Just rambling thoughts about anything that happens to be on my mind and that usually isn't much!
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Thursday, September 8, 2005

the stockman's cafe

One thing good about "moving home" is getting back to the regular "haunts". And the other morning I stopped by the Stockman's Cafe in Cambridge. It is kind of unique, in that Cambridge is not much of a town anymore.....but once was!

In the late 1800's it was a booming town with a stock yards and rail head for shipping cattle; two cut limestone buildings that were banks across the street from each other; grain elevator and feedmill; lumber yards, grocery stores and rooms to rent to cattle buyers in the hotel just down the street. Yearling cattle moved up from herds in Texas to be fattened on the bluestem grass in the Flinthills area around Cambridge. Then moved on to the slaughter houses in Kansas City. But now it is a mere widespot in the road.

I first visited The Stockman's Cafe in 1975 when I moved to Kansas to work on a ranch just north of Cambridge. Over the next 5 years I was there most everyday sipping coffee and listening to the stories of "the locals" (since I was a new-comer it took a year to get "accepted" by them.....but eventually I did!)

Back then, sitting around the tables were people like Oscar Keplinger (a bowlegged, gnarled old bachelor cowboy who could well remember putting cattle on the railroad), Archie Dwyer (who had been a mail carrier during the horse and buggy days), Ralph Sphar (whom we called the Mayor since he actually did live in Cambridge), Red Redford (who had made his fortunes building the wooden derricks in the oil fields of Oklahoma) Ezra Johnson (who had been on construction crews that built such buildings as the Texas Tech Administration building...actually Ezra was one of the reasons I made INTO good standing with the locals since I had attended Texas Tech!!)

After checking cattle or feed runs......the place would begin to fill up and the stories began. If some one didn't show up on time, everyone kind of got to worrying about him ...... and his chair would sit empty 'til he did show up. And that's actually how they found the Mayor, he didn't show up.....and they went to look for him. It was too late of course, but that's a part of life.

But the stories ranged from the winter of '39, the flood of '52, the drought of '33, the fire of etc etc. Sometimes they got to talking about some one getting throwed off his horse back in '22 ... "and you know, nobody ever was able to ride that horse" Or maybe some roper and how he could rope ...... "best dang heeler I ever seen!" Or the night somebody got married and they threw him a "chivalry". It was always worth some laughs as you drank your coffee.

Well last week I got to stop by for a cup and it was nice to walk back in and hear things like, "heard you were back in the country", "drag up a chair, this one is yours isn't it?", "you buying the coffee?" (which by the way, I did!) The only things that have changed .... are the names sitting around the tables (though most are offspring of the former mentioned) and the dates on the stories. Feels good to be home.

Dennis

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