Monday, March 30, 2009

A Southerner in Pennsylvania

On Saturday, a group of us boarded a bus at the Union League in Philadelphia and headed for Carlisle Barracks, home of the Army's War College and, just off Post, the Army's new Heritage Center. Major General Bob Williams, Commandant of the War College (left), visited with us and described the role of the war college and then other officers joined us, including the Garrison Commander for a great tour and Q&A session. At the new Army Heritage and Education Center, Mike Perry and Lorraine were our guides and we were privy to the inner sanctum of the research facility. What a fantastic day. Great company and great adventure! I'll post more later.

On Sunday, I was among the distinguished speakers at the AMART symposium held in the conservatory at West Laurel Hill Cemetery. Many old friends were there and it was great to make new ones. The facility and the cemetery were gorgeous! Before the festivities, I couldn't resist a ride around the monuments with my camera.

Friday, March 27, 2009

From Ghost Tours of Kansas

For sometime now, Beth Cooper, co-owner of Ghost Tours of Kansas, has asked me to join her company as a tour guide. My qualifications: I love to talk, I love history, I love cemeteries, I love the ghost stories.

A couple of weeks ago, I went along on the recon for the Lawrence Tour that was held on Friday the 13th. It was very interesting and a Lawrence Journal World photographer accompanied us and took the photos shown here. I've been on one investigation--Constitution Hall in Topeka, which was incredible. I'm including the April newsletter.

Share your stories!

Half Price Tickets- March 28
North Topeka Tour--Help us fill up the bus for Saturday, March 28. Enjoy a tour of the most haunted places in North Topeka, including Overland Station, Moose Lodge and the business district. Departs from the Celtic Fox at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8.75 per person, age 12 and over. Dress warm and bring your cameras! Order tour tickets online

Kansas Most Haunted List

The Holton House, a former mortuary, tops the Kansas most haunted list for 2009. Now a bed and breakfast, the Holton House was selected because of thermal image video, EVP's and personal experiences by investigators. Last year, 48 locations were investigated by Paranormal Reseach Investigators and ghost tour staff.The top 5 most haunted locations in Kansas are:

Holton House Bed and Breakfast- Holton
Constitution Hall- Topeka
St. Mary’s Church- Kansas City
Hotel Josephine- Holton
Holton Country Club- Holton
(photo above left, taken in Pioneer Cemetery, Lawrence. From left, Beth Cooper, Beth Rupert, me, Jodi Sullivan)

Dinner with a Ghost Tour in Kansas City

Discover tales of the Kaw, walk through a cursed cemetery and hear about the ghost torn and shredded. Find out what makes KCK the most haunted city in Kansas! Enjoy a tour then a pizza dinner with a special presentation by paranormal investigators! Tour departs April 4 at 8 p.m. from Wheat State Pizza. Tickets are $29.50 per person. Order tour tickets online

Private Tours For Your Group

Schedule NOW for your party tour! We will pick you up and drop you off at your location. The best entertainment in town! Phone 785-383-2925 or email for your tour!

Ghost Tours of Kansas is expanding! We are looking for people who enjoy history and can share stories with a crowd. Guides are needed in: Salina, Abilene, Atchison, St. Joseph, Missouri, Weston, Missouri. We would like to hear from you! Auditions are held regularly. Email your resume to

Upcoming Events
March 28 North Topeka Tour
April 4 Downtown Topeka Tour/Dinner with a Ghost- Kansas City
April 23 Dinner with a Ghost- North Topeka
April 24 Manhattan Ghost Tour
April 25 Kansas City Ghost Tour

In Philly at Last!

Well, folks, I arrived safely in Philadelphia. After weather delays in Detroit, we finally took off about 2 and half hours late--but let me emphasize I appreciate the concern of airlines and Air Traffic Control. I might add I was flying Northwest and the gal at the ticket counter was exceptionally effective and polite. Despite grumbling, she kept the dissatisfaction to a minimum with frequent updates and upbeat personality. We should all learn to be more patient.

My friends were in Baltimore when I arrived, so I had to take a cab to their home. I won't go into details, but the cabby will be reported to the Port Authority which apparently has some control over such things.

Upon entering my friends' home, I felt like I was home myself. I love them dearly and am so fortunate to call Andy and Carol my friends. They had wine and cheese waiting for me, not to mention a book Carol bought for me at auction: a signed copy of a volume written by the daughter of Confederate General Joe Johnston. There's no escaping our nerd-dom.

Today, I'm sitting in Andy's office at Temple University using his computer and getting some work done. Tonight, we will go out to dinner and enjoy a bottle of Kansas wine sent to my buds by my bud in Wamego, Britt Nichols. Despite what Kathleen Sebelius says, Kansas makes some fine wine.

We'll toast the Sunflower State!
(top photo, Andy and Carol and friend at a reception. They frequently attend receptions:)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Leaving, on a Jet Plane

Oh, Babe, I hate to go. . . .

As much as I'm looking forward to this trip to Philadelphia, there is a dread that comes over me every time I leave home. Three times in my life, I have returned to ashes. The first when I was 9, then when I was 17, then when I was 26. All were unrelated fires.

The first time, we were headed across the mountain to church. Mama was a tiny woman and her wedding rings were too large. She kept meaning to get them resized; instead, she put them in the bathroom closet inside the sewing box. Periodically, I would steal into the room and and try them on, carefully replacing them if I heard her coming. That morning in June, as we got dressed for church, I again tried on her rings and thought I would ask her if I could wear them. I immediately dismissed the idea as totally foolish. There was no way she would let me wear them.

When we returned late that afternoon, I was lying down in the backseat, tired after church, visiting the friends, going to the zoo. As we topped the last hill, Daddy said, "Oh God," and swerved. I was afraid to look, afraid of what could cause him to moan these words. When I did, there was flue standing where our house had been. In the days before cell phones, no one could contact us so family members were waiting. I'll never forget the smell and I'll never forget Mama going through the ashes for days trying to find her wedding rings.

Each time, I had a similar experience--something I wanted to take but didn't. It always makes me uneasy, though I dearly love to travel. The loss of those homes has left me with issues of hoarding, of fear of facing reality, of all kinds of phobias and neuroses. When I tell my friend, Carol in Philly, about these things, she chides me--sometimes gently, sometimes harshly.

"Look around," she says, "Every body's messed up!"

Sometimes that's a comfort; sometimes not. But it is true. We're all in this boat together, sister, brother. Lord be gracious, and let us provide comfort to one another as best we can. Lord, care for my loved ones, and my home, for I am so grateful for all.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Live Boldly and Wear a Hat!

It was a fitting following to honoring the governor who was the honoree last year -- Marge Heeney was the ABWA's woman of the year. God, I do love Marge and her husband, Barney, and can't think of anyone I'm more blessed and grateful to know. Marge befriended me years ago; I have fairly worshipped her ever since, as have legions. Her generosity is unbounded. Her talent is unequaled. Her heart is tremendous. I love her dearly.

Marge has become known as the "hat lady" because of her constant donning of outrageous hats. She often adorns the hats herself with sequins and or feathers; she often sends feathers in cards to her friends; I have been the recipient of such feathers.

Marge's instruction to us is to live fully and boldly. "Go Big, or Go Home!" is her motto. As one of her friends commented, "Marge is full of sass and good sense. She is vivid!"

She is the woman we all want to be.

Another woman I love and admire and am so grateful to know is June Windscheffel. Again, I have known her for so many years and treasure her so much. She is so talented, bright, sparkly, and freaking smart! She is the woman I want to be as well.

I am so blessed by knowing so many wonderful women.

My friend Terry Hobbs, me, my friend Carol Turner, my friend Lynn Stillings. Below left, Carol and me, and right, June and me. Love you all!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

At the Emma Chase Cafe

The Chase County Courthouse dominates the tiny town of Cottonwood Falls--like an ornate wedding cake at the top of Main Street. Last night however, the excitement was inside the Emma Chase Cafe (below, right is Sue who owns the cafe, and on occasion, appears as Emma Chase). We could barely find a seat. My friend, Sue Ann Seel, that banjo -picking girl, invited me to join her for the weekly jam session. Last night happened to be gospel night, which might have promised a sedate evening's entertainment.


The first song was "I want to be a cowboy," just to get the crowd in the mood. Then there were rousing renditions of the Hank Williams classic, "I saw the light," then, "I'll fly away," and "Do Lord,"and "When the saints come marching in." There were softer tunes, like the one newcomer from Wichita, Clarence, performed, "Let the harvest go to seed.

It was the closest event to being home at the Willis Gap Community Center on Saturday night that I've ever found in Kansas.

Nothing goes with good traditional music like good traditional food--fried catfish, chicken fried steak, cherry pie, peach pie, rhubarb pie. As people came and went, there was barely an empty seat to be found at any given time.

Speaking of seats, next to me was a young family--a couple with a darling little girl. He is a professor of anthropology at Wichita State University and hails from Hamburg, Germany. Needless to say, this was his first visit to Cottonwood Falls. His lovely wife (left) was Turkish. Emma gave them a jar of apple butter for coming the furthest to the event. (Even though technically they just drove up from Wichita.)

Okay, so near the end of the show I could hardly stand it anymore and I asked if it would be acceptable to dance even though they were playing gospel. This gentleman, Dan Force (left), replied with a hearty "yes!" So I know I look a little bedraggled but I had danced up a storm!

On the way back up the road, Sue and I tried to carry on a conversation, but I we had some mind-blowing bluegrass CDs and every time we got into a deep conversation, a really hot song came on and we would say, "Oooh, wait! listen to this!"

I can hardly wait for the next jam session.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Queens and Politicians

Sometimes, things just get out of hand on St. Patrick's Day. . . . My cousin, Dixie Lee Jackson and a few of her closest girlfriends donned big hair and spangles to entertain the folks in Topeka's parade. About 40,000 folks crammed downtown for the festivities. It was a glorious day. Look for more pictures and more details on Dixie Lee's website. . . . the link is to the right.


Councilmen on Parade

Also in the parade were Topeka City Council members Richard Harmon, left, and Jeff Preisner, right. Jeff is running for mayor and I'm working on his blog which you can visit at Preisner4mayor.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

They Expected Dorothy . . .

They got Deb instead.

For officers from the United Kingdom visiting Kansas, many for the first time, it was visions of flying monkeys and swirling houses that filled their imaginations. Instead, they found the pre-eminent World War Museum in the world, one offering not only the American experience, but the experience of soldiers throughout the world. That focus made an impression on more than one foreign officer. Majors Alex West and Dick Taylor, pictured above, were struck by the international scope of the displays. "If this were just America in the Great War," said Dick, "oh well." He shrugged as he said it. But because of the balanced approach in presenting the complex issues and experiences, it's meaningful for his countrymen as well.

About 200 British officers visited the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth as part of an exchange program with the UK's equivalent military institution. After weeks of immersion at CGSC--after sharing ideas, doctrine, and tactics--the Brits had the opportunity to explore beyond the walls of Fort Leavenworth and visited the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial in Kansas City. I had the amazing opportunity to join them and "banter," as one officer phrased it. It was delightful and insightful.

Scott Porter, assistant professor and teaching team leader at CGSC, is also on the board of trustees at the museum. He commented that the museum has displayed tremendous generosity toward the CGSC students, thousands of whom have participated in classes at the facility. Significant military events are hosted by the museum as well. Scott is passionate about this place and its mission, and through his connection to the Command College, the ties are strengthened and the opportunities are furthered to learn the lessons of World War I. (At left, the bridge over the poppy field that leads to the museum. At right, Scott with Bob Ulin, CEO of the CGSC Foundation which hosted a reception for the officers.)

A real highlight was meeting Brigadier James Bashall, Director of the Army Division of the Joint Staff College in Shrivenham, England, (left). He eloquently commented on the mutual commitment of the US and the UK to liberty, a word that is not used often enough.

At 46, Bashall is young to be a brigadier and every officer I met eagerly asked, "Have you met our brigadier? They're obviously proud to be serving with him.

It was an incredible experience and look for more on Armchair General's website, and on this website as well.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Military Matters and Modern Marvels

Steve Tennant, Fort Leavenworth's Command and General Staff College, snapped this photo of my helping with media training in his class last week. It was a great class--these guys just get better and better. I enjoy this more than relaxing on the beach, honestly!

Modern Marvels

Freddy from Mayberry sent me these photos and I think they're just incredible. I'm emailing my friends in France to ask if they have actually driven this route. It reminds me of Eddie Hunter's discussion of the Bay/Bridge Tunnel a few days ago. I'm not sure I could navigate this, but it's really not unusual for us to drive above the clouds back home. I used to do it every day going up Fancy Gap Mountain.

The Millau Viaduct is part of the new E11 expressway connectingParis and Barcelona and features the highest bridge piers ever constructed. The tallest is 240 metres (787 feet) high and theoverall height is an impressive 336 metres (1102 feet), making thisthe highest bridge in the world. It's taller than the Eiffel Tower . Interestingly, the Millau Viaduct is not straight. Why? It's because a straight road could induce a floating sensation as you drive across it. So, a slight curve remedies that feeling. The curve is 20km in range. Moreover, the road has a light incline of 3% to improve the visibility and reassure the driver. An amazing engineering feat!

And from my friend Scott Porter:
French Honor Last Brit WWI Vet

Australian Associated Press

The last British survivor of World War I's grinding trench warfare was made an officer of the French Legion of Honour on Monday. French Ambassador Maurice Gourdault-Montagne awarded 110-year-old Harry Patch the medal at a ceremony in Patch's nursing home in Wells, 190km west of London, Britain's Ministry of Defence said in a statement. Patch, who served as a machine-gunner in the 1917 Battle of Passchendaele, told Gourdault-Montagne he was proud of the honour.

"Ambassador, I greatly appreciate the way your people respect the memory of those who fell, irrespective of the uniform they wore," he said in a> raspy, deliberate voice. "I will wear this medal with great pride and when I eventually rejoin my mates it will be displayed in my regimental museum as a permanent reminder of the kindness of the people of France."

Patch is one of only two surviving British veterans of World War I, according to the Ministry of Defence. The second, 112-year-old Henry Allingham, served as an airman. Patch had already been made a Knight of the French Legion in 1998, along with more than 300 other veterans of the conflict, in which more than eight million soldiers perished. An officer of the French Legion of Honour is a higher rank. Patch was called up for service in the British army in 1916 when he was working as an apprentice plumber. Thrown into the Allied offensive to take the village of Passchendaele, near the Belgian town of Ypres, he was badly wounded and three of his best friends were killed by shrapnel. Patch was due to return to France when the war ended in 1918. He went home, returned to work as a plumber, and raised a family. He didn't start talking about his war experiences until the 21st century.

(c) Copyright 2009 Australian Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Flint Hills Grass

Sue Ann and Rod Seel asked me to join them at the Classic Bean, Fairlawn Plaza, here in Topeka Saturday night. Chris Biggs is her banjo teacher, but I was really impressed with how good he was along with fellow musician Steve Hinrichs. On March 27th, Chris will be back at the Classic Bean with the band Kansas Heart. In the meantime, visit his website and order the CD Blue Flannel Friday. YOU WILL LOVE IT! I have played it over and over. Folks back home would be impressed. I wish we could do a musician exchange program between the Flint Hills and the Blue Ridge Foothills. . . .Hmmmmmmm......


Just Imagine. . . .

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Bail Out Blues

For a different look at the economic bailout, my friend Henry McClure (aka Denny Crane) made this observation:

Hell, back in 1990, the Government seized the Mustang Ranch brothel in Nevada for tax evasion and, as required by law, tried to run it. They failed and it closed. Now we are trusting the economy of our country and our banking system to the same nit-wits who couldn't make money running a whore house and selling whiskey!"
That's about as succinct as it gets.
C.O. W. B. O. Y. S.
The official publication of the Cockeyed Old West Band of Yahoos Society arrived a few days ago. Jim Gray and his lassie Kassi do a great job with this publication and it's just full of fascinating stories from the era when Kansas was the forefront of the Wild West. Jim has a new book, Desperate Seed: Ellsworth, Kansas, on the Violent Frontier.
According to our buddy, Dave Zerfas:
Desperate Seed is well researched and brings to life the excitement, danger, and amazing characters that walked the stage of Frontier Kansas in the 1860's and 1870's. Jim's ability to lay out the timeline and intersperse amazing stories of shoot-outs, fights, hangings, will keep the reader eager for the next page. To have been but a fly on the wall. . .
Hey, an endorsement from Zerf is high praise. Email for subscriptions, book orders, or just to tell Jim and Kassi that Deb said Hey!!!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Blogging Blues

I've received some interesting emails and comments, and I'm afraid you'll miss them if I don't put them in the body of the blog itself. They are priceless. First, in reference to the "Love of My Life" column, about Buffalo Bill Cody, the following comment was made:

My Gawd! How can people mention that no good Jayhawker William F. Cody in the same breath with the likes of Marse Robert, Stonewall and Purdy? Cody was one of Gen. Blunt's RedLegs. He's no better'n Jennison, Lane and that backstabbin' brute Hickock.

I say we knock down all of his statues and burn Cody, Wyoming to the ground!

Who's with me?

The Giant from Missouri!

Well, I believe I know who this giant from Missouri is. I'll try to protect his anonymity, but he's a deadringer for Major Johann August Heinrich Heros Von Borcke, that strapping Prussian who served on General J. E. B. Stuart's staff. I am reminded, however, of another member of Stuart's staff, Texas Jack Omohundro (right), who later toured with, guess who. . . YES! Buffalo Bill Cody! Texas Jack hailed from Richmond, and when Buffalo Bill visited that city, the crew visited with Omohundro's family. Bill had forgotten the grudges of an earlier time.

Bill had ample reason to hate Southerners. Bill's dad was stabbed by pro-slavery advocates from Weston, Missouri. He would die a year later.

The young man vowed vengeance and he got it. He became a Jayhawker, yes, though a reluctant one. Like many young men before and since, he was drunk when he enlisted and regretted it the next day. After the war, as evidenced by his relationship with Texas Jack, he held no grudges.

Shortly after Custer's command was wiped out at Little Bighorn, Bill "took the first Scalp for Custer" as quickly and remorselessly as he would have shot a rattlesnake. Later, he personally, and unsuccessfully, tried to broker peace at Wounded Knee. He took the responsibility for Indians who traveled with him, sometimes paying out of his pocket to send them back to America when they became homesick in Europe. His heart was simply too big to hold a grudge, except toward his wife. Bill was a lousy husband. Ah well. . . .

I love Bill Cody's generous heart and the way he boldly lived. I love him, even though he was a Yankee!


And here is another interesting email from a dear friend. I have changed her husband's name to protect his stellar reputation:

Sometime in the summer, there was a big thunderstorm. Apparently there was a leak in our roof (since fixed), but a brown stain seeped on to the ceiling in the bedroom. Last night, I was trying to decompress and was laying on the bed, staring at the stain. I started thinking how twisted it would be if the face of the Virgin Mary -- or Elvis -- or even Charles Manson -- could be seen in the stain. The stain does have a face-like appearance -- not photo perfect, but more of a shadowy look, like the Shroud of Turin. But try as I might, I couldn't put a name to the face. Then this morning, I looked at the photo on the front page of the Cap Jnl and I knew right off whose face is on the ceiling. Bubba (her husband) came in the room and I told him to take a long look at the stain and tell me what he saw. He said it's definitely a face. . . and it's familiar . . but he couldn't figure out who exactly. I showed him the newspaper and, freaking out, he said OMG --- IT's HIM! Go to and click on photo #3. Yes, we're lunatics -- but I'm not joking.

I will investigate this miracle asap and report my findings. Stay tuned.
My Fans
And yet another comment on my post, "Hillbilly Heartthrob." This time, the author was brave enough to sign his name. Coincidentally, he is also a Missourian:

Howdy Deb, loved your post on Faron Young. Nary a couple hours later I was in my truck, listening to "Willie's Place" (Sirius Satellite Radio #13) and heard the DJ talk about the 'Singin Sheriff', and they played one of his songs. I guess he reads your Wild West blog too!Hey- very sorry to hear about you losing your show at the radio station- or should I say the station losing YOU! Best wishes and thoughts for you as you seek out new adventures and opportunities.

This comment came from my buddy, the dedicated reenactor Dan Hadley. I love the line, "I was in my truck, listening to "Willie's Place. . . "
Thought for the Day
Keep sending the cards and letters folks. But don't send no postcards. You can't put money in a post card.
--the Reverend Roosevelt Franklin, Macon, Georgia

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Starting Over, Again and Again

When Michael Burlingame spoke on Abraham Lincoln a couple of weeks ago, it was not the first time I had heard him speak on the subject and I have had the pleasure of many conversations with him. But it was the first time the strength and truth of his words struck me.
Abraham Lincoln, whether you like him or not, was the most accomplished writer of all our presidents--including Jefferson. What Michael pointed out so eloquently, however, was that Lincoln was a political hack until middle age. When he reached those tough years, he suffered a crisis--re-examined his life and emerged deeper, more eloquent, more purposeful.

This gives me hope that my life and my experience have not been wasted to this point, that I can put words to paper or computer that will inspire and comfort, that there are audiences who will hear my message, a message put in my heart and mind to give them. There is so much loss in this world; our life experience is the story of loss. We reach out to one another, across space, across time, through pain, through amazement, and find kindred souls.
We must never give up on one another, or ourselves.
Photo of the French Broad River in North Carolina by James Martin Davis.