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 Three

Finally the family reached the west bank of the Missouri River and the town of Atchison on the steep wooded bluffs. "Just look at all the trees and houses!" Johnnie's mother cried out. "We're here at last!" Looking down on the town, they could see many buildings, streets, houses and people. It was just as Johnnie's father had described it to them. Suddenly, Johnnie and his family were no longer tired from the day's ride. They hurried down the hill to their new home anxious to see everything. They gazed in wonderment at the houses lining the wide streets paved with bricks. May people scurried around, going about their busy daily lives.

     Johnnie's father made arrangements for them at a big house on Main street and they moved right in. Bessie and the chickens stayed in a barn behind the house. In those days, barns were in the towns, and the livestock even roamed the greens. They were ready to begin their new life.

Overview of the Town

     Living in Atchison was exciting. Johnnie quickly made many new friends. Often they explored or fished along the big Missouri River and watched the many steamboats paddle by or dock to unload supplies and people coming to Kansas. They watched the progress of workmen building the railroad depot nearly every day.

     Johnnie still had his chores to do before he went to play with his friends. He still milked Bessie every day but did not usually stay with her once he led her to the small pasture near their home. He was in a hurry to meet his friends and did not notice her big eyes watch him until he was long out of sight.

Steamboat on the River

     One evening after supper, Johnnie's father asked him to take Bessie out to a big pasture on a bluff that overlooked the town. Bessie had not been giving much milk since their arrival in Atchison and he thought she needed to be in a quiet place for a change. As Johnnie led Bessie to the pasture he began to think about the times he used to spend with Bessie. Once they reached the bluff, Johnnie laid down on the cool grass and gazed over the town below. The lights were beginning to be lit as the sun set. Bessie began nibbling at wisps of grass and moved slowly around the unfamiliar meadow. Johnnie thought about how much better his life was here in Atchison as he watched the twinkling of the many lights below them. It was good having his father back with the family, He liked all his new friends and the adventure of the big river and the anticipation of the arrival of the railroad. Bessie mooed. She used to be a big part of his life. He had not spent much time with her lately. A wave of home-sickness came over him as he remembered how close he and Bessie had once been and how safe he had felt with her near.

Johnnie and Bessie

     The stars in the sky came out and the night was slowly growing dark. It was very quiet except for the scratching chirp of the grasshoppers and the occasional clank of Bessie's cow bell. Johnnie promised himself, "I'll spend more time with Bessie tomorrow." Soon, his eyelids grew heavy and he fell sound asleep.

Johnnie and Bessie under the Stars

     All of a sudden, Johnnie awoke with a start. It was totally dark except for the lights of the town below and the stars in the sky. He jumped up from where he had fallen asleep and quickly looked around for Bessie. "Bessie! Bessie!" he called. He dashed to every corner of the pasture but could not see her. He stood for a moment and listened but he could not hear the "Clank, clank" of her cow bell. Again, he ran around the pasture, calling Bessie's name. His stomach hurt, his heart was pounding hard and he felt his face getting red. Where was Bessie? He realized then that Bessie was gone. Where could she be? All the way home he called out Bessie's name. He looked in the barn, but she was not there. She was no where to be found and it was too dark now to find her. With a heavy heart Johnnie gave up his search for the night. He would find Bessie in the morning.

Johnnie Alone

     Early the next morning, as the sun was just lighting the sky, Johnnie ran to the barn hoping he would find Bessie waiting for the morning milking. But, only the barn cats were there, meowing a lonesome and hungry cry. He returned to the meadow but Bessie was not there. Slowly, Johnnie trudged back home to tell his father. What would they do? Bessie was a good milk cow and they would have a hard time getting along without her.

Newspaper Advertisement

soon appeared in the Atchison newspaper. The family borrowed a cow from a neighbor. Johnnie milked her every morning and every evening but she was not a good cow like Bessie. Many days and nights passed by. He missed Bessie and felt sorry that he had not spent more time with her. Not feeling like playing with his friends, Johnnie instead wandered around the meadows and bluffs of Atchison hoping Bessie was just lost there. Finally, he decided that Bessie was not coming back. Returning home to do his chores, Johnnie was met by his father at the door of their house. In his hand he waved a yellow piece of paper and on his face was a look of surprise and amazement.

Johnnie without Bessie

      "Look! A telegram. A telegram." he exclaimed. "It's from Mr. Crosby in Grasshopper Falls. He has found Bessie grazing in his pasture! Bessie has wandered all the way back to Grasshopper Falls!"

The telegram arrives!

     Johnnie could not believe it ! It had taken days to travel from Grasshopper Falls to Atchison. How could Bessie, a cow, find her way back there, all alone? Poor Bessie was homesick. While they were all busy with their new life in Atchison, they had forgotten that Bessie was an important part of it. The family hurriedly loaded into their wagon and headed for Grasshopper Falls to bring Bessie back. This time they would make sure Bessie knew she was loved, needed and appreciated. And so, once back in Atchison, they all lived happily ever after.

Happy Days!

     Many years have passed since the day Bessie returned to Atchison with the Considines in 1866. Johnnie grew up into a tall, young man and took over the management of the Farmers Home Hotel in Atchison. He met a nice Irish girl named Sarah Jane Kelly. They married and raised their family of eleven children. After the great grasshopper plagues of 1874, when hordes of grasshoppers devoured entire crops-chewing them to pieces within days, the small town of Grasshopper Falls in Kansas was renamed Valley Falls. Atchison also survived the plagues, besides droughts, floods, panics and depressions over the years and is today a small community of 10,000. All of Johnnie and Sarah Jane's children are gone now, including our beloved Aunt Ruth, and no one remembers the Farmers Home Hotel. Descendants of the Considine family still live in Atchison and nearby towns. Now, more than 100 years later, we fondly remember the story of the cow that wandered back to Grasshoppers Falls, in the vast sea of waving grass on the Kansas prairie.

The Kansas Prairie

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