Contibuted by Mary Ann Sachse Brown and produced by Early Kansas Imprint Scanners

The Cow from Grasshopper Falls

Written by Mary Ann Sachse Brown
and Illustrated by Roy Lee Brown

Part 2

The war seemed to last forever. The young family struggled day by day. Then the long drought came again to Grasshopper Falls and the Kansas prairie. No rains fell and soon creeks dried up, the tall prairie grasses withered, turning to a walnut brown color, and dry, scorching winds caused the earth to crack. Without rain, no crops grew. With no crops, food was in short supply for the long, cold winter months. Most of the Indians had left, moving south to the Oklahoma Territory. Those who remained shared what they had with the Considine family. Aid was also sent from the people of the East, in the form of supplies, but families continued to leave. Just when Johnnie and his family thought they could not possibly survive any longer, news arrived that the long war was finally over. It had lasted over three years. Johnnie's father would be coming home at last. Everyone was so happy. They would all be together as a family again.

     It was a great day when Johnnie, Mary Ellen and their mother saw their father walking down the road to their little log home. He was alive and unharmed and very happy to be home again. Even Bessie mooed her approval from the pasture. For several months, Johnnie's father rested to regain his strength, then one day he announced that the family would move to Atchison, a bigger town with better opportunities to make a living.

     The town of Atchison was on the Missouri River, the "Big Muddy", where steamboats stopped on their way down the river. With the war over, more settlers were traveling west in search of a better life. Many were coming through Atchison and so were their supplies and the mail. Work on a new railroad had begun, which would link the eastern states to the west, passing though Atchison on its way. Johnnie's father had heard about it on his journey home from the war. Atchison was a fast growing town and Johnnie's father knew the Considine hotel could do a thriving business there.

View of the Town

Wagon on the Trail

     So the family loaded all their furniture into a big wagon with a canvas cover called a 'prairie schooner', because it looked like a ship sailing across the sea of tall waving prairie grasses. The wagon was piled high with all of their belongings--beds, quilts, pillows, kettles, skillets, dishes, silverware, plow, shovels, lanterns and all their clothes for the summer and winter. They packed what was left of their winter supply of food, which was to last the three day journey. Finally, Johnnie's father hitched a team of horses to the wagon. They were leaving their little log cabin by the falls, the only home Johnnie and Mary Ellen knew. And, although Johnnie knew life would be better for them in a bigger town, he was sad to leave Grasshopper Falls.

View of a Field

     The family traveled what was called the old Military Road, which had been built between Fort Leavenworth, on the Missouri River, to Fort Riley, far away in western Kansas. Their journey took them over many hills and streams and by some very small villages. They passed by fields newly planted in corn, wheat and oats. Much of the time, the road followed the creeks, along which grew groves of cottonwood, ash and oak trees. Colorful wild flowers grew everywhere and Johnnie watched the faces of the tall sunflowers follow the sun as the day wore on.

     At mid-day, the family stopped along the creek or under a big shady tree. Johnnie's mother took out a crazy quilt made from pieces of worn-out old clothing and spread it under a tree where the family sat to eat their meal. This was called "nooning". They ate corn cakes and butter, hard-boiled eggs, jerky or dried meat, and sometimes a pie baked from dried apples. When all had enough to eat, the crumbs were shaken from the quilt which was placed back in the wagon, along with the basket of any left-over food. It was hard to leave the cool shade of the tree to continue their journey in the hot afternoons. This seemed to be the longest part of the day. Johnnie thought back to lazy afternoons spent with Bessie in the pastures of Grasshopper Falls. He wished they were there now. Finally, as the sun settled lower in the sky over the prairie, and the evening air grew cooler, a good spot was chosen to camp for the night.

View of the Camp

     For their supper, Johnnie's mother fried a slab of salt port in her skillet, called an iron spider, over a fire his father had built from twigs and dried leaves. Strong, hot coffee was also brewed over the fire to go with the little corn cakes she baked. Johnnie and Mary Ellen drank some of Bessie's fresh, warm milk. Left over milk was then placed in a small pail and hung in the wagon. During the day's ride, as the wagon rocked and swayed, the rich milk turned into butter! It was great fun, eating their meals outside, just like a picnic. The food Johnnie's mother fixed tasted sooooo good!

     At night they slept under the stars of the big, clear Kansas sky. Johnnie lay in his bed on the ground and looked into the night far above him. He watched the millions of tiny, blinking stars until he fell asleep.

Sleeping under the Stars

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