mountain with two pigs in a bag over his shoulder and then fix and enemy proof area for the two pigs.  He know how to do that too.

Now to flash forward:  My Stepp is producing and selling whit lightening.  He has a hog containing area, fenced and protected from any critter that would like to get hog meat.  The mash made the hogs a bit dizzy, but that did not matter, they just got up again if they fell over. My Stepp had his actual still a tad higher up than the pig yard area.  In a place very hard to find and or get to.  The revenuers were smart enough to know that someone had a still in the mountain area where My Stepp’s still actually was.  They had been watching his house, taking note of his comings and goings.  They were not night people.  My Stepp was as much as home at night as in the day time.  He had a nice young wife and 3 children, a young 8 year old son, and two younger ones, both girls.   Sam, the 8 year old boy was a crack shot with a rifle.  He kept the family in squirrel meat.  They also had plenty of pork.  My Stepp would butcher in the mountains, hang the meat from tree limbs and take it down the mountain often enough for it to be said he was a legitimate hog farmer.   Every 2 years he would buy another male pig form a lowland friend, so as to introduce a new gene pool in his hog business.

One day two lawmen arrived at My Stepp’s house looking for Stepp (Sam left the house with his rifle then, off and on there was 3 rifle shots).  They were told he was tending his sick hogs in the mountains.  They wanted a guide to the Stepp mountain farm.  Stepp’s older brother was there and volunteered to guide them to the hog farm.  About that time Sam came in carrying 3 dead squirrels.  The trio left for the climb  and in about 2 hours arrived at the hog farm. Stepp was there.  He had heard the three shots and had buried the surplus mash in the long trench covered with leaves and ‘forest flour.’  Stepp showed them his hogs, all lying down.  He kicked one, then another.  Both got up, staggered and went down again.  Stepp said I told you they were sick.  They just got the flu, see for yourself.  The law was satisfied they were sick.  Then: Show us your still, we know you have one.  Stepp answered there is not still here (very true, it was elsewhere).  A law man came up face to face with Stepp and said, “We know you are selling shine and we know you were warned by rifle shooting and sooner or later we are going to catch you and we are going to put you away. “  Stepp look straight at the lawman and said, “ Don’t you be betting on it!”  This true story passed on by Stepp’s brother.  Stepp never was caught.  I knew him. He took me as far as his hog yard.  He gave me a sample.  I have it now.  Sam Stepp deserved to have this story named after him!!!!

#27  Second Inez, KY  Trip: Three Preachers—One Sunday

Sometimes, in genealogy, one has to return to the same route you have traveled before.  You have found new information somewhere else that unlocks some puzzles in another county of one state or another.  This was the case when I found myself in Inez, KY again.  My work was mostly in North Carolina and Virginia, but Inez was sort of Amy way back toward home in Missouri.  Besides, the next day would be another Stepp reunion, the next day a Sunday (they always had their reunions on a Sunday).  The time I sneaked in and rented a motel room for Saturday night.  Sunday morning, I did go by and visit with Amy Allen after finding no one at the home of her Mother across the street.

I arrived early at the Church and saw a pastor naming the preachers to preside that day.  Two of the three named were Stepp preachers.  I had neither on my records.  The best way to start, (I thought) would be to hear them preach and try to coattail both of them after the service and before (by about 2 hours) the serving tables would be loaded with some of about every good thing you could think of. 

I entered the church and I took a seat about 4 rows from the pulpit.  A woman was playing an old, old organ but it still sounded in great shape.  The seats were quickly filled. The first preacher introduced himself and welcomed all to the Stepp reunion.  He had on a very attractive suit (with white shirt and tie).  He gradually led into what was to be the portion of the service allotted to him.  He started talking slowly but gradually the tempo picked up and he was talking faster and somewhat louder.  He began to move about and sort of ‘prance’ a bit—enough so that he had to shed his suit coat and loosen his shirt collar.  Some who read this may have heard a tobacco auctioneer.  They talk in a rhythmic, rhyming way, naming the bids they have taken and asking for a higher bid.  This Stepp preacher sounded like he was selling something (perhaps he was- it’s called Christianity). He finally (after about 40 minutes) wound down, took his suit coat, and led the church by a side door. Within 5 minutes, the second preacher took the stage and introduced himself.  His name was Roger Stepp.  If I know the first Stepp’s name at all, I have forgotten.  

The #2 had a message similar to #1 and he pretty much imitated #1.  By the time he had pranced and danced and sweated (coat off) the 80 minutes I had been sitting on that hard bench was beginning to hurt.  I know none of the audience so I weaved my way out of the crowd, all now standing and visiting and waiting for the #3 preacher to take the stage.  I made a beeline for the outer door and escaped into the great outdoors.  I was greeted by an old man with a tobacco stained beard.  He have me a toothless smile and said: “Got to be too much for ye, ey??” I said yes, a lot too much, as he offered me a chaw from his long green tobacco twist.  I turned him down, remembering how sick I became the last and only other time I tried chaw tobacco.

I had about an hour and a half to mingle, renew acquaintances with there I had met two years before and taking down a lot more names along with their parents and grandparents names, (on the paternal side).  And then it was time to eat.  I know the diet experts would sneer at some of the food items being served.  ( I bet a dollar if they had been there at that reunion they would have forgotten all about diets and lined up to help clear the table of the best tasting vittles (KY and TN talk) ever put on a table.

In the county of the Hatfields and McCoys (Martin County), the Stepp name was famous in 3 ways: (1) Because of Moses Stepp (2) Because many Stepps were preachers, and (3) because many Stepps were sheriffs and other lawmen.  Two Stepps (lawmen) died by being in the wrong place at the right time during the feuding.  Martin county was ‘rot port lively.’

Pg 60

#28 Egoism in Genealogy

The men of my generation, at least those I schooled with, grew up with, etc, were proud of their surname.  They may never said much about that buy any man who insulted another man’s surname was asking for trouble.  I guess I was as proud of my surname Stepp as the average guy, but at the same time I was somewhat worried about my name.  There were very, very few with my surname in my schools and love my country.  I sort of envied all the Smiths, Joneses, Johnsons etc.  Many of them had family members like rabbits have babies.  Sometimes I would be kidded about my name.  In a gym game if I a player fed a ball to me he might have said “step on it,” meaning go fast. There was a popular black comedian named Stepnfetchit.  Once in a while I was called that and to an extent I did not like it.

The above is one of many reasons I decided that when I grew up I was (as soon as possible) going to find out who I was and if I there might not be a hatfull of other Stepp names—somewhere.  I kept that promise to myself, and became a genealogist. And oh boy, did I keep it!!  I found Stepps by the thousands.  They were in every stat and most every nation.  At the same time I was learning that most all English-American Stepps existed by the thousands.  I studied the Scalf book. “The Stepp/Stapp Families of America” and found my tiny clan holding down ¼ of one page in that big book.  I was insulted and put out.  At that moment, I decided to become the best genealogist I could be so I could write a book.  And like I said, I found “us” by the thousands. And I found something else that allowed me to start to PUFF up my chest; First, in surprise, and second, in pride.  I began to find so many Stepps and Stapps in the action/adventure mode or category.  Scads in all USA wars (eleven Stepp and Stapps on the Vietnam War Memorial) and in all our wars. They were MOVERS, pioneers, about half blue collar and half white collar Stepps.  They were adventure bent.  That’s one reason there are so many Stepp Stories that I have felt need to be written about.  I do not see any other Stepps or Stapps, right now, writing about Stepp or Stapp people.  But I am, and will, as long as God allows. 

And in doing so at times, I broke some of God’s Laws without calling it that.  I am always bragging about my name.  Without calling it that, I am always saying we are about the best there is.  So now, I must defend myself and ask God to forgive me.  The events happened.  Someone had to act out those events, tell about them, give dates, times and descriptions.  A few daring men had to find mountain passes, so what if there were some Stepps and Stapps helping out on that in both far east and far west USA mountains?  I will not apologize for that.  God made a plan for each of those Stepps and Stapps at the time they were born. Many Stepps and Stapps were cut to be, were God designated to be, Movers and Shakers, or explorers, inventors, giving their life to help save our nation from those who Satin has directed to destroy us.  I n my own case I gave nearly 5 years of my life in WWII to do what I was ordered to do, to help destroy those who were trying to destroy us.  I was a common ordinary soldier, doing what I was ordered to do.  To me, the heroes of WWII were those who flew and fought the enemy high in the sky or deep in the water.  Fighting and or dying on the ground was duck soup compared to those on the ground. 

So once again as my attorney wife would say.  I rest my case.  I hope someone, after me, will continue to find and write about Stepp and Stapp people.  I am glad I helped thousands and thousands of Stepps and Stapps to learn about their names, who they were and what they did.  It’s a proud name.

#29 Self Educated Man

Ernest Wayne Stepp was born 10 March 1911, died 18 November 1989.  He was  the son of my Uncle Samuel ray Stepp.  He married Martha Alberta Alban 16 March 1934.  They had 6 children.  The grandfather of Ernest was also my grandfather. William H Stepp. Civil War Veteran.  Ernest’s Mother died soon after he was born.  He had 2 or 3 step-mothers (no pun intended) as he grew up. The story is in the family, but its pretty certain Ernest never even went to school one full year in his life.  Much of his early years, having only stepmothers, Ernest spend most of his early life with his grandfather, William H. Stepp and his wife, Nancy.  For a while, family members, other than Grandpa tried to set him in school.  Grandpa would hide his shoes so that was the excuse used as why he could not attend school. At  age 23 he married Martha.  He could not read or write.  Nevertheless, he had found work (he was an expert at car body repairs and engine overhauls).  He had learned to write his name, keep track of time and critical items like that.  One of the first things Martha did was to start teaching her husband to write and do simple arithmetic.  They always had a very large garden and the process of selling lots of vegetables and fruits mandated that Ernest had to lean to add, subtract, multiply, and divide.  He became very good at all of those tasks. 

Soon his reputation as a body/pain/motor expert came to be known by a large company that did a lot of that kind o work.  He was hired.  Two years later he was fulltime teacher to each of the new hired employees.  Finally, he became the head of their main branch of activity. He was now hired to boss over half of all their employee activity.  Soon HE was the company.  Upon retiring, he was getting a higher pension than most of the college graduate retirees were getting. 

But its really not fair to call him “self-educated.”  Wife Martha should get at least ½  the credit. 

When Ernest was about 16 years old, he, plus his father and two sisters came to Northwest Missouri and moved into a tenant house on the Stepp Home Place Farm.  While there, both he and his dad ran fur bearing animal trap lines.  They supported themselves on the ‘hide’ income.  Their mountain men knowledge on trapping was amazing.

His Uncle Burney, my Dad, loaned Ernest the money to buy a used Harley Davidson motorcycle.  It needed a lot of work, He learned to take the whole machine apart and put it back together with the new parts added.  Those years they spend in northwest Missouri were the years that the Stepp Home Place Farm started raising, curing, and selling high grade Burley tobacco.  Ernest and his dad were teaching Burney Stepp how to raise, cure, and sell tobacco.

But tobacco was very hard on soil.  The yield of corn, oats, wheat or whatever, planted on the land that had been on tobacco for two years went DOWN to ½ the yield it formerly produced. 

When Uncle Ray and his son and daughters left MO to return to TN, that was the end of tobacco raising on Stepp land.  While Uncle Ray   was there, he taught me to use a bow and arrow from cedar wood.  Instead of cat gut for the bow string, they used high grade bailing wire.   I learned how to make arrows for the bow.   I learned how to run my own trap lines, and most interesting of all, I learned how to rob bee trees.  After that, the Stepps purchased no more sugar at the grocery store.  Uncle Ray Stepp actually made this Missouri boy, Wayne Stepp, almost a mountain man!

In 1989 Ernest was too close to a tree (tall tree) that was being pruned of big limbs.  A very large limb being cut, fell on Ernest’s head, killing him instantly.  He was like an older brother to me.   I will never, never forget him.  WWS. 

# 30 Echoes of Our People

On many of my trips to East, TN, long before I became a genealogist, I would climb the Great Smoky Mountains, to the top , with others, usually, but one time I was alone.  ON that one time I was alone, I was taking a rest at the top, eating a bite and taking on a small drink of water before starting down.  I thought about listening as I looked down at the clouds. There was a light wind, but no sound.  I was so very much alone.  There were 2 or 3 peaks within easy vision that looked higher than my peak.  I took a very deep breath 2 or 3 times and then, as loud as I could, shouted “HELLO.”  There was an answer.  It said hello back at me.  It was nice to hear another sound elsewhere than where I stood.  All the way back down I kept thinking about Echoes and something I had recently read. 

The article was about the retrieval of echoes, NASA had been retracing echoes for several years. It was called RSA “Reflective Signal Analysis”  They claimed they had heard the giant echo of the Big Bang (birth of the earth).  They had other retrievals of small echoes.  I thought if that’s true, then sound never dies, so they just diminish in intensity.  I had been wishing for a poem to use to introduce my new book (first edition),  The Stepp Family Chronicles.  So I had a title for a poem, maybe I could write a poem about Echoes.  As it turned out, I could and did.  I started at 6:00 pm one evening while Mary was absent visiting her sister.  I finished about 6:00 am the following morning.  All night long  I was ‘refreshing myself with cans of a beer-like drink called malt liquor all through the night.  After a bite of breakfast and 6 to 7 hours of sleep, I awoke immediately and set about rewriting my hasty nights work.  I could read every word of my new poem, and here it is, as follows:

Echoes of all times past remain

They grow faint, beyond our ear.

And so we know without a doubt

That they remain, if we choose to care.

 

Somewhere upon ancient shores

The first echoes of our early bend

Still whisper our beginning.

And our departure from that land.

 

So let’s attempt to hear that echo

Upon the great soundtrack of time

And dial back the history of our people

Within the limits of our mind.

 

On some shore of that old country

Ship’s anchors signal an end to the strife

As our people chose to leave

And embark on their new life.

 

Faintly we can hear our name

During a crossing that tried their sound

As our people suffered hardships

That left scarcely a being whole.

 

Again the sound of anchors

Prevented them suffering more

As they sighted virgin land called Virginia

By those who had come before.

 

Soon came the echoes of axes

As our people cleaned their farms

Echoes of gunfire and war hoops too

As their manfolk brandished arms.

 

Then the ominous echo of cannon

As Washington came to the fore

As created our great nation

In what they called The Revolutionary War.

 

We hear echoes of our founding fathers

As they planned our nations course

And the scratch of pen on paper

As our nation gained its initial force.

 

Then came the echoes of oxen’s hooves

The beasts serving the period best

And echoes of Indian languages

As our people headed west.

 

We next hear echos of factories roar

As our industry was born.

As we have heard our pioneer fathers

As they prepared to plan their corn.

 

Then terrible echoes came upon us.

As brothers fought their brothers

And we hear the prayers of their families

Especially those of all the Mothers.

 

The agony of those terrivel times

Beore heavily on peple of our name

For we were then divided.

Both sides winning enduring fame.

 

The healing echoes quickly changed

To the echoes of Wagon Wheels

As our people spread to north and west

And gave birth to our nations seal.

 

Many people of our name perished

To the sound of the wagons roll

As the Indian War cries echoed

And for us they paid the toll.

 

Our people rallied to the battle cry

As our Yanks went overseas

And we hear our Pershing’s orders

As they lifted France from bended knee.

 

The boom of our great nation echoes

As our people took their place

And we hear voices of our Statesmen

As our nation began to set the pace.

 

Again there were echoes of agony

On that day of infamy

When the trio called the Axis

Placed us all in jeopardy.

 

There were echoes of the sound of victory

Drowning out the cries of pain

And we hear our nation gorw to manhood

As our people helped win enduring fame.

 

We hear the echo of our name

In every war’s roll call.

And we must forever honor

Those who fell, or we will fall.

 

Lately, now echoes come to life

“We’re tired of being alone”

The echo seemed to me to say

Being us all back to our home.

 

The echoes are quite now

We have carried out our charge

We are where our name began again

Our goal accomplished, by and large.

 

The Stepps have now come home again

Amongst those we will forever love.

The only way it could all have happened

Was by God’s great power above. 

Written by William Wayne Stepp.  Independence, MO September 1983, Copyrighted.

 

# 31 William H. Stepp, Private, company I Federal Cavalry, USA

William H. Stepp was born 24 Dec 1838, the son of John Silas Stepp, Jr III and his wife Mary Jane (Polly) Haga.  He died 27 March 1927.  He married Nancy B. West, daughter of Joseph West 13 Dec 1866.  He was this writer’s grandfather.  The Stepp and West farms were 10 miles apart.   I clocked the mileage on my car.  That’s how far Billy (William H.) had to ride his horse when he, Billy, was courting Nancy.  They became fast friends about 1856.  And they both begged their parent to let them marry before the start of the civil war.  Both parents said no.  Billy’s older brother was the historian of the family and he recorded that.  Mr. West thought Billy was too wild at his then age.  He was a hard worker on his fathers’ farm and was missed very much when he enlisted in the Federal (USA) Army at the start of the war.  He became a horse soldier in Company I, USA Calvary.  IN that service he was engaged in twelve cavalry charges and was never touched by sword, mincy ball, or any other weapon of war, but he must have been in hard action because he had 3 horses shot from under him.  The third time, the horse landed on him and, to an extent, crushed his chest (and on his birthday).  He was in hospital a week but was still spitting up blood when hw was returned to duty.  His injury was in the Battle of Dandridge, Tennessee (near Dollywood in East Tennessee).  In later years he was heard to say that after the war and for the rest of his life he never had even one pain free day in his life. 

Billy was voted the most handsome soldier in his unit, according to his historian brother.  He and his siblings and parent had covered wagoned from the Shenandoah, VA area to the Conklin, TN area, leaving more of their clan behind.  They lived in the confederate area of the Stonewall Jackson’s Army of the South.  One of those Page Gray (two counties of Page and Gray) soldiers was David Stapp, the son of Jacob Stapp (brother of John Silas Stapp Jr III).  So in this case, 1st cousins were fighting each other, an example of very, very sad parts of the Civil War (time out: I have always wondered why they called it ‘civil’ since it was anything but that if you go by the synonym of polite).

Billy Stepp and Nancy West married very soon at war’s end.  First born Thaddeus Stepp died of diphtheria at age 7; second born Mary Elizabeth (my Aunt Molly) married a Kiker and had a very large family.  Third born, Burney Stepp married Millie Lee Brether and they produced four daughters and a son besides myself.  Fourth born Joseph Franklin Stepp died at age 21 of typhoid.  Fifth born John William Stepp lost his wife at child birth, married twice more and divorced twice.  Last and seventh born, Ada Belle Stepp, married and bore two daughters.

I as age 12 when it first dawned on me of the terrible loss of life in the family of Billy and Nancy.  My dad, Burney Stepp, would not talk about it.  It was part of the reason why he left Tennessee and rode a train to NW Missouri.  I am sure of it.  Friends and relatives have said that they were sure the parents did a lot of praying to their (and my) god in Heaven.  In those days, it was very rare that couples with 4-10 children would always suffer the loss of 1 or 2 children at very young ages.  Typhoid and diphtheria were killing diseases.  For years my dad, Burney Stepp would get letters from one or two Ministers in Tennessee.  They kept in touch with him for a long time. 

At the time my youngest sister was in mid high school we started a once a year trip to Tennessee. I immediately fell in love with East Tennessee and the mountain country.  When it came time to do my genealogy of the area and record all  the graveyard names and markers, I began to grasp just a little bit of their sorrow.  The sorrow of Billy and Nancy.  I knelt on the ground at every gravestone marking the earthly remains of my people.  Later in WWII, I became better acquainted with death and also the loss of my Brother George Stepp.  It always hurt, a lot.  WWS.

 

# 32 A New Kind of Story: The Singing Tree

All of “The Stepp Stories” that I have written so far have been 100% genealogical.  And in the beginning that was all I intended to write.  It was then pointed out to me that I have not written any action or adventure stories about myself, which was a true observation.  So here we go another 30 0r 40  stories and they are about this Stepp, this writer.  This story, #32, is about a beautiful 4 story high evergreen tree with large, long, glossy green needles.  At one time it had been a tree in the yard of the previous owner of what I now call the Stepp Home Place Farm.

From the time I had been big enough to do farm chores I had been aware of a nice sound when I chored (fed and watered livestock) anywhere near this tree.  Yes it had  a proper name, but since I am no sure what it was it will remain “The Singing Tree.”  It was a soothing sound.  The tree was straight and tall.  The limbs sticking almost straight out and the level from the trunk of the tree in random locations.  It was very tempting.  I soon was climbing that tree.  At the very top, the limbs were situated just so that I  could lean back with a guard limb on both sides of me.  When I sat there, I no longer heard the singing sound.  There was a sound alright but not nice and soothing like when one was on the ground.  And so ever so often at short time, I would take a short break and sit in my seat in The Singing Tree.  I could see through the limbs and needles for a great distance, in all directions.  My parents know I was doing this and cautioned me to never climb the tree in stormy weather.  I never disobeyed them.  I am sure of that. 

I noticed that both cattle and large hogs and bears were using the trunk of the tree for back rubs or back scratching.  It was wearing the bark even though it was thick, heavy, and very tough.  I decided to stop that.  I build a tiny area around the trunk.  I drove steel plates in the ground and strung barbed wire around the top.  I then braced the 4 steel posts with braces around the top ends of the posts.  It was a strung fence and from that time on, no damages to the trunk ever occurred.

Time marched on.  All through high school I continued to climb my Signing Tree, but not as often.  I had a board with cleats on it to prop against the tree and allow me to get above my fence to begin my climb.  When I came home from college, as soon I as I could, I would call on my tree, and usually climb to the top.  It never suffered any storm damage. It was never ‘lightening struck’ even though it was the tallest object within a half mile around.

Then came my military career and I won’t go into that. 

I was a medic and I was to spend my war time service, both stateside and overseas in The Medical Administrative Corps.  For nearly 5 years I was in uniform (both non commissioned and commissioned officer).  I missed all the Christmas days.  I missed all my birthdays as far as ever being able to be at home on any of those days.  And finally, there came a time when my war was over and I was back on the soil of the Stepp Home Place Farm.  I had a great welcome from my parents and my siblings.  And after that, I headed to my singing tree.  That night I could not sleep It was around midnight and I got out of bed and dressed and headed for my singing tree.  I put a board against a steel post and leaned back. It  daylight when I wakened.  My tree had put me to sleep!!

#33 George Stepp—The Aviator

In my genealogical researching, I have found the given name George much more often than the given name Wayne.  To me, the name George is very special, because it’s the name of my brother, George Haven Stepp, and the subject of this story.  Its also the name of my son-in-law, who is much more of a son to me than my own son.    I have mentioned my brother before in these stories, but nothing has been said before in regard to his short flying career. 

George’s heart had been ruined.  Bad tonsils, left unoperated too long led to rheumatic fever, enlarged heart and death at 38 years of age.  I have told of his (and his wife’s) very successful business career elsewhere.  George had always wanted to learn to fly and to own a small plane.  No MD physician would OK him to fly, no matter how many different ones he tried.  One day the local Fairfax, MO chiropractor was having a Coke at the counter of George’s Stepp Inn Café.  George was telling him that no MD or DO would OK him to take flying lessons at the close by airport at Terko, MO.  The doctor said, “Drop by and let me check you over.”  He signed the form George needed and the next day, he took his first lesson and never even left the ground that first day.  His, and my, mother was very unhappy about the whole affair as was George’s wife.  He had the same answer for both.  It was, “What’s the different whether I die up in the air while I am flying, alone, or in a chair while reading a newspaper?”  He won the case.  In 30 days George was flying in the air, alone.  He had a time limit on how long he could be in the air.  The limit would allow him to fly over both of the Stepp farms (Fairfax and Watson).  The day when he informed his dad that a fence was down in the lower 40 acres and 3 head of cattle were on the neighbor’s land, he won my dad’s approval. 

George would fly twice per week.  It was actually seemed to improve his health.  I assume most of his flying was low level, but I cannot vouch for that.  He was far enough along with his new career that he was pricing the Piper Cub planes at the airport.  On e clear, but windy day after a day of heavy rain, George took off to fly around over the Watson farm area to make a note of standing water on soil that would soon be planted for corn.  It was next to 20 acres of an alfalfa hay field. It was about 6 inches high at the time.  George was flying with the wind, as opposed to against the wind.  And that was when the blaze broke out in the 2nd cockpit.  He could feel the heat on his neck almost immediately and just as immediately he did two things at once:  he began to prepare to land in the alfalfa field and he changed course so as t o allow the wind to blow the flame away from him.  He landed and crawled out of the plane with no burns at all and he started to run away from the plan, now beginning to spread and burn from the two cockpits to both the propeller nose and the tail.  He knew there would be an explosion from the gas, and there was.  He was far away by that time.

A walk to a farm house and a phone call and soon a pickup from the airport was there to take him back to the airport.  On arriving at the airport, George started toward his car, but the rescuing man stopped him, turned him around and into the office to fill out a report.  Upon leaving the office, he started for his car again, and was stopped again, this time to another Piper Cub with the engine idling.  “You must take off now, circle the field three times and land.  Then you can go home.”  Of course he did that.  None of his family ever heard him say he dreaded to go back in the air or not.  He made the local newspaper, and all of us were very proud of him.

George had another year or so and then a severe heart setback, and even he knew he couldn’t fly anymore.  With good care, he lived another 5 years.  To me, right then, he had been the best flyer in the world, George Stepp, my brother, the aviator!!

#34 The Grasshopper War

During the dust bowl days and the depression days (1928-1932), we were confronted by a new enemy in the attempt to save our farms and to stay alive and healthy.  The dust was so deep that in high winds we had to wear face masks.  Even so, our hair fields would still furnish us at least one mowing per year, instead of 3 or 4.  On an average day after the initial invasion of the first flight of grasshoppers, the screens on doors and windows would be covered by the clinging grasshoppers, attracted by the food odors I suppose.  All light would be blotted out and rooms would be dark.

It came time to cut the short crop of pale green alfalfa and try to salvage as much hay as we could for cattle and for our work and saddle horses.  It was so bad we could get along without trading labor with our nearby farm folk.  There were enough of us to handle it alone.  One noon hour it was about time to break and we decided to take our noon and head for the house, grab a meal, lemonade, or ice tea while we rested a bit.  All of us wore leather gloves with leather laces on the wrist area to keep the gloves tight.  The ends of the leather laces had little metal knobs on them.  I rammed my pitch fork into the ground and hung my leather gloves over the top of the handle.  So did the rest of our crew. 

After a nice meal and tanking up on cold drinks, we rested a bit and then back to the hayfield.  We had been away from the field for about one hour and ten minutes.  None of the pitch forks had the leather gloves hanging on them.  There was no sign of any leather anywhere to be found.  On the ground, near the tines of the fork, were the little metal knobs that use to be on the laces. So we know grass hoppers could digest leather.  The salty sweat on the gloves must have seasoned the leather exactly to their taste.  The only thing that protected the leather that made up the harness on our work horses must have been the oil on the harness.  We had dipped all sets of harness in a large vat of used motor and mechanic oil. 

As soon as we could, we cleaned the barn stalls, sow houses, and all the fresh manure that we could to scrap up and spread it on our downwind property line to attract the hoppers off our farm and onto the next one.  The neighbor then received all our hoppers and he could do likewise an in that we tried to make the hoppers keep moving for the rest of their short life span.

The hopper war attracted all kinds of birds, the ones we were used to seeing and many that really were not seen in normal times.  Sometimes the sky would be 1/3 dark with birds.  I should remind you readers that no poison spray was known or available then.  If there had been such, all the birds of our county would have died.  We collected more than our share of dead hoppers and spread them on our fields that were next to be planted as soon as we received the next dab of rainfall.

Newspaper men started t call on some farmers to see and hear our stories.  I assume we were making news all over the USA and other nations as well.  I think we had earphone radios (they came before the vary big horn like speakers, the crossly, the Atwater Kent firms were selling) but I do not remember any of our clan that heard any news about hoppers.  None of us had any time to put the earphones on, sit down and listen.  Such as it was.

I still remember the Grasshopper War.  At 93 years old, it dribbles back to me a little dab at a time.  Where I live now on the second floor, I have a balcony opening to the outside world.  I have been here over 4 years and not even seen one single grasshopper.  I wonder if there are any now?  In my limited world, I would not know it even if there was an invasion of grasshoppers.  There were a very destructive enemy. I hope farmers and ranchers have a way to control them, and without killing birds. 

# 35 Raising Missouri Mules

Missouri Mules have been famous for as long as I can remember.  They are bigger, stronger, and have more stamina than other mules.  They were used lot by our American Expeditionary Force in WWI.  The Hitler Germans even had a lot of them in WWII in the German army.  When I worked for the Limionera Citrus Ranch in California in 1937, they had over 30 head or working Missouri Mules to pull the heavy loads of filled crates of vegetables and fruits they raises.  A lot of the orchards were terraced hillsides and even after the first tractors were available, they still preferred the Missouri Mules.  They were a deep black color and easy to recognize because of great size.

It think I was 8 to 10 years old when I started to become a helper in the mule business.  We had a large barn lot (a fenced off area adjoined to the barn).  Often we would have from 3 to 5 in the lot at a time and one of our big problems was that they would try and EAT the wooden 1X6 in the wood fencing boards.  The fences had to be high because the mules were so tall.  They always had escape on their mule  mind and so they would chew, bit, and spit out the wood, always starting on the top boards, and then working downward.   If there were allowed to do so and enough of them worked on the same area, the boards would eventually weaken and the weight of the mules against the weakened boards would break the boards and the mules would escape. None of these mules were farm working stock, they had not yet been broken to harness and farm work.  The buyer would do his own breaking when he had become the purchasing owner.  Of course my dad watched the fences closely and we had a no break outs.  But he got tired of buying new lumber to replace the weakened boards. 

Burney Stepp, my dad, thought of an idea to stop the mules from chewing and eating the boards.  I forgot to mention how powerful the jaw bones of those mules were.  If they bit down on a 1X6 fresh form the saw mill, but cured, they would bite all the way through that board!! Back to dad’s idea:  He bought a keg of shingle nails.  At that time, the shingle nails were about an inch or more long with a round cap to hammer on, and a sharp point to engage the board.  His idea involved me, very much so.  I was to drive a shingle nail into the upper edge o f a brand new fencing board, every inch apart.  I became an expert at hammering.  I worked on the side of the fence away from the mules, starting at the top board and working down for the top three boards.  I would work 3 or 4 hours and quit for the day.  The project started in the summer and I was available for family odd jobs. When the summer was over and I had used half a keg of nails and the mules were very angry.  They had quickly learned not to bite boards anymore!!!

Prospective buyers came often and by listening to my dad’s sales pitch, I learned something about selling at a very young age.  After about 3 years of selling and more years than that in crossing (breeding strong jack asses), two more men in the county jumped into the business and my Dad sold out to them.  He said he could make more expanding his cow herd and with a lot less time consumed.

About the barn yard fencing boards with all the nails in them.  The fencing was still in good shape when I graduated from college (my undergraduate degree) mainly because they had been painted red several times to match the red paint of the big barn.  It had held a lot of cattle since the days of the mules.  I can still recognize a Missouri Mule when I see one.    

# 36 Making Ice on the Farm

Unless one was born and raised in Cold Country in the USA, making ice would mean nothing to you.  There were commercial ice companies, even in the small towns and nearby was a fairly deep pond of water, like a half acre or so.  But I am talking about making one’s own ice on the average farm of long ago.  Our Stepp Home Place Farm we made our own ice, enough to keep our ice box cold all summer. Most of you readers will have never heard of the rest of the story. 

Our farms and livestock ponds because we had cow herds calving every year and lots of times we would have cattle in  fields where we had no wells or wind mills.  So we dug out ponds and put excess soil or dirt in a ring around the rim of the pond to give it more depth.  We caught and ponded all rain water we could.  There would be no fences around these ponds.  Cattle, wild animals of all kinds drank from those ponds. 

But every year there would be a special pond, smaller and deep than the others, and with an extra layer of clay soil in the bottom to keep water from soaking away and wasting.  It would be surrounded with a rodent proof fencing system with a gate that could be opened and closed as needed.  Starting with the fall rains (or before sometimes) the pond would bill to whatever height could be accumulated before freezing could would gradually freeze deeper and deeper, until it was frozen solid.  We had our ice supply and were ready to harvest ice blocks.  Adjacent to the pond, we had another more shallow dug out.  Using ice saws of various sizes, we sawed out blocks and placed them on the bottom of the small dug out, leaving cracks between the blocks. We had lots of saw dust from cutting down timber on the Watson farm.  The bottom of the dugout would get a layer of sawdust on top of the clay (no plastic sheets back then!!) and more sawdust between the blocks as they were placed side by side.  Then the second layer of blocks would be laid and sometimes a 3rd layer.  The sawdust was our separating system.  At long last the top layer was covered with a mix of saw dust and dirt. 

Of course the ice kept cold and frozen the rest of the winter.  In the late spring it was time to harvest our canned ice and use it in our ice boxes on the back porch.  The top of the ice box held one or two washed off blocks with shelves for food, liquids, etc, below the ice compartment.  The keeping area was not as cold as our electric freezers, but nearly so.  People have always liked ice chips in their drinks.  We had a chipped ice section in the ice box that had been rinsed in cold cistern water.  The answer was we had ice chips in our lemonade and ice tea.  Where there is a will, there is a way.

The years I am writing about , at least one neighbor would be half and half with a Stepp crew and did a tad more than half the labor of which there was plenty.  Reread this story and count up all the labor I mentioned and you will see what I mean.  But it was nice to have a way to keep our food and milk cool and safe to drink.

Towns that did commercial ice ponds, in some cases set up ice delivery days to town customers.  Eventually, as we expanded our cow herd in size and started furrowing more sows we closed the farm located ice system because we needed the extra time that had been used with our ice pond system.  It would now be called labor intensive, meaning it might be more trouble and expense than the product was worth.

But its worth writing about.  It’s something that we did.  As time evolved, ice making and many other things we did on the farm also became labor intensive.  Gradually small town experts took over what the farmer and rancher previously did in their own farm workshop.  It was part of the old days, so I guess its somewhat natural for the guys like me to tell you about it.  It won’t make you a dime, but now you know a little more about the old days.

Pg. 79

#37 The Cinch Bug War On the Farms

We not only had to fight the grasshopper war on the farm in the dirty thirties, but in the following year a crawling enemy invaded our farm and all the farms in our area.  A chinch bug was a small black and white colored bug that loved to feed on oats, corn, and wheat.  We did have some warning from the Agricultural Country Agent.  Burney Stepp, my dad, spoke for all the used oil from the two filling stations and we mixed ¾ and ¼ kerosene or gasoline and stored it in steel, 50 gallon drums.  We knew the direction the bugs would be coming from, so we started listing (plowing) an 8 inch deep furrow on all of our north boundaries and across the sides (side boundaries).  The furrows were V shaped. My job was to fill a one gallon small spouted can full of our oil and gas mix into the bottom of the V. The chinch bug would not cross the oil fence.  It was slow and bent over work.  My dad followed behind me with a similar weapon, so as to fill any gaps I left open.

Before we even started on our protective shield, we had studied a farm that had been hit hard.  The bugs were there by the millions.  They covered the stalk of the standing corn and the stalks were black.  No green would be showing.  The stalk was so weak even the slightest breeze would blow the stalk down, flat on the ground, where more bugs would finish consuming the downed stalk.  Each stalk would suffer the same fate. Wheatfield stems suffered the same fate.  The bugs ate the stalk or stem, including the immature kernel of wheat.  It was total destruction.  There were no government programs to bail out the farmers.  Insurance companies had not yet been insuring the crop, it would be a total loss.  It could and did cause farmers to lose their farm.  My brother would be traveling the surrounding towns to pick up more used oil.  Out hired hand was plowing the furrows and my dad and I were applying the strips of oil into the bottom of the furrows. 

Very soon there was a help each other attitude developing in the area.  When one farm was protected, those farmers would help on the farms on each side of theirs.  After a time the earth along side of the furrows that had stopped them, the ground would be black with dead bugs.  When it was all over and the bugs were whipped, the dead bugs made some good fertilizer. 

Readers will wonder why they could not spray and kill the bugs.   There were not commercial sprays that I know of and, as it was in the grasshopper war, it was a good thing.  The spray would have killed the occupants and the vegetation that furnished habitat for all of natures food, creatures, etc.  The effect would have been a silent spring as in the book by that name.

My dad used a homemade spray for use on the orchard of apple and peaches.  He had a mixture of sulfur and water, and a spray pump on the wagon.   About two sprays per crop year and we would have very few wormy apples.  It would not kill grasshoppers or chinch bugs. Folks would joke about wormy apples (that fell from the tree) that they were just a bit of protein one gained when he drank a glass of cider!!! Some years we did not get enough fallen apples to make as much cider as we needed to sell at our roadside stand.

In our area of Northwest Missouri, the period of close to zero rain, banks closing and causing loss of loads of money plus grasshoppers and chinch bugs, drove a lot of farmers out of the farming business and even then, they became Okies (heading for the now oil fields of California) or “dyed in the wool” city folks.  The tough ones stayed and survived.  At my age, I did not know how bad it was.  In later years, I had to study to learn about it!!! WWS.

#38  The Outdoor Shower Bath

Farm work in the Spring, summer and fall is usually work that dirties clothing and it dirties the guy wearing them.  IN the Burney and Laura Stepp farm family we had as high as 4 men or should I say 4 males: Burney George, Wayne, and a hired hand.  Sometimes we had a married hired hand in the Stepp Farm tenant house as well.  That’s as high as 8 dirty sheets and 4 pillow cases to wash almost every day.  That was almost a back breaking job for my Mother, even after she graduated from the washboard and rubbing method.  Lots and lots of times the male members of the household went to bed without a bath, just hands and face washed.

This writer though of a way to help my mother and I sprung it on my dad and he approved.  The phone company had discarded a half dozen old, (but very straight and sound) telephone poles and we had them in our lumber and post shed.  I would need 4 sound poles (they were 7-8 inches in diameter) and to be cut 11 to 12 foot long.  I would use our post hole diggers to gig four hole in a square wished to locate our outdoor shower or bath.  I wanted 7 foot of each pole to be above ground.   Poles would be tamped in very solid, perfectly straight up and down  From our scoop lumber supply, I picked 4 strong 2X4s and placed them on edge on the four sides of the ‘to be’ shower tank support.  I had available to me, an old stock tank about 8 feet in diameter and three feet in height. 

I needed my dad’s help on one item: A turn on and off system to attach to the round hole I had cut in the tank bottom.  He had that made for me and I put it in place.  The ground was well sodded where the shower bath flow would be.  I laid a support system, (old 2X4s) on edge, on which my shower floor was to be laid.  50% of the shower water would go through the floor and soak into the ground.  I had about 4 inches of discarded water space for when the shower was in use. 

The tank was lifted, while empty, and set up atop the shower support.  A long hose from the water supply hydrant of the main part of the stock tank, to the tank on the shower support and the tank was ready to be filled—but only half at first—until we were certain the support system would handle the weight of the whole tank of water.  In the center of the shower outlet, or near it, we had an old disc blade from a farm disker (about 16 inches in diameter) and we had the added safety insurance to be certain (a pole on the round disc did the support).  Our support system was safe for a person standing below and rubbing water and farm made LYE soap, and to be there long enough to get clean.  It passed all the tests.  I was the first to take a shower in the outdoor shower bath.  That soap hurt!!

As time went by, we had to add a few things.  We dug 3 escape trenches for the dirty shower water to escape and get out of the way before the next guy took a shower.  Just outside the shower, My mom would have a clean outfit that we would wear until bedtime (which was pretty late sometimes).  A few times a kerosene lantern had to be lit to take a shower.  It would be the outfit we would go to work in the next day. 

My mom was very happy with my invention.   NO more changing sheets and pillow cases every day, just once a week.   The in house bath tub stayed nice and clean and was only used for  the women of the house, and sometime the men on Sundays.  My mom and 3 sibling sisters needed the indoor bath tub.  The grown up men used the bathroom basin and mirror to shave once a week or so. It was not a perfect answer, but it worked and it was safe to use.  Someone of us would roll out the hose to replenish the water supply in the tank on the shower support.  The support system held the tank almost level full, but most of the time, to save time, we only filled it up half full and left the hose uncoiled, supported by the barn lot fence.  Hence, it could be resupplied on a moment’s notice. 

Three farm neighbors came to inspect the Stepp outdoor shower bath.  Only one cost to make their own and did so.  In those days I did not even know what a copyright filing was, or what it was for.  I do know I did not receive any royalty payment from the neighbor!!!!

#39 Robbing Bee Trees

The  years my Uncle Ray Stepp of far east Tennessee visited the Stepps of Atchison county, Missouri, he, son Ernest, and daughters Sula and Velma all lived in the tenant house on the Stepp Home Place Farm.  He discussed the neighbor had a 30 acre plot of dense big tree timber.  He asked me if I would like to learn how to rob a bee tree hive of their stored up hone.  I said “yes”.  He said eventually we will need a good sized wash tub, a 10 or 12 foot ladder, a bellow (like a smithy uses to blow hot air on his forge work). But the first day, we do not have to take any of that with us to the timber.  We will head for the timber right after breakfast tomorrow. 

We did that, parking the farm pick up on the roadside fence area on the south side of the timber.  We tramped into the timber a bit and Uncle Ray saw a log about seat high and said, “We will sit here.”  He took a chew of the tobacco hank he had in his pocket.  He said nothing.  Very soon he saw, and pointed to three or four honey bees flying sort of north. We just left our log seat and started toward the direction the bees had taken.  Probably 200 yards away we took seats on another log and soon more bees flew by, flying a bit more to the north east.  We left that log and started to the north east.  We were trying to find their bee tree.  The old time saying came from that as in this sentence: He made a bee line in that direction.  Very soon we arrived at the bee tree.  It was a very old tree, a hollowed out area at the base of the tree and up about seven feet there was a larger, hollowed out opening.  Uncle Ray said let’s go home.  We know all we need to know. Tomorrow we will harvest the honey. 

That afternoon, Uncle Ray started collecting all the items he said we would need.  We had to go to town and borrow a small bellow at the blacksmiths building and buy sulfur powder at the produce store where my mom sold crates of eggs on Saturday nights.  Uncle Ray took time off and told me our first job would be to put the bees to sleep, then we would do the robbing.  We arrived at the bee tree with all of our items and he loaded the bellows and fired it up just like the blacksmith would do, and started to blow in that hole for about 15 minutes and then put the ladder against the tree and climbed up to the upper hole and did the same thing there.  I noticed that what few bees that were returning to their hive, turned away and flew out of the area.  The sulfur odor must have warned them.  Uncle Ray was already reaching in the hole and brining out great chunks of honey comb, loaded with honey, and dropping it in this big wash tub at the foot of the ladder.  He rolled up his sleeve and reached down in the upper hole, and kept finding more and more honey comb.

A few bees started to come out of the bottom hole.  I was bare armed and was stung by 3 bees.  Uncle Ray said, “They are waking up, we have to get out of here.” The tub was almost full.  Uncle Ray had 3 stings showing on his arms and was chomping extra hard on his tobacco chew in his mouth.  Soon he took out a wad of it and smeared it all over my bee stings.  The hurt stopped.  Then he cured his own bee stings the same way.  He said,  “Let’s get out of her,” and we each took one handle of the tub.  He carried the ladder and I covered the hollows.  On the way out he said, “In six months we can rob them again.” 

From that time on, there was no more sugar ever purchased a the grocery store in town for our farm.  The honey was the only sweetening agent we needed.  Uncle Ray said some of these chunks may have an odd taste, it depends on where the bees are getting their nectar.  The bloom on some thistle have real bad tasting pollen—it spoils the honey.

Long after Uncle Ray and family left for their Tennessee home, I would rob a bee tree with help from a farm buddy close by and we split the honey.  I have not heard of any bee tree raids in a very long time.  WWS

#40 My First Long Hitchhike Trip

I learned to hitchhike rides on the Highway after I transferred to Iowa State University at Ames, Iowa.  It was closer to the Stepp farms than the university at Missouri, Columbia, and the out of state tuition for me was only $15.00 per 3 month quarter sessions.  I would hitchhike home once per month on Friday pm or Saturday am and return Sunday pm or Monday morning, depending on when my classes were scheduled.  I used to a pullover sweater (also a collared shirt under that) and my college colors on my suitcase.  I had a lot of practice in the next 2 or 3 years.  Most of my suitcase load would  be dirty laundry on the way home and clean laundry on the way back. 

In the early fall of 1936, I was about burnt out.  I had stayed  away from home every summer working and gaining summer credits, and it was getting me down.  I was even thinking about leaving college and trying how life would feel when you did not have to crack a book every spare minute you had, or working for 25 cents per hour.  I had heard about the car races (I think in Indiana) and took a notion to take a long distance hitchhike.  For another thing, I decided I would like to walk on the boardwalk in New Jersey, in Atlantic City, and inspect the Atlantic Ocean.  I did all of that and more.  My return trip was by going south to East Tennessee to my kin folk and then west on home to Missouri. 

I had about $20 on my when I started.  I was an expert at washing dishes for my meals (college training).  I only paid for one meal on the whole trip.  I experimented with tales I had heard from other hitchers.  Then, most small restaurants had a lot of counter seats and in the winter they would be bowls of little round soda crackers and always a ketchup bottle or two.  I dawned on me if I could mooch a cup of hot water from a waitress, I could load it with crackers and have a bowl of soup, plus a free glass of water.  I did this at least four times during that hitching spree.  By timing your pick-up spots just right, you could catch a ride (using my thumb of course) that took up most of the night and I would sleep some and drive some for owners who like to sleep.  I was not cold weather yet, and a few times I would sleep on park benches in small town parks.  I was never bothered by the law. Twice I was left on a road, near a railroad trestle, and I would join 2 or 3 professional hobos!  Real ones, with their bag of belongings at the end of a bindle stick.  If I had some eatables with me, I would share it with the Hobos and I might get some hot soup in a tin can.  It was an experience.  They told me it was a lot easier to ride the rails.  That gave me the hobo fever, but I never did give in to it.  I really enjoyed my trip.  I purchased a cheap ring for a quarter with Atlantic City on the ring, and it hung from my rear view mirror on almost every car I ever owned. 

By the time I visited with five or six of my East Tennessee kin folk, I was feeling a lot better.  I even wanted to get back in school in Ames, Iowa.  I forgot to mention  something:  Four times I reversed charged calls on phones to various members of my clan back home.  They would pass my news onto my folks.  I know my mother was worrying about me so I was able to let her know I was OK.

Long after the above, I hitched both ways, to and from California.  I was an old hand at it by then.  Sometimes I would catch a 300 or 400 mile hitch.  My secret was to stay clean, look clean, be neat, show my college colors, and join the conversation as soon as possible, talk their talk, be polite, be helpful, and it was easy to sell yourself as a decent person.  Folks always trusted me.  Today in the year 2009, I would not dare to even try to hitchhike.  One would not live long trying to hitch now.  It was an experience.  I am glad I did it.  I learned a lot. WWS

Pg 88

#41  My Hoot Gibson and Ken Maynard Days

The little town of Fairfax, Missouri, where I attended high school and graduated in 1933, had  little theatre.  In the time, I speak of some of the shows were silent, no talking in the movie at all.  The talking movies were just starting up.  The wild west shows were the most popular.  Tom Mix, Ronald Dix, Gene Autry, and a lot of singing cowboys were quite the top draw.  Two western stars were Hoot Gibson and Ken Maynard.  There were lots of cattle in all the shows and lots of cowboys rounding them up.

My dad, Burney Step, had a cow herd, calving about a herd of cows per year.  That’s a small herd after the calves were weaned, bull calves castrated, and sometimes vaccinated (later on) the calf crop was fed up to 700 to 1000 lbs and then sold, corn fed beef, the best beef there is.  During all this time, there were at least 60 head of cows, about 2 bulls and before weaning, a calf for every cow.  We had a cattle barn, as did all cow herd people.  We did not rope cows or calves, ever.  Whenever it was time to vaccinate, castrate, sort out, etc, the herd had to be rounded up and funneled into an ever narrow area ending up in a cattle chute which could be adjusted for any size critter in order to brand, castrate, vaccinate, or whatever.  One thing we had in common with the movies, our cow herds had to be rounded up several times per year for various reasons.  That’s where I came in.  I had a riding horse, a pretty little mare that was a good cattling horse.  She would neck reign so that the rider could control the horse with one hand, leaving the other hand free to do whatever was necessary.  I was the cowboy for the Stepp herd.

My best grade school buddy was Lloyd Dean.  We were in the same grade, 7 and 8, and he was on a large farm with a heard larger than the Stepp herd and he too had a good cow pony.  It came about that when Stepps were at round up time, Lloyd Dean would join me and we two were cowboying at roundups at both my herd and his herd.  We were very good at whatever needed to be done.  We named ourselves; I was Ken Maynard and Lloyd was Hoot Gibson.  They were both in talking movies and were in lots of roundups, larger than what Lloyd and I were involved with. Finally, other cow herd owners would ask us to do their round ups.  At first the price was really a bargain, we did it for fun and no charge.  The word spread and we became more known, so we started to charge.  We furnished our own horse, saddle etc.  They fed our horses at noon and they fed us and we got $5 per day, each.  To us, that was real money and we had become real cow pokes. 

We ran our two horses in races.  Usually Lloyd’s gelding won. He was a bit younger than my mare. But when we were in races totaling 4 to 8 or more, either Lloyd or myself usually came in first or second.  We really did very little racing as we had no time for it.  Eight months per year, 5 days per week we both were in school, plus each of us had chores at home to do, in most cases, 7 days per week.  But the round ups were the real thing, the fun thing.

In the days of which I speak, there were lots of fences on all farms.  Some were old and there was no such thing as electric fencing then.  At the least there would be a major cattle break out per week.  There was no worry about ownership.  Most were still hide branding and some were just ear tagging.  The problem was getting the broke out cattle to gather and go as to get them back on their own farm, and the owner and neighbors would quickly get the fence repairs made.  That kind of round up was the most fun.  We had to flush the runaways out of ponds, ditches, and hidden areas of shade in hot weather.  Actually it sometimes seemed they were trying to hide from us.

Our round-up days were over when I left for college and Lloyd and his family lost their lease on the farm they were renting.  I kept one very important thing, the Stepp Branding Iron.  It’s in the living room of my daughter’s home in Plano, TX.  I no longer can ride a horse!!

#42 Professor Booth and my Boxing Lessons

I finished 8 years of country school in 7 years and I started on those 7 years at age 5.  Result: I was two years younger than all the other freshman boys in Fairfax High school in 1929.  And I was 2 years smaller than any of the other Freshman Boys and was still smaller compared to sophomore boys.  Regardless of that, farm work had made me very strong, all over strong.  Because of my smaller size, the coach did not want me on the football team, or basketball either.  Even if they had, I still could not have played, because they practiced after school, and I had to get home to do farm chores.  The grown-ups would still be in the field planting or cultivating when I arrived home.  So I was, physically, a sort of odd ball.  One day I accidentally bumped into a freshman classmate and he more than bumped back into me.  I started to bump back at him with my fists.  In no time at all, he hit me five or six times on the face and body, with a kick or two as well.  I ended up on the grassy ground, with a nose bleed and hurting all over.  He was 6 inches taller than me, and probably 40 lbs. heavier.

On the way back to class, after I had washed up in the men’s room, Professor William E Booth stopped me in the hall and guided me to his office.  I assumed I was in trouble for fighting.  That was not the case.  He told me he had seen the entire happening from his office window. He said, “Wayne, that young man has to be taught to fight, to fight with boxing gloves.  In spite of your size and age, you are stronger than he is. I have watched you on the gym floor, when other players bumped into you, they bounced off like they hit a brick wall.  I want to teach you to box”  Can you stay after school 15 minutes, four days per week?  I said yes, without asking my dad until I explained my black eye.  I think the black eye helped me get an Yes from my dad.  His mountain man East Tennessee gloves won me a YES!!

Professor Booth had also been a High School coach and he had coached all kinds of sports.  On our first lesson, he taught me how to wrap my hands before putting on the boxing gloves.  He said that for the first few weeks he was going to try to teach me how to keep him from hitting me, at least with a hurting punch.  He was very long armed and I did not think I could ever get the job done.  He was pulling all of his hits, they hurt, but not bad.  He taught me how to always keep on foot behind the other and how to quickly change feet in doing so.  I soon found I could move my arms faster than he could.  He taught me how to suddenly go into crouching position and change to an upright stance and change the finishing of the blow to be from a different ending position than that of the start.  It sounded crazy, but it worked.  I did improve, enough so that he shifted my lessons to try and hit him, any where I thought I could—face, front, face on sides, chin, from any starting point I chose and body area.  This went on for a month and I was getting into him on more tries than when I failed.  He pronounced my lessons finished, and gave me a B+.

About midyear of my junior year I was 4 inches taller, 60 pounds heavier, and very strong form doing more man-sized chores than ever.  There was another rowdy rumpus on the play ground and I did not mean to, but I glanced off some bully when someone pushed me into him.  And once again he started for me.  The fight lasted about 1 minute.  He never landed a punch.  My first punch floored him and he got up.  The second punch changed his mind.  He stayed down, bloody nose, and an eye beginning to turn black.  I had not noticed, but I had an audience, a whole ring of guys around me and they were all cheering me.  I guess maybe he had always been a bully.  Professor Booth came out to join the uproar.  He just grabbed my hand and shook it, and turned around and walked off.  He never said a word.  My know knowledge paid off many times in the following 20 to 30 years.  Professor was a great teacher and a great fighter. 

 

#43 Bob Sledding

As a rule, Northwest Missouri Winters were very cold and we would have lots of snow.  We had many steep hillsides in pasture fields.  We had heard of bobsleds, but I do not think any of us had ever seen one.  Normally, there would be a grown up on an evening of using our regular sleds.  A fire at the bottom of the steep hill.  Sometimes, roasted marshmallow, or meat of some kind on a metal stick.  Lloyd Dean and I decided to try and make a bob sled.  It meant that we would need to find three regular sleds that could be sued for the experiment without leaving any kid without a regular sled.  We picked up a home with a long steep hill and on mild days on weekends we mooched enough lightweight lumber to join the three small sleds together.  The lead sled had to be left 100% steerable and we had to have a reasonably smooth lightweight board that length of 3 sleds (we had to do some joining up to get that done).  The entire bob-sled was heavier than three regular sleds, but our experiment proved that two kids could pull empty sled back up the steep hill for another try.

Lloyd volunteered to ride the bob sled alone for the first trial run.  If all went well on the first run, we would put 3 of us on the next run.   We had made hand holds on both sides of the bob sled so that all passengers could hold on in case the big sled would have to veer left or right.  The only handhold the pilot had was the steering mechanism.  Without any weight on the snow surface, we figured we had about 5 to 7 inches of unpacked snow.  That ought to give enough gripping power to the 3 sets of sled runners.  The runners on the lead sled were flexible to steer left or right for ½ of the length of the lead sled.  We made a sort of party affair for the first run. 

On the test evening, we had extra vegetables to celebrate the first evening of tasting.  We stationed kids along the downward slope on both sides of the run, just in case.  Lloyd stretched out on the bob sled and we onlookers furnished the shove off, and he was on the way.  All went well.  He said there were a few bumps on the way.  He said it was easy to steer.  Looking up the steep hill, we could see the steering marks in the snow as Lloyd had steered the sled left and right.

Several more test runs were made.  One with three kids lying prone (Lloyd the front one) and others with Lloyd sitting up and 2 prone, and then one with 4 kids sitting.  Lloyd again in front.  I was one rider in all of the multiple test runs.  The added weight slowed the decent, but very little.  The more riders there were, the more kids on the rope pulling the empty bob-sled back up the hill!

After the above test, we had a party celebrating our invention.  All of us voted Lloyd Dean the best pilot (and the only one so far) of the night.  We had roasted wieners on sticks, more marshmallows, and we even had hot cocoa.  That ended the first night of bobsledding in Atchinson County, MO.

There were many more nights of sledding.  Many preferred their own single sleds where two could sit up, one behind the pilot.  Later we decided to put hand rails on both sides of the bobsled.  It added weight but allowed small children to ride the Bobsled because they had secure handholding devices.

Now the big bobsleds make big news whenever the winter Olympics are held.  When the big ones round the curves, the riders look like they are lying on their sides.  But those of us who remember, we know who the actual inventors of bob sledding were—it was group of Northwest Missouri farm boys and girls who dared to be different than the run of the mill kids.  WWS

 

 

 

# 44 My Time Spent as a Forest Ranger

When I transferred to Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, I wanted to major in Forestry.  I loved trees and I thought that would give one an outdoor way to make a living.  I was more sure than every of my choice when I completed my first 3 month quarter (4 of them per year).  The Forestry officials were having the 2nd quarter in the Bend, Oregon area, lots of big trees there.  It was very near the three mountains named North Sister, Middle Sister, and South Sister.  My dad signed for me to borrow #800 to buy a used automobile made in Durant, Oklahoma.  I took two riders for $100 each for both trips, there and back.  On the way, we shredded the drive shaft pin two different times.  The 2nd repair I told them to weld it.  We got there with no more breakdowns going or coming.  The college furnished us a roof (a tent with four to a tent), wash tubs, soap, to wash our clothes in a lake near the campsite.  We were sworn in as Forest Rangers and wore Ranger Uniforms.

The area was the Daschutes national Forest, a mile or so from the little town of La Pine.  Our nearest city was Bend, Oregon.  We had Sundays off.  Six of us decided to climb mountains on Sunday.  The first one was milled Sister mountain, the next, North Sister, and the third was South Sister.  In 3 Sundays we had climbed all three and wrote our names in the iron box on the tip top peak of the Mountain in all cases.

Our work was a mixture of surveying, with survey measures, and sitting on a three story high tower in the middle of nowhere, eating a bit of pork and beans.  We had to climb up and down 4 flights of stairs every time we had to answer the call of nature, both #1 and #2.  We surveyed for the name of tree, height, diameter of the trunk, and the tape reading on our survey chain.

It was a beautiful area.  All of us (about 30) were amazed to see that the 4 or 5 permanent ranger were in their early 30’s or older.  There were not married rangers.  We quizzed them on that, all had been divorced.  At that time there were no jobs for rangers in the settled areas.  The woman could not take the isolation, and the education of their children (the few who dared to have them) was not would could be considered acceptable.  Right then, in my mind I said: When I get back I am changing my major.  I want a wife and kids. 

We had campfire classes at night four nights per week.  We were paid $21.00 per month, food for 3 meals and exterior clothing (uniforms like fatigues).  We got college class credit for our 3 months and 3 weeks as a Forest Ranger.  The area had no giant redwoods trees like in California, but we had some big ones.  I will not try to remember the names.  All the trees were beautiful.  All of them were.  And we had exams near the end of the course. 

We climbed Mt. Hood up and down in a 16 hour long day.  The six of us each attached ourselves to the same rope.  If one fell into a hole, the two on either side of him pulled him out.  Our names are in the big iron box on Mt. Hood.  We had to take a 1 hour crash course before they would let us climb.  It’s the highest mountain I have ever climbed. 

Before we left, we all (the entire class) drove to the Pacific Ocean and we went through all the giant lumber companies like Wayerhouser.

A very brief career as a Forest Ranger.  It was one of the 8 uniforms I have worn in my life.  I will never forget the beauty of that National Forest.  WWS

#45  My Hitch in A CCC Camp

In the depression years of the 20s and 30s, President Roosevelt did a lot of things to try and find jobs for the unemployed.  He found ways to make up jobs.  He established the Civilian Conservation Corps which hired the unemployed to work on improving anything that needed improving or to build necessary improvements.  New courthouses were built.  New bridges were built.  Railroads were expanded.  Streets in cities and towns were repaired or torn out and replaced by new construction.  Some of the CCC camps were to work in areas of rural populations.  Small businesses could expand.  Colleges like where I had been attending were not overlooked.  Male college students were hired to don the uniform of the CCC.  Each village was given an allotment offer a certain number of needy college students who could apply for 3 month hitches to work in carrying out rural improvements.  I applied and was accepted.  I think I was paid between $20 and $30 a month.  Married men, unemployed, were enrolled.  In my camp we were teaching farmers how to build better dams to control water surplus (to prevent flooding damage).  My small crew worked directly with the farm owner on building ‘stock panels’ to catch and hold water from rainfall (when if there was any rain).

A great number of young married men were unemployed.  They were signed on if they agreed to send most of their monthly pay home to their wife, for her and their children’s support.  T a certain extent, it was made up work.  Back to my own situation, I had signed up  and agreed that a certain percent of my pay had to go to my college expenses.  I was not married.  Those Iowa State University men who were accepted were furnished uniforms for dress up and working.  We all had 3 meals per day.  When we were working on the back 40 of Sam Jones farm constructing a dam to catch water.  And 12 noon came, a detail of other men would arrive with food and hot coffee. 

Those within age range (like between 18 and 35 year) were trained in close order military drills, road marches, etc.   It was said then, and much more after Pearl Harbor, that FDR was preparing us for war at the same time he was saying, “I’ll keep you out of war.”  We used sticks or any object that could be handled as if handling an Army rifle.  Those colleges with  ROTC were given much higher numbers than colleges without ROTC programs.

The food was typical Army Food.  The kitchens were like Army Kitchens.  They had little stoves like Army PX stoves.  Each CCC Camp had their own barber.  They had sick call just like the Army.  At least 50% of all CCC enrollees were smart enough to figure it out.  When war was declared, all CCC men under a certain age were enlisted if they passed military health inspections, which was much more selective than CCC physicals.  It was called Selective Service sign up.

In many ways, now in 2009, history is repeating itself, except the new president’s Stimulus give away of billions, trillions & more for the make work purposes, and to expand government employees.  We are heading for socialism at a much faster pace than FDR ever thought of doing.  Both eras were rife with waste of tax payer money.  Where it all stops is unknown.

# 46  Walking Tree Lines

Uncle Ray Stepp taught me another E. Tennessee skill while he was visiting his Missouri brother, my dad.  In Tennessee, fall and winter were trap line time.  There was always a good market for animal hides if they were cured properly.  So fall and winter in Missouri should be good trapping dates also, besides it should be even better than Tennessee, no one that we know of was trapping in our section of Missouri.  The local herd store in Fairfax had traps.  On one of his trips to town, Burney Stepp bought 12 animal traps.  The traps were all the same size, big enough to catch and hold most all the animals we intended to trap.  Coons were a tree animal, and were hunted and treed at night by coon dogs.  But at night, coons became a land animal.  Coon Skin winter caps were warm and had an easy feel on the head.  Beaver was the highest priced pelt.  The were a land and water animal.  Skunks had a beautiful pelt, and it sold well, but no one really wanted to catch on because the trap would have to be dipped In gas or kerosene and then washed, before it could be used again. 

Uncle ray taught me how to make pelt boards, hide starching think boards of the correct size and shape—a different hide for each kind of pelt of course.  Trapped animals should be skinned and stretched on the pelt board the same day they are caught. 

Day number one was a day of locating good trap sites and setting traps, various kinds of baiting for various animals.  Uncle Ray knew their habits.  We had 12 traps but we only set and baited 8 traps.  We ran the trap line the next morning.  We had one coon and one musk rat.  We baited the 6 empty traps.  The two trapped animas were dead, we did not nave to kill them, but Uncle Ray showed me how to kill them if they had been alive.  We returned to the farm shop, and I learned how to peel the pelts form the animals.  I also had a lesson on how to use the right size pelt board and how to stretch the pelt over the pelt board (fur side down, wet side up).  Then we learned the pelts against the wall, up on a high shelf. 

We ran the trap lines every morning.  IN 7 days, we had 3 or 4 beavers in our traps at water’s edge and two coons and 2 more muskrats.  Uncle Ray said that was an above average take for 7 days.  I knew nothing about what pelts were worth and which brought the highest price.  I was to learn that in the spring. 

From time to time, we had to make more pelt boards.  A board was necessary for every animal caught in any one hunting season.  We had torn down an old, old house and most of the wide weather boards were level and smooth enough (after we scratched off the old paint) to use for pelt boards.  After the ‘cured’ pelts were removed from the pelt boards, and folded for sale, the boards were again available for the next trapping season. 

There was a lot of walking in running a trap line.  I would always be cold and 50% of the time, snow on the ground.  That mean heavy 4 buckle overshoes, plus a heavy coat, warm cap with ear flaps, and lots of warm gloves.  I felt my leg muscles getting harder and bigger. 

Uncle Ray had found 2 places where they would buy pelts.  Both were farm produce buyers.  He chose the one he thought would pay the most and we delivered and sold all the Season #1 pelts.  I had said nothing about whether I would get a share of the sales price.  The total take was $1,500 for the winter work.  After the work, we went to the bank Uncle Ray used when he was in Missouri.  Before we left the bank, he handed me three 100 dollar bills.  I had never seen a 100 dollar bill before.  I eventually paid my dad for the 12 traps he had purchased.  I only ran the trap line two year after Uncle Ray left.  College changed my life drastically!!! WWS

# 47 Rock Hounding

I met Paul Lewis in California , in 1937, when I was working for the Limonaire Citrus Ranch.  The next time I met him was when he was an Army Sergeant at the Reception Center in Ft. Leavenworth , Kansas .  The next time I met him was in his home in Richmond , California – after we were both back from the Great War.  My wife and I were still childless and had driven to Palos Verdes Estates, CA, where her sister and husband lived.  Her sister, Connie, was to have surgery and she wanted Marg (

Margaret, my wife) to be with her.  I left her then to join Paul Lewis in the far north of California .  Paul’s hobby was ¨Rock Hounding¨.  I had heard there was such a thing (searching for valuable rocks, etc), but that was all I knew.  He had a surplus Army Jeep rigged for use in the desert and he had rock hounded in Northeast Nevada several times with his wife or alone.

I left my car at his home and we headed for Nevada .  I forgot the name of the Nevada town, but that’s where we left his Jeep and we ¨rented¨ a burro—a small donkey—because we were going to be too far ¨out¨ to trust any motor (out in the desert).  He did have a ¨water map¨, which, most of the time, would have ¨water holes showing.¨  Our burro carried water for us, plus our food supply, some picks, two short-handled rock axes, and two folded ladders.

And we did go far out – and it was hot.  Paul said the secret of finding anything of value was to go further ¨out¨ than anyone else dared to go.  According to Paul, that’s what we did.  He was hunting for a ¨garnet ledge¨—a high ledge almost straight up and down with a pinkish shade.  He had ¨bi-nocs¨—high-powered distance glasses.  About 3 days out, Paul spotted the ledge that he wanted and we headed for it.  When we got very close, the ledge seemed to be winking at us!  Up close, we could see the ¨winks¨ were coming from little garnets—purple/blue and very pretty, but all embedded in rock.  Out came the picks.  The ledge was brittle and sort of ¨honey combed.¨  The chunks we picked out were about the size of a black walnut with the outside hull off.  That item would contain from 3 to 6 or 7 garnets.  We had to ¨harvest¨ as many clusters as our mule (donkey) could carry.  On the way back, we had planned to backpack our food and water so our donkey could carry more rocks.  We did not even need to unfold our ladders.  In a space measuring 20 yards , we got all our animal could carry.

On the way back to Paul´s car, we went a longer route so we could stop at ¨shade areas¨ (water holes) and while there, start to break out the garnets (crack the clusters).  They would come out pretty and shiny.  By stopping at two more water holes, we had about half of our clusters broken out.  We finished the rest of them when we got back to the little town and Paul´s car.

Paul said he was in no hurry to sell his garnets (half of our take).  He had sold to jewelers before (they loved them for ring sets).  I told him I would like to sell mine.  It came to $250 – almost paying for our trip from Missouri to California and back again.

 

Two years later, I joined Paul again and this time we outfitted for garnets and gold and rented two donkeys.  We made another large haul of garnets and not even enough gold (chips) to pay for our labor.  That ended my rock hounding for a long time.  I went to a few more areas in the Missouri Ozarks and made a few valuable finds there.  Marg was with me on these trips. 

I never became a professional ¨Rock Hounder¨.  I always wanted to ¨pan¨ for gold in a running stream, but I just never found the time to ¨crowd that in.¨  Paul Lewis was a good friend.  If we had lived closer together, we would have spent a lot of time together - ¨Army time¨. 

# 48 Walking The Missouri River Levee

It was in the late spring of 1993, and it had been raining all up and down the Missouri River – it was running nearly bank full.  The Corps of Engineers (part of the U.S. Army) had control of the river flow.  At the head waters they could divert a lot of upper water flow, but were supposed to leave enough flow to allow barges to flow on the river, heavily loaded with grain.  If they let the river go too low, the barges were ¨stonewalled¨.  But this time, most of the heavy rain was falling south of the diversion systems.  The Missouri River could overflow the levees and run all over the city of St. Joseph , MO, and continue south to do the same thing to Kansas City ( Kansas City , MO and Kansas City , KS ). 

 News came out in the paper that the Corps of Engineers was going to ¨blow¨ the levees on both sides of the Missouri River, flooding Iowa and Missouri on the east and Nebraska and Kansas on the west.  Farm owners in my area pay a levee upkeep fee the same time that we pay our real estate taxes.  If they were to ¨blow¨ the levee where they said they were, my farm would go under about 6 feet of water.  We were getting the heaviest rains on record.  The news said that if they did not blow the levee in our area, it would cover half of the two major cities (the two Kansas Cities and St. Joseph , MO ).

Some of the largest acre holdings in the Midwest , some of the most fertile land in the world, would be destroyed for that crop year and also end up with a layer of sand (perhaps a foot) on top of all that very fertile soil.  I was not living at the farm.  I, my wife, and our children were living in Indianapolis , Missouri , and received a phone call from my farm area, while 20 or 30 farm owners were gathered and organizing an around-the-clock levee patrol—armed farm owners.  They (my operator included) wanted me to come up and personally join the patrol.  I had vacation time coming (as Director of Health for the City of Independence ).  So, I knew I could get free, and on the phone call I said, ¨Yes, I will be there and armed with a gun (actually, two—a belt gun and a rifle).¨

I slept 3 or 4 hours after I called my assistant to clear me with the City (for my emergency leave), and I left for the farm.  I reported in at the rural fire station in Watson , MO.   The women were organizing as well.  They were organizing food delivery points along the levee.  The base of the levee at land level was very wide – as wide as most city blocks are long.  It tapered in a slope up, and the top where the width was about the size of a two lane highway.  The was happening on both sides of the river (the levee), the Kansas/Nebraska side and then my side—the Missouri/Iowa side.  We patrolled 6 hour shifts and then slept 6 hours.  We ate and relieved ourselves during our patrol hours.  All men patrolled with loaded guns.

I really do not know what would have happened if the Corps of Engineers (actually the Army), had come and started preparing to destroy the levee.  I am glad we did not have to find out.  The official look-out points put up signs that there would be no damage of any kind at any levee point, to the Missouri River levee, but we continued to patrol.  The rain ceased.  I, and other farm owners, suffered some crop loss from ¨standing water¨ - where the roots of corn and soybean plants were ¨drowned¨ by water.  That was a very small loss compared to what the loss would have been if they had blown the levee. 

 

Four days later, I was back at my office in Independence .  The extremely low (the bottoms) points in the two Kansas Cities and St. Joseph were swamped, but no flooding of any kind took place in residential areas (populated areas).

The headquarters in the fire station in Watson was staffed with volunteers until all threat of water hazard was eliminated.

 

#49 Racing With A Tornado

I was back from World War II – almost 5 years of it.  The first thing on my mind was to find employment.  A friend had told me of a very large grain company in Kansas City , Missouri .  It was owned by three very wealthy men, one of whom was Ralph Welch.  I learned that Welch had married a very wealthy woman.  His assets (then) were an auto and a bicycle.  He had invested over half of his money in Kansas ¨Blue Stem¨ acreage—the best buffalo and domestic cattle pasturage in the world—30,000 acres.  In the following 10 years, at least three dozen oil wells were producing.  He had paid $15 per acre for it!  He had hired a Northwest Missouri cattle farmer to manage the ranches, and by the end of the war, he had 3,000 head of cattle on his Kansas blue stem pastures and more on 600 acres in Missouri .  His ranch manager was in ill health and was retiring.

I called his office in Kansas City , Missouri , and introduced myself as a WWII veteran with a degree in Animal Husbandry – and mentioned I was also from Atchison County , Missouri (as was the retiring cattle manager).  He gave me an appointment date.  I was still in my Army uniform, dreading the time I would have to buy and wear civilian clothes.  My appointment date arrived and I dressed as if I were going to see General Eisenhower!  The office was on the 12th floor with a rectangular floor shape.  It was the office of the grain company, with two rows of typewriters going ¨clack clack¨ from one end of the office to the other.  Mr. Welch’s office was at the far end.  I had to ¨parade¨ down that aisle of women on both sides of me.  I think the telephone switchboard lady had planned it that way – maybe just to liven things up.  All typewriters stopped as I ¨paraded¨ on to the office entry, which was my destination.  He seated me and sat down across from me and we talked.  I was hired.  In the beginning I would have an office there and study the ¨bookwork¨ of ranching.  Later we would take a week-long tour of all the ranches.

That was the beginning.  I became a bookkeeping student and began finding all the ¨bloodlines¨ (bulls) that he had been and was using.  I told him during my interview of the Stepp farms in Norwest Missouri , and why I wanted to ¨make a go of it¨ on my own, even though my long term dreams were focused on the Stepp land.  He had taken an entire week and we visited the three ranches in Kansas —two near Manhattan and one south, near the Oklahoma line.  I had met all the ¨on-site¨ foremen and was assigned a separate room in the bunkhouse block for my use when I would be staying a night or two. 

I think I had made three or four round trips to all the Kansas ranches and the small ranch in Missouri .  All was going well, and I had established good relations with the four foremen.  Mr. Welch chose to go with me on a round of the three Kansas ranches.  On that trip, I did not take my brand new Plymouth company car; we were to go in the boss’s car, a nearly new ¨woody¨ Chrysler station wagon.  I was to drive.  I noticed the speedometer dial had figures up to 120 miles per hour.  We had completed our visits of the two northern Kansas ranches and were getting ready to leave the south Kansas ranch.  The weather was very bad; lots of black clouds.  I thought the boss might delay our trip but he did not.  We started north on a nearly new state highway.  The car was very heavy and handled great, even in the high winds.  We had a car radio, and it was on.  Very soon, the weatherman described a tornado coming from the west on a route that would cross our highway.  We kept going north and soon spotted the tornado coming straight to our highway.  We had three choices: we could stop to park; move slow enough to let it pass across in front of us; or beat its cross over instant.  At a point, I could see it was too late to stop and too late to just slow down.  I told Mr. Welch we could beat it to the ¨cross over¨ point and by that time, the Chrysler was at 105 miles an hour.  I was too busy after that to look at it again, but I knew I was close to all it would do.  I was not watching the tornado.  The boss was relaying that news to me.  He shouted ¨We passed it! ¨ I began to slow some, enough to see it cross the road far behind us.  The only time in my life I ever had a race with a tornado.  Once is enough!!

 

#50  Steer Riding on the Farm and More

From time to time we would have half grown steers (heifers and castrated steers) in the big barn lot that was attached to the Horse Hay Barn.  Usually it would be 10 or 12 at a time (earlier birthed than most or later birthed than most). Our closest neighbor was only a half mile away.  There were 5 kids in the family, 2 girls and 3 boys.  The middle son was about my age.  At times when new were free (not often) we would be together at one place or the other.  Whenever my folks would be up north at the Watson fame or in town, Bill and I would practice our steer riding, a no-no from my dad because it ran off the weight they had gained.  We had no way of trying a rope around a steer to hold onto as the steer bucked and jumped.  The barn fence lot was boarded with 1X6 boards with space of one foot or more between boards.

One of us would stand on the fence high enough to be above the steers back as it was driven by either myself or Bill, depending on whose turn it was to ride.  The steers would be driven passed the one that was standing on the upper part of the fence.  The steer rider would jump onto the back of the steer as the steer ran by.  The object was to stay on the steer as long as we could.   There was nothing to hold on to.  We just tried to keep our balance and stay on as long as we could.  We got away with this as long as we could and no one was hurt, until la steer ground its weight against my right leg as it was leaving the fence.  I was limping.  My parents wanted to know why and I confessed.  It was running weight off the steers.  No a work about the real danger, which Bill and I had ignored.  If he rider was bucked off the steer and fell to the ground in front of another steer, the rider could be severely injured or worse.  Or se could have been bucked off, head first into the fence.  Looking back on it, I sure am thankful they stopped us. 

The hay loft of the big horse barn was for storage of loose hay, not baled hay.  It would be drawn up with the long hay hooks form the hay wagon and ride into the empty door of the barn on to the long iron hay track.  A jerk on the rope would cause the fork to let the hay loose and it would fall to the loft floor.  Toward the end of the summer, the loft would be very deep with hay, and jumping down was safer. 

Some more foolish things we would do was to climb up the inside well of the barn till we got to the top, then go hand over hand on the ling track, And then let loose and drop onto the hay.  The lending was always soft and safe as long as the hay loft was piled high with hay.  The danger was when the surface level of the hay became lower as it was fed out for feeing milk cows during milking, fed to work horses along with their oats and corn or whatever.  When the dropping began to be a long way down, the jolt would being to warn us and we would cease the dropping for the season.  But we would always be ready for more the next hay season.

There was always danger for farm boys.  There was always a mean Jersey bull to contend with.   I’ll be writing a story about a very mean boar hog later on.  Barefoot days lasted about 8 months per year, except for school days.  Lots of us had black toenails form horses stepping on our bare feet when we were getting too close to their territory.  Another danger was copperhead and rattle snakes.  Every time when I was moving hay, we would scare up a snake or two usually cut them in two.  When I was younger and barefooted, and carrying drinking water to the main in the field, we had to watch where we were walking.  The noise of the mower would scare the snakes form their hiding places and they might be anywhere at all.

The steer riding attempt came from our watching cowboys riding steers or bulls.  We never owned any bucking horses or we would have been on them also, just like the Saturday night movie.  WWS

# 51 Hulling Black Walnuts With a Model T Ford

My brother George was born in 1906 and I was born in 1916.  He was a little bit like another dad. My dad and George had converted a used Model T roadster into a pickup truck, long before car companies started selling pickup trucks.  They even had a stock rack on the homemade pickup, they could haul a good sized calf or even a heavy boar hog.  But this pickup was handy for an invention that either my dad or brother thought of.  It’s an interesting story.

We had 3 or 4 large black walnut trees on the Step Home Place Farm.  Black walnuts have two hulls: the inner hull is very tough and one must crack that hull with a hammer.  The outer hull is soft and mushy , and when you handle it, you hand becomes black as coal.  So there had to be a way of getting that outer hull off without getting black all over you hands and clothes.

There was a way.  The first thing was to jack up the two rear wheels of the pickup off the surface, preferably cement or some very smooth surface.  Next, measure the diameter of the model T tire, just the rubber part.  Next, get some scrap lumber and build a V trough, open ended on both ends, and place a row of last year’s uncracked black walnuts in the bottom of the V. Next, measure the diameter across the V just above the tops of the walnuts.  The V must be approximately the width of the width of the tire.   You are now ready to hull your new crop walnuts, after you place the V trough under one of the rear tires.  Start the motor, shift into forward gear, and set the speed at the idling speed.  Feed the new unhulled walnuts into the V trough at the end of the trough that is back under the car. 

The measuring old crop walnuts will be spun out first, then the new crop walnuts will be spun out as fast as you can feed them into the trough.  A pile of husks will quickly start to accumulate on the cement floor and you will have to sweep them aside, out of the way.  Us a small shovel and scoop the walnuts being spun out into a large container, preferably one that you can leave them in for permanent storage, to be used as desired.  If you are going to use both rear wheels to hull walnuts, you will need two people to do the dehulling.

There are some warnings: First, be sure your two blocks under the left and right axle are snug and placed properly.  There will be some vibrations and shaking and one or the other of the blocks under the axles could slip out from under the axle and the trough on that side will be spun out form under the tire, and the tire will then connect to the concrete surface and the pickup will start to move forward.  The motor must be turned off as fast as possible.  I have never heard of this happening, but it certainly could if one has done a sloppy job in the preparations. 

I have helped in the above process as a young lad.  The men working the system can work all day and not even get any block on their hands or clothing.  There may be some wetness on some of the newly dehulled walnuts.  If much of this occurs, brush them aside and let them dry a bit before you let them accumulate in their intended storage container. 

I never did see, or hear about any tire damage because of using the tires for something other than driving the pickup for its intended use, hauling items or animals from point A to point B.  I do wonder though, if Henry Ford, the inventor of Ford cars, would have approved of our use of his product. 

#52 The Coyote War

The Stepp Home Place Farm was a livestock farm.  We raised lots o f hay, corn, oats, etc., but most of our crops were fed to the livestock we raised, cattle and hogs.  The litters of baby pigs were taken from the furrowing hog house (the birthing building) as soon as the weather permitted.  The filed hog houses were built on runners and could be pulled by horse or tractor form one pasture location to another.  This process happened twice per year because the sows were bred and gave birth twice a year.  We changed the pasture location every year so as to have clean ground after using on pasture for two litters.

When the 8 little hog houses on runners (two pens in each house for two sows and their baby pigs in each house) were placed in their intended locations, small pens were attached to each end of 2 room hog houses.  In bad weather the 16 families in the 8 houses would be warm in their closed up homes.  IN nice weather, they would be let out to their little patio, usually in day time only.

On one spring day the weather was favorable so we left the doors open on the 16 pens because it was too hot to close them up.  The temporary fence that made up the 16 little attached outdoor pens were about 4 feet tall . During the night the weather changed and it started to rain, turning to snow—about four inches of it by daylight.  School was dismissed for the summer.  May dad and I got in my Army surplus jeep and headed for the pasture hog village. We arrived to view a scary scene. On one pen only, thank god.  From the tracks in the snow leading up to the pen, we knew there were two coyotes. The snow on the ground in the pens was mostly red with blood.  Of that litter of 9 baby pigs, there were two alive, four dead on the red snow, and three missing.  The sow had bled a lot from wounds.  My dad started giving orders about a mile a minute.  “Wayne, get in the Jeep.  Go get both rifles, both loaded, one 5 gallon can of gas, and one 5 gallon can of water. Grab 2 corn cobs from the cob basket and get back as quick as you can.” He said the missing pigs were taken to feed the coyote pups.  “I’ll be at their den, you follow my tracks.  I want to get to their den as soon as possible before they come up and return for more pigs.” 

I did all that ordered and arrived back to where the tracks ended at the den opening very near the fence.  There were no tracks leading out of the den, so we knew they were in the den.  My dad said I am going to run the coyotes out of their den.  They are going to be on fire, se they will be an easy target.  They have to run south.  You kill the one on  the right and I will kill the other.  He said, “Don’t miss.”  No use letting them burn to death.  He slowly poured 5 gallons of water into the den. It soaked in for a bit and started to disappear. He then soaked 2 corn cobs in gas and laid them on the ground.  He then slowly poured the 5 gallons of gas into the den entrance.  He waited just a bit, lit one of the gas soaked corn cobs and tossed it straight down into the den.  There was an explosion, the ground shook a bit—and out came two coyotes, both on fire.  My dad took his time and I did too, firing just ahead of them.  Both went down, dead.

My dad said that it was the only solution. They would not stop till they killed the entire village of pigs.  As it is, they just wiped out close to ¼ of our income for this year’s furrowing #1.

I forget the name of the animal protection group that even protested people catching mice in a trap, and objected to the killing of beef animals.  As far as I am concerned they are all crazy.  There were no more coyote dens discovered anywhere close to any pig villages in the future.  My dad had an instant solution for a very serious problem and he did not even have to apply to the Federal Government for help.  As for me, I silently gave thanks for my dad’s east Tennessee mountain man Smokey mountain genes.  Half of my genes are the same!  I have never liked coyotes since, and I never will.  

 #53 My Army Surplus Jeep and Calf Birthing

After WWII and after a year and a half of my Missouri and Kansas Ranch Manager ship, I was teaching high school agriculture in the Fairfax, Mo. school system.  Young farm boys who had fought in WWII were eligible for 2 years of free education.  If they were on the farm and farming they could enroll in an “On the Farm College Degree Program.”  Classes all day and evenings on Saturdays, and one on one education calls through the week.  I loved this because more and more (since my father’s death) I had been taking over Management of all three Stepp farms (The Home Place and two farms in Watson, Missouri).  ON the side, my mother and I were running a cow herd, using partly Stepp pasture land, other land we were renting.  We (my mother and I) were buying bred heifers (young females that had been bred by a bull).   If the bull was of good stock, the calf from the cross would sell for more if we grew it up and sold it as bred stock.

I purchased 20 head of Black Angus bred heifers.  The owner said they were bred by a Black Angus Bull.  That was important.  Black Angus heifers could not give birth of a calf if the male was a larger boned breed like a Hereford.  They just could not expel the calf and often died trying, when it was time for the birthing.  The time came when the first of the 20 head was going to calve, so I was watching closely and could see the smaller Angus heifer was down on the ground, and in bad trouble.  I did not call the Dr. Because I could do whatever he could do myself, or thought I could.  I had my jeep in the pasture where the heifer was down.  The two front feet were sticking out the heifers birth canal and I tied a very strong rope around the two front feet—I could see the head of the calf also.  And then I tied the other end to the trailer hitch on my jeep.  I then got in the jeep and put the gear in the very slow and powerful mode, and pulled slowly forward, set the brake, got out and slowly began to get  my body weight down on the rope.   When the heifer pushed, I lowered more weight on the rope and we gained 4 or 5 inches of live calf.  I got in the jeep and pulled the rope taut again.  The mother heifer and my weight gained a foot or more of live calf.  Repeated one more time and I had a live baby calf, colored red and white like a Hereford—a big boned breed.  The baby was hunting for a teat to suckle.  I soon had the mother on all four feet and she was licking her baby with her tongue.  From that time on, I called my jeep, my pasture field nurse.

I then know I had been lied to and I realized I was going to be compelled to nurse the other 19 heifers and try to get 19 live calves.  I went without a lot of sleep.  My worst problem was when I would have two mothers trying to expel her baby at the same time.  My wife found me a second rope, one for each of the two that were trying to calve at the same time.  I had to do a lot of fast tying and untying (to the jeep trailer hitch).  My wife was driving back and forth to the pasture in her car and brining me food and water and believe it or not, an ALARM CLOCK!  With that clock, I could stretch out in the pickup bed and set the alarm to sleep for an hour. 

Only two of the 20 heifers had their baby on their own  without help from the pasture field nurse.  I had to take sick leave from my teaching.  The regular high school agriculture teacher stood in for me.

I decided I would never buy any more bred heifer cattle.  The next seller might be telling the truth, but there was a 50% chance that he might not be telling the truth. 

The jeep I purchased (for $750, $2,000 if I had not been a veteran) had a record under the driver’s seat of every where it had been.  It had never been out of the USA, but it had been in and out of 15 army addresses.  There was not a word about helping a cow have a calf instead of probably dying! WWS.

#54 Curing Sick Calves

I think I was about 10-12 years old when I use to go to the Sale Barn in Rick Port, Missouri with my dad.  He would be buying or selling something at the once per week auction.  I noticed that at every sale I attended there was always from 10-15 weaned, very sickly calves, some were beef breeds, some dairy breeds.  I got the idea that if I were to buy 2 or 3 of those weaned calves and take care of them myself and sell them later.  Any profit I made, I could add to my Saturday night allowance of 25 cents.  I asked my dad if he would buy 3 of them for me to raise and I would pay him back when I sold them.  He said yes and he would teach me how to bid on them.  I watched him bid on one that looked a little better than most and then I did the bidding on the next two grownups bid against me when they saw me standing up and could see I was a small boy.  We took the 3 sick calves home with us and put them in a separate and unused stall in the dairy side of the barn.  A long driveway separated the dairy side and grain bins from the horse side.

All the sick calves had what was called scours.  That word may not be in the dictionary.  In humans I  guess it would be called dysentery.  Since all 3 had been weaned, we had to feed them something but they refused to eat anything I would put in front of them.  They would drink water.

My dad told me he remembered something his dad had done to cure a calf with the scours.  He said right now is a good time to try and do what I saw him do.  Two stalls away there were 2 healthy calves in the process of being weaned. My dad went and looked at them to be sure the calves were chewing their cud.  All three were.  To explain that: all cows have two stomachs.  The first stomach is just to hold the hay, grain, or whatever.  Some gastric juices are added to it and the calf burps up a wad of that and starts to chew it.  They chew it quite a while and there they swallow it in the second stomach.  A healthy cow animal will be chewing a cud most of the time.  We caught up one of the healthy calves.  I held it while my dad pulled his mouth open and took the cud out of the calf's mouth and we went into the sick calf’s stall and I held the sick calf and my dad opened the mouth of the calf and inserted the cud.  He made the calf start chewing my moving the jaws up and down for several minutes.  Finally, he stopped.  Right away, the sick calf started to chew the inserted cud.

We repeated the same process on the other sick calves and we had the same results. We filled their drinking are with fresh water and a mash that was ground up mix of oats and corn.  We left them and I went about our normal chores routine.  At the time we left, the calves, all 3 were still spewing very water like and ill smelling excrement. 

It was the afternoon of the next day and pop took me into the sick calves.  All three calves were lying down on fresh, clean bedding, there were no longer any sick stink—none at all—the claves were well.

From then on, I took over the work on the no longer sick claves.  They grew.  They joined the other weaned calves in a separate pasture and stayed there with them.  Since they were 100% diary breeds pop did not want to keep them.  The three were sold separately from about 5 more that he had culled out from the cow herd calves.

When they let my three clave sin for the bidding process the auctioneer announced that these were the same calves a farm lad had purchased and here they were back again, I all grown up and healthy, probably 500lbs.  They got a lot of bids and I was paid the full price they sold for.  From that, I repaid my dad.  I had enough left over that I could even spend a whole dollar on some Saturday nights.  My first lesson in high finance!!

#55 Buggy Racing

My close farm buddy, Bill Hudson, and I had a lot in common.  Only thing we had in common was that, on both farms, there was a chassis of an ancient horse drawn buggy.  There were 4 large solid wheels on both and the under carriage was solid . bill and I decided to work on his Buggy first.  We took off the a wheel at a time and cleaned them and also all the parts of the undercarriage that was adjacent to, or connected to, the axles.  Work on the four wheels, two axels came first, then all the connections that bound the front two wheels to the rear two wheels. Eventually we had a almost like new chassis.  Our intent was to make a racer.  The driver would be lengthwise on a wide board that was longer than most any man.  The board was fastened to about everything but the front axle.  The front axle had to remain free to allow left and right turns. There were two body belts, one to strap the legs to the wide board, and one at about chest level to furnish a tie down of the upper body.

There would be no motor.  Our area was full of steep hills.  The racing would never e alongside the other buggy.  Both buggies would be racing down hill, then slowing down and then start up a hill for just a little ways.  The two buggies would race separately on exactly the same course.   As near a s possible, we would want the same kind of wing and water on the two days that both buggies raced, each one would  be racing alone.  No sails would be allowed.  Any streamlining would be permitted so long as it was no higher than 12 inches higher above the board level supporting the pilot’s body.  Each racer could use any kind of axel grease that the buggy owner wanted to use.

I think we were about 3 months doing all the above, besides the farm chores we both had to do daily.  There were not school days.  We would be racing in the summer.  Both of us would  train on Bill’s buggy.  I would gain some advantages because when we were getting my buggy ready for racing, I would not make any mistake we had made on Bill’s buggy.  We decided not to do any timing at all on the racing hill until we had my buggy as ready to race as Bill’s was.  We would train on a hill less steep.

The get ready time on my buggy as much less than on Bill’s.  We did the entire job in 3 weeks whereas we had spend over 2 months on Bill’s buggy.  Finally cam eh racing day.  Our hill was very steep and over a ¼ mile long.  At the leveling out point, there was a big dam.  It was a dirt dam with a six foot tube under it to allow the water to flow under the dam, and continue downstream.  The dam as at a turn in the road.  We would not be making the turn at a full speed because we had started to level out before the turn.  But the turn would slow us down as we used the momentum we had left to start climbing the next hill. 

The winner of the race would be the one whose momentum carried the buggy up the highest on the new hill.  We flipped a coin and Bill won, to race first.  Both of us had practiced on less severe hills.  Bill got on board and buckled himself down and said he was ready.  I pulled the chuck out from the rear wheel and away he went.  I started the run down hill and get to the point of stoppage on the new hill and put a marker down.  Bill made the turn okay at the dam.  I arrived at the dam just as his buggy stopped dead still on the new hill.  He immediately turned the wheels all the way to the left and it locked the wheels to a standstill.  We marked this stopping point.

The next day I raced.  It was a longer race on my Buggy than I had ever raced before.  Silently I was betting on Bill.  I had never told him I weighed 15 pounds more than he.  My buggy stopped 20 feet before his.  He won the race.  We raced both buggies a lot in the next two summers. We parked them, both of them, where we found them.  It was fun.

#56 Servicing the Windmills

There were 3 windmills on the Stepp Home Place Farm.  The mills were over a deep water supply.  Each mill had a 8-10 diameter stock tank for the cattle to drink from.  The wind mill had a wheel of fan blade and there was a fantail sticking out from he windmill head to catch the wind (turn the head so as to keep the head turned in a manner to catch the wind no matter what direction the wind was coming form.  The mill had had a trip wire running down as log of the mill.  IF he trip was off, then the mill would be free to turn and catch the wind, so as to pump water.  If the tank was full, we would pull the tripwire handle down and shut the mill off.  The long sticking our fan tail would stay stationary.  If it were not turned off and the wind was whipping back and forth, the fan tail would whip half way around and backward, back and forth, sometimes the fan tail would whip all the way around in a circle. 

There was as large gear box in he head of the mill.  The moving gears would be immersed in heavy oil and had to be refilled on a regular schedule. There were also a lot of grease gun points to grease.  A strong steel ladder ran up the mill toward a platform that circled the mill tower.  The platform had a crawl thru opening so as to allow the service person to crawl thru the hole and stand up on the platform while servicing the parts that were due for servicing.  There was a safety bold that held the person serving.  To release the safety was just a matter of pressing the unlock button.

I was often with my dad, brother, or a hired hand when they were servicing the windmill.  ON one occasion, my Dad began giving me lessons on how to service the mills.  He repeated it all several times and I would look up and watch what he was doing.  An old worn out gear box was on the ground within the fencing around the mill platform.  I think I was about 14 years old when he sent me put the ladder with all I needed strapped to my waistline.  I saw him check the trip wise to be sure the windmill was turned off.  I was thru the platform hole and standing up on the platform and using the grease gun on the first part of my servicing.  There was a medium wind blowing, enough so that I could feel the tower (about 3 to 3 ½ stories high) sway a bit.  My dad was on the ladder just below the craw thru hole and was acting as my coach.  Suddenly there was a snapping sound and the tripwire that had been taught and secure suddenly went slack and the mill tail was then free to start whipping around and catching gusts of wind. 

I knew that the tail could whip all the way around and knock me off the platform.  I had just finished filling the gear box with oil.  I tossed all my tools overboard and was getting ready to try to lower myself thru the platform hole as my dad moved downward out of my way.  But a heavy gust of wind was swinging the tail toward me and I know it was going to go all the way around.  There was not room for me to duck my whole body beneath the swing level.   There was only one thing to do and I did it.  I snapped the safety belt loose and grabbed the tail support bar of the fan tail as if I were going to do a chin up.  I hung on and rode the bar all the way around the platform.  My dad was not yet out of my way on the ladder—if I had dropped myself through the hole, I would have knocked him off the ladder.  So, I rode the tail around again.  It tried to stall, and I put foot down on the backside of the platform and gave it a push. This time the ladder was clear.  I dropped thru the hole of he platform up to my arm pits, with plenty of room to spare if the fan tail bar had reversed.  Soon we were both on the ground and giving thanks.  The tripwire had not broken, but the trip latch had.  We repaired it as well as we could until we got a new one at the hardware store.  My dad never took me off the windmill service duty, and I did not want him too.  I never had trouble again, after many, many climbs.  I thanked God in many ways, many times.  WWS.

#57 Old time Court Room Justice

At the time of this story, Burney and Laura Stepp, my parents, were long gone to a better place than earth.  My brother George had passed away as well as his wife.  I had borrowed the money to buy out my three sisters share of the Watson Farms.  The Stepp Home Place farm had been sold. Livestock income had shrunk.  It had always been a livestock farm.  Crop farming was the only way to go and to depend on the that, a hilly farm, was only 50% chance of a good year due to the cost of furrowing and erosion.  The main Watson farm would yield up to 250 bushels of corn per acre, soybeans 60 to 70 bushels per acre.

My farm operator owned and famed 1,500 acres.  I was the only land he rented.  Twice in 5 years he had won the National Corn Yield Record on my land.  Tractors were air conditioned.  Powerful lights on the tractors allowed night time work in the fields.  My operator, farming with his son, often did that.  Other crops we raised on my farms were Homing corn, popcorn, and commercial potatoes. 

Farmers would work long hours, often turning off the tractor and putting the lights out at mid night.  Many farmers were doing that.  A big city, Omaha, Nebraska, was only 80 miles north of my farm and many, many other farmers.  Omaha, like all cities, had their share of ponytailed, drug headed, stealing teenagers.  They started coming as far south as the big farming area of NW Missouri,  They would spot a tractor in the middle of a field, and with a gunny sack in hand, they would walk to the tractor and take anything loose for their bag, turn on the motor, turn the steering as far left or right as it would go, shift to a low gear and the tractor would go in circles for the rest of the night.  They would usually hit 2 or 3 farms per night. 

We decided to cure the misguided idiots.  We set traps, like putting decoy tractors next to county roads so they would not have to go far for their loot and turn a tractor on.  The very first night we caught 3 shabby looking long haired characters in their early 20’s.  We tied their hands and feet, took their car keys and threw them in the back of the pickup and headed for the mayor’s workshop.  We locked two of them away and put nut #1 on and empty nail keg.  The Mayor was judge.  He took two depositions from the actual witnesses and then let the nut have three choices to choose from:

1)      A haircut to the skull

2)      Locked in a very small Watson jail on bread and water twice a day

3)      Pay a fine, in cash in the amount of $200. 

He had $200.  He paid it and we put him in jail until noon the next day.   Then nut #2, he chose to lose his hair and buy a dry shave—to lose his beard.  Nut #3 took the jail and was very sorry when he saw it.

By then it was daylight.  We have the car keys back to #1 and warned them if they came back we would shoot them and ask questions later.  Nut #3 started screaming and shouting after 2 days on bread and water.  He was taken out to a highway and turned loose on foot with the same warning we gave nuts #1 and 2.

News traveled fast.  We had reset our traps for three more nights and had no takers.  The system we used to solve our problem was quite old fashioned.  No lawyers, no jury, no federal grant, no nice clean jail for a year or so until someone noticed them and would eventually have some kind of trial.

There was more.  Two Iowa farmers that heard about our courtroom justice had driven down to see the Judge that presided at the trial.  They were shocked to find out the Judge was only a Mayor of our small town.  They were amazed that not state officials had called on us or that not group of goody good outfit had not tried to bring some kind of charges against us.  The mayor, our synthetic judge, was ready for them if that had happened.  He had a bill of damages that would have choked a cow and a counter-suit would have nailed them to the wall.  I thought our system was great—we need a lot more of it!! WWS.

#58  Guarding the Watermelon Patch

Burney Stepp always planted at least one acre of watermelons and muskmelons.  He sold most of them from his Saturday and Sunday roadside stand.  He always had a watermelon table for any car load with children a watermelon feast was provided the children while the melons were being loaded into the car.  Most people also bough musk melon or banana melons.  The melons were pulled form the vine on Friday night, but not put out on the roadside space he had provided until Saturday morning early.  Early, it was my job to do the selling so that it freed up my Mom and Dad to do other things. They would take over the job when the cars started to line-up.  Thru the week the melons would be sold form the Model A Ford pickup on the streets of Fairfax, Terkco or Rockport, Missiouri.

At about the time the melons would be starting to ripen, I would start to do guard duty at the melon patch, starting when it began to get dark.  I was armed with a shotgun with plenty of shells.  Our big selling season coincided with school vacation, so I was home and usable day or night.  No melon patch would ever be planted in the same place twice, to confuse thieves and partly to confuse the watermelon beetle.  In other words, clean soil every year.  My dad always hid the melon patch somewhere in the corn fields and the stalks of corn would be as high as a man and high enough to hide a thief.  Also, it would always be near a farm fence because the temporary road to use for pulling he melons and hauling them out would always be along a fence line.  By the early part of the season, the thieves would have discovered where the patch was by watching the going and coming of the pickup or wagon if we were using a tractor.  I would throw a horse blanket on the ground between a couple of corn rows at the edge of the patch and stretch out and take a nap.  No watermelon that thief ever came along to steal. There would always be at least two, sometimes 3.  They would start to talk and it would wake me up.  I would blast away with the shotgun pointed their direction, but over them.  I would not shoot till they were close to the edge of the patch so they would do less damage when they started to run, and run they did, toward the fence.  About the time they were at the fence, I would blast them again and hopefully cause them to tear up their shirt or pants on the barbwire fence.  During any one melon year, we would collect many portions of shirts, pants, or jackets.

My dad would always plant a few hills of fake melons citrons.  They were the size and color of melons and they were grown to use as watermelon rind preserves.  They were grown all the way through, even when they were to be ripe.  The fakes were always the larges and a darker green than the real melons.  In the dark, they would pull a fake melon first because they were the largest.  They would pull the fake melon and take off into the corn field.  It would get to be heavy for them so they would stop and cut the melon.  Even in the dark it would shine a very green and, of course, not be eatable.  The next day if my dad say the new tracks into the corn field, he would come upon the fake melon the thieves had left after they had cut it open and found it green.  At noon, at the dinner table, he would say, “Well, I fooled another thief last night.  They carried a citron over a quarter of a mile.  He always enjoyed telling the story.”

The melon season was a very busy time.  It was a high income season.  Every Monday, dad would had for his bank in Terkco, and deposit the money for the next payment on the mortgage.

Then school would start and when we arrived home after school.  My first stop would be the melon patch.  I would choose a fine melon and bump it apart on the grass and eat the heart of the melon.  One could eat the entire heart, not taking time to eat the part near the rind.  I had a lot of company of my age during melon season.  They knew I would always cut a melon.  They never ever had to steal one!! WWS.

#59 Converting my WWII Jeep

As soon as I was really back on the Stepp Family Home Place Farm and teaching agriculture in Fairfax, Missouri, I had applied for, and purchased, a surplus WWII Jeep.  The top part was a mess.  The canvas was torn or ripped, the floor was greasy and dirty.  The red pain job on it was fairly new to cover the army colors and insignia.  Anything that I could unfasten, unbutton or unscrew was a mess.  I tore it off and threw it away.  I cleaned the floor, then painted then, and then covered all the floor with fiber mats.

My first reconstruction was to build on to the back of the Jeep, a pickup bed—on which I could build removable side boards and a height behind the cap for a permanent front end panel.  On the rear of the new pickup, I build a ‘let down’ door, that when let down, extended the pickup floor by about 16 inches.  I built a rear panel as an endgate to the new pickup bed.

The next task was to build a water proof cab.  I used pressed wood half inch ply board (purchased as 4 X 8 and cut down as needed.  I intentionally ignored the two doors to the cab.  I wanted to build the frame, the roof, the back of the cab (with a generous gap for a glass see thru item.  Also all of the side paneling on both sides except the door spaces.  One side at a time, I cut and fitted the left and right doors. I cut out a space in both doors that would accommodate a letdown glass door on hinges.  I used a considerable amount of caulking.  On each door I fashioned a door latch that could be used from both the inside and outside of each door. There were not door that rolled up and down with a crank; the doors were let down on hinges.  They were locked in place by twist buttons.  When all the above was done, I used a lot of caulking.  And I painted the whole cap and stock rack a bright ride.  I connected the house and using our water pressure from the farm lot hydrant, I turned the water loose on both sides, the windshield, the door sides, and the back of the cab, which was the front of the stock rack. After that, I got inside the cab, locked the doors shut and told them to spray all the pressure we had.  Our pressure was whatever push we were getting form the windmills as a rule, but for this test, we were pumping with a Briggs and Stratton gas engine.  I had a piece of white chalk to use in circling every leak that showed up.  There were zero—none—no leaks on the roof or seals around the roof. 

The rest of the test yielded a lot of leaks, especially around the windshield and the rear view panel glass at the back of the cab.  I almost used up the entire stick of chalk. I had to ask for help at the hardware store.  They sold me some very thing high powered glue, called “penetrating glue.”  A few days later the second test was much better, only 8 leaks.  I later sealed them.

The next test did not come for two weeks when my dad wanted to sell a boar hog that weighed about 500 pounds.  We loaded it in the rack pickup area.  We backed up to the loading chute and let the end gate down, and raised the upper part of the end gate as high as we could get it.  The boar walked right in, we closed the rear of the rack and the boar was now locked in.  We had thrown in three or four ears of corn on the bed floor to quite the hog.  When the boar pushed his body to right or left against the paneling the affected paneling pouched way out.  We threw ropes across the top and secured the panels.  Later I build a system to use instead of ropes.  I was assuming that hog was probably the heaviest load we would ever hold.  That proved to be true.

We now had a pickup truck, courtesy of Uncle Sam and my $750 purchase price plus the redo job.  Much, much later when it was sold, the bill went to $2,000.  It was a really fun job.