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12 April 2006 - Wednesday

     We awoke around 6:15 and found the temperature had dropped considerably during the night so we closed the windows while the coffee  brewed.  As we didn’t have access to a bathhouse we skipped our usual morning shower and we had to use the van’s sink for washing and shaving.  After cleaning ourselves up and straightening the interior of the van we pulled down the top and headed out to another day of adventure.

      Some 33 miles northwest of Liberal we came upon the small town of Hugoton, the seat of Stevens  County,  Kansas.   Located in flat high

Yes, there certainly is a lot of sky

 in this part of the USA

plains country the area’s economy primarily encompasses natural gas and agricultural production.  Hugoton itself has 4,000 citizens and bills itself as the “natural gas capital of the United States”.  The county was named after Thaddeus Stevens (1792-1868), Congressman from Pennsylvania who was famous for his fierce abolitionist beliefs.  Other than Hugoton we found the entire area to be made up of desolate, dry desert-like land with few residents to fill up the 727 square miles that is encompassed by Stevens County.   Upon experiencing this we both began to wonder what had attracted our 2nd great-grandfather John P. Moreland to this seemingly uninviting environment. 

     Our first business here was to visit the Recorder of Deeds in the Courthouse to find what we could about John P. Moreland and the land he may have purchased and when.  We located a record filed 18 March 1913 showing him “paying in full” to the Federal government for 160 acres he was homesteading, and another document, filed the same day selling the land.  Why would he do this we asked ourselves?   Just a bit after 10:00 am we headed next door to the County Library.  The librarian advised us that the room containing their genealogy collection would be used for a children’s book reading from 10:30 to 11:00 am.  As our research would be interrupted for a short time the librarian found us a place close-by where we could obtain much needed haircuts.  Upon arrival the proprietor Shelley Taylor informed us that she could take us at 11:00 am so we headed out looking for a cup of coffee which we found at Domino’s Bar and Grille.  We spent most of our ½ hour there chatting with the owner about our trip.  Soon her father arrived, and she inquired as to where “Herman” was.  She quickly explained that her Dad had injured his foot and that she had named his cane “Herman”.  Dad was a grizzled old retired farmer who didn’t know a day without work.  He summoned his daughter to help him lift a cooler up onto the bed of his pick-up. When she voiced concern about the task the crippled man replied that it ONLY weighed about 150 pounds.  Seeing the need for assistance Tom quickly headed for the door followed closely by Fred.  The four of us lifted it up on the truck and Fred scrambled up into the bed to assist with securing the object.  When we left the establishment the owner refused to let us pay for our coffee as we had provided “neighborly” assistance.  Ah, another enjoyable encounter with life in America’s heartland.  After Shelly had given us our haircuts we headed back over to the library.  Since we

had a hunch that our 2nd great- grandmother Lydia A. (Brown) Moreland had passed away while residing in Stevens County Tom sought out the newspaper collection to look for an answer, but was disappointed to find that obituaries were not listed as they are today.  At the librarian’s suggestion he began to seek out that portion of the paper that contained the local “goings on” or chatting type of news.  Almost immediately he found a paragraph about Mrs. Moreland being sick with pneumonia.   This was a find certainly worthy of a “genealogy dance” that only family historians can appreciate.  Subsequent notices advised of her deteriorating condition until her eventual death was reported in the 28 March 1913 edition as occurring on 15 March.  We had found the answer to our question as to why John had made final payment and sold his land on March 18th.  His wife and constant companion of 60 years was gone, and he at age 81 was most likely a tired and broken man no longer interested in living in such an inhospitable environment.

     It was early in the afternoon when we left Hugoton.  We planned our route out of the area so that we would go past the land homesteaded by John and Lydia.  Upon reaching it we took pictures as well as a GPS bearing.  Again we contemplated why at such an advanced age they would attempt to settle this unforgiving land? Little did we know that the answer was awaiting us at our next stopover in Arizona.

       Soon we were back into Oklahoma where, in Guymon, we ate lunch at an establishment named Cactus Jacks.  It was here that we met Dee the super-waitress.  Dee was a 40 something cowgirl who plainly loved her work.  She displayed a special upbeat style and smile that one couldn’t ignore.  We voted her our “# 1” waitress of the trip and by the time we had left Fred was positively enchanted with her.

      Before long we entered the Texas panhandle where the land is so flat that one is able to see from horizon to horizon and there isn’t a tree to mar the view!  A few miles past Dalhart, Texas we first smelled the cattle and then soon saw the huge feedlots that seemed to stretch almost to the horizon. It was this extraordinary sight that made us ponder the many steaks and burgers we Americans consume each year.

      Soon we were in New Mexico and the Mountain Time Zone.  We promptly changed the clock on the radio and instantly added another hour to our day.  At Tucumcari we got onto Interstate 40 west to Santa Rosa where we planned to stay the night at the Santa Rosa Lake State Park.  Upon our arrival we were instantly impressed with this New Mexico campground.  Despite the fact that we would have preferred the cool lush forest setting in the East we both were pleased that Mother Nature had provided us with a different setting to enjoy.  The land was beautiful, and Fred took the following picture of Santa Rosa Lake from the front window of the van’s penthouse top.  A quick tour around the immediate area convinced us that this park would certainly rate a 5 in our book.  We were

really impressed with the bathhouse as it contained a very good-looking shower room with plenty of hooks and even rubber mats on the floor in each stall! Wow! This place has to take our No. 1 “Bathhouse Award”. 

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