Sunday, February 16, 2020

Bob's and Bill's Big Adventure

Now that we are old retired folks who spend a lot of time together, just the two of us, we often reminisce. Yesterday the subject of Bob’s Grandma Russell came up in conversation and his mind went back to that February in 1962 when he and his buddy Bill West stayed a few days with Addie Jane Mahaffey Russell in her rustic home near Cass, Arkansas, one of only three times Bob ever saw his grandma. His memory is so accurate that he can recall her exact words, and his descriptions of the scenes and events paint colorful moving murals in my mind. Although I was not there, not even a part of the Russell family in 1962, I want to tell this story so that it doesn’t get away, so our kids have a glimpse of “Bob's and Bill’s Big Adventure”.

The adventure was more than a stay with Grandma in Arkansas, so much more. Imagine two nineteen-yr-old boys driving an oil burning 1949 Pontiac Coupe from northern Colorado to Winter Park, Florida, with less than two hundred dollars between them, lured to the sunshine state by the promise of good jobs and easy living, “fruit hanging from trees, ripe for the picking”, as described by their friend Bill Hartwig, recently married and an Air Force airman. “You can stay with me and Linda while you look for jobs.” Who could resist an offer like that?

Bob Russell and Bill West graduated from Wellington High School in May of 1961 having supplemented their formal education by enrolling in a drafting course through ICS, International Correspondence School. They started their first class the night John F. Kennedy was elected. That summer they both found local jobs, Bob as a carpenter and Bill an employee of the State driving a mowing machine along the highways. Bill’s income was substantial, enough for him to buy the shiny black Pontiac Coupe from Mr. Reed, so much down with monthly payments.

Bob planned to enter CSU in the winter semester after Christmas so he quit his job as carpenter for a local Mormon church and arranged for his friend Duane Johnson to take his place. But something went awry with his college admissions and he found himself at loose ends. Bill Hartwig’s invitation suddenly seemed the answer. Bill’s mowing job had petered out with bad weather so he, too, thought a trip to Florida was a good idea. Bob's parents were not in favor of his going to Florida and Bill's mother had her misgivings but standing behind her Bill's dad, Jack West, indicated with a jerk of his thumb that he thought otherwise, that it was time for Bill to go.

In January of 1962 Bill West pulled out of Wellington, Colorado, in his twenty-year-old Pontiac coupe, his best friend beside him, headed south. That first night they stayed in a motel and the following morning ate a hearty breakfast before one of them had the good sense to put pencil to paper and realize at the rate they were spending money they would run out long before they reached Florida. Somehow they had spent half their savings and were still in Colorado! That was the last night in a motel. After that one drove while the other slept and they lived on baloney sandwiches.

The cross country trip was not straight forward, no I-70 or I-40. They meandered along two-lane highways in a southeasterly direction adding oil to the car at about the same rate they added gasoline. They found gas for 19 cents a gallon somewhere in Texas but it seemed watery. In Dallas, Texas, the distributor cap broke, and then in Grand Saline, Texas, near the Louisiana border, a valve lifter broke. Fortunately, both of these young men were good mechanics. Had they not been they would never have made it to Florida in the Pontiac.The weather was wet and cold all across the south.

Six long days after pulling out of Wellington they drove up to the Hartwig’s place, a very small rental house tucked behind a larger house in Winter Park, Florida. It’s a good thing they all knew one another well for there was no privacy, barely room to eat and sleep comfortably. Then the job search began. In retrospect, Florida in the wintertime was no place for an inexperienced young man to find a good job. The place was overrun with retirees looking for part time work and snowbirds fleeing the cold, northern states, willing to do anything to stay in Florida. And those oranges and lemons hanging from trees, ripe for the picking, they were on private property! However, there was some citrus fruit growing on the property where Bill and Linda lived and one morning Linda served Bill West a grapefruit for breakfast, even scoring the individual triangles of fruit for easy eating. When he put the first juicy piece in his mouth he discovered she had tricked him! He was eating a lemon, as large as the grapefruits back home, but oh, so sour.

Bob tried selling encyclopedias, door to door, but didn’t make a dime. Then he got a job as an electronics technician after agreeing to pay a fee to the company that found the job for him. That fee cut into his weekly wage considerably. Money was short for everyone. Linda cooked supper with whatever the guys brought home, mostly living on spaghetti. Bob became adept at sleight of hand in the grocery store, coming home with the all makings for spaghetti while only paying for the pasta. There was no meat in this spaghetti, just dried spaghetti noodles, dried mix, and tomato paste. They jokingly called it 2 for 1 spaghetti. For every two ingredients picked up at the store they paid for one. Cigarettes were a luxury they could barely afford and when Bill still hadn’t landed a job the other two smokers told Bill he’d have to improvise. He noticed the local high school kids parked their cars near the Hartwig’s back yard and they left their cigarettes in the cars with the doors unlocked. Bill took just a couple of cigarettes out of each pack he came across, not too choosy about brands.

Bill recalls a memorable incident at a park. While looking for a space to park the car they noticed one corner where no one had parked. They checked it out, didn’t find any signs prohibiting parking, so they drove in and got out of the car. But it wasn’t too long until they discovered there was a flock of nearby gulls who were scooping up snails then dropping them onto the car, hoping to break open the shells and make a meal of the snails inside. If you didn’t want your car dented you didn’t park in that corner of the park. I particularly like this memory of Bill’s because he is a birder, and now I know he was a birder way back then.

After a few weeks of living on the edge, realizing good jobs were nowhere to be found, and learning that the Hartwig’s landlord was complaining that he had rented his property to two people and now there were four living there, the fellas made the decision to leave Florida and drive north to Anderson, South Carolina, where Bob’s older sister Mary was living with her husband, Barron Simms, and their dog Hector. They left Florida with a few dollars in their pockets owing the last month’s payment to the job agency.

Within a day of arriving at the Simms’s Mary found jobs for the both of them, soda jerk for Bill and gas station attendant for Bob. The only thing she has ever told me about the two weeks the guys lived with her is that when she went to wash their clothes she threw away their underwear – the washing machine couldn’t save them. Hector was a purebred beagle show dog, prone to running away from home. His short legs would hold out for the first 50 yards or so before he slowed. On one of his escapades Bill chased him down, grabbed him by the nape of the neck and his tail and carried him that way back to the house with Hector trying his best to reach back and bite Bill.

One night after supper Barron was seated at the head of the table and Bob directly across from him, his back against the glass-fronted china hutch. Bill was on Bob's right. Bob had a deck of cards and they were trying to prove or disprove telepathy. Bob would hold up a card so only he could see it and sharp-eyed Barron would give a subtle nod or movement to his head indicating Bob should tilt the card slightly so that the reflection in the glass behind him allowed better viewing. Then Barron would hem and haw, saying "I see a diamond...yes, yes, I see a three of diamonds!" Then Bob would slap down the card showing it was indeed a three of diamonds. Bill was flabbergasted. They all had a good laugh at Bill's expense that evening.

While working at the gas station Bob discovered it was a cover operation for a gambling ring.

Nobody cared much about what he was doing with his time so he took the opportunity to rebuild the car and outfit it with four new tires. After two weeks of seven twelve hour days Bob saved the entire $80 wages. Bill saved all his money too and sometime in February the two of them took off for Arkansas where they planned to visit Bob’s widowed grandmother before continuing on to Colorado.

Meanwhile, they discovered that the license plates on Bill’s car were about to expire so Bill asked his mother to order the plates and send them to Cass, Arkansas.

The trip from Anderson, South Carolina, to Cass, Arkansas, was uneventful and smooth riding on those new tires. When they arrived in Ozark, Arkansas, they asked directions to Cass. As they pulled into Cass they saw a group of men butchering a hog and asked them how to get to the Russell place. “Nobody smiled,” remembers Bob. He explained he was the youngest son of Doyle Russell so they reluctantly gave him directions to Addie Jane’s place. Bob admits he and Bill looked a little like hippies with their long hair and goatees. Mary Simms cut their hair in South Carolina but apparently they "went to seed" rather quickly.

That night they slept in the unheated leanto room, under feather beds, where they gazed at the stars through the cracks in the roof. It was cold - so cold in that unheated room that Bill went back out to his car and brought in their sleeping bags. They stuffed them under the quilts and feather ticks with just their noses exposed. Early the next morning Grandma Russell called to them, “Get up, boys, the good Lord has provided us meat for breakfast.” The neighbors who butchered hogs the night before had come by to check on Addie and brought along some meat to feed the visitors.

Grandma Russell cooked on a small rectangular stove which she fed hickory sticks to maintain an even heat. She was 79-1/2 years old and had been living alone since January of 1960 when her husband Elias passed away. When Bob and Bill arrived unexpectedly Addie was living in her front room having walled off the other rooms with Army blankets hung across doorways. She cooked the boys a breakfast of fresh pork steaks and fried potatoes, balancing the skillets on that narrow stove, at the same time warming that small room comfortably. They stayed with her for several days while they waited for the license plates to arrive in the mail. Bill asked what they could do for her and she told him he could chop firewood. He asked how much firewood she needed and she answered, “Well, Bill, I will always need firewood.” So he started chopping. That is the memory Bob told me about today.
He said someone had brought his grandma a stack of hickory staves, slats from an old fence. They were about half an inch thick, three inches wide, and four feet long. Hickory is very hard, not at all like pine, more like metal. Bill’s experience in the Colorado Boy Scouts had not prepared him for chopping hickory with a hand axe. He would hit a piece of hickory only to have it bounce out unscathed and he would have to chase it down before he could chop at it again. Slow going.

On one of the days they were in Cass they went over to Seldon’s home, just over the hill from Addie Jane’s. Seldon was the eleventh of Elias and Addy's twelve children , Bob’s uncle. He had a bunch of kids and Bill has always liked kids. They had a fun time that day and Bill was always referred to later as “that nice Mr. West”. Another day of that visit Bill and Bob drove into Ozark to eat in a diner. The waitress who came to their table took a long look at them and asked, “What do you Yankee boys want?” Bill told Bob he thought those days were behind us and Bob told him, “Not here, they’re not.” It may have been that day in Ozark that the license plates arrived. Bill put them on his car, they said their goodbyes to Grandma Russell, and once more headed west. That was the last time Bob would see his Grandma Russell.

A couple of long days on the road brought them back home safely to Wellington, tired and broke. By April Bob had joined the Navy and would soon leave for boot camp. Bill could not pass the military physical due to heart problems from rheumatic fever. He enrolled in a school in Denver to study Industrial Arts, rooming in a boarding house with strangers. So “Bob's and Bill’s Big Adventure” came to an end….or did it? I think I need to amend that title to “Bob's and Bill’s Big Adventure – the Florida Caper” for just as Tom Swift had “…And His Flying Lab”, “…And His Atomic Earth Blaster”, “…And His Ultrasonic Cycloplane”, Bob Russell and Bill West have their “Cozumel and the Mayan Ruins Trek”, “Bonneville Salt Flats Adventure”, and “Ham Radio and Antennas Experiment”, and more.The cartoon below, borrowed from the Internet, aptly depicts the relationship of these two guys, Bill and Bob, and why they've shared such interesting adventures throughout their lives. Carol West and I are happy to be a part of it all. Oh, one last thing, Bob says they didn't meet any girls on their trip, not one!

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

"From There to Here", Frances Russell wrote her autobiography.

Frances Russell, my mother-in-law, wrote her autobiography in the 1980s, writing it longhand on lined paper in the evenings after supper was over and the dishes done. Relying on her seven-years-older sister Ola May to provide details of the family’s early life, Frances created an entertaining journal which she titled “From There to Here”, beginning with her parents’ wedding in Oklahoma in 1910 and ending with present-day life for Frances in Colorado in the mid 1980s. After she completed the biography she Zeroxed a couple of copies for family to read. Upon finishing his reading her older son, Kenneth, the apple of his mother’s eye, told her that she had left out “the good stuff.” He suggested she rewrite her life’s story and put in some of the more juicy details about her life and that of the family. So, she rewrote her story and I have copies of both versions. What I found is that in doing the rewrite she severely edited portions of the narrative. Yes, she did add some details that were fun to read, some “juicy incidents” but she also deleted details that I wish she hadn’t. Below is one example, her description of that time in 1954 when her two older children graduated from high school in Wellington, Colorado, then moved to Denver to live with their Aunt Bertie, their dad’s oldest sister, so they could find jobs and attend college.

Excerpt from original writing……..

Kenneth and Mary moved in with Bertie the day after they graduated. I was still working at Woolworth’s lunch counter. They packed up at home and came by and told me goodbye. Their both moving out at once left a terrible empty place in our lives.

It was not a happy trio from the beginning. Trying to blend the lives of two independent, headstrong teenagers and an old maid aunt very set in her ways was nearly an impossibility. The kids went along with her weird, unreasonable ways for two months when she threw one of her mad fits at Kenneth. He had dared to disobey her and went to a movie. He picked up Mary from the drug store on his way home. 
She (Bertie) was furious because Kenneth had disobeyed her. She walked down to the drugstore, a distance of seven or eight blocks. It was raining and by the time she walked back both ways, she was soaking wet. She had insisted that Kenneth and Mary were never to open the door when someone knocked, that is, until they found out who was knocking. So, when she started banging on the door they ignored her, until Kenneth peeked out and saw who it was. When he opened the door she started swinging at him. She smacked him a good one. Somehow Kenneth managed to keep his cool, and instead of hitting her back he packed up and moved out. He slept in his car that night, then went over to my folks in Arvada and moved in with them. He liked this much better. Him and Daddy would sit and play canasta of an evening.

Bertie went all out to do things for Mary after Kenneth left. She helped Mary get a scholarship to Denver University. Mary continued her job at the drug store. She enrolled in DU and rode the bus to school and back.

It was while she lived with Bertie that she had to have her appendix out. Mary still owned a calf here on the farm. It was shortly after Mary was home from the hospital that we butchered the calf and took the meat down for her and Bertie.

Revised edition……

The year went fast, and the next May both Mary and Kenneth graduated, both with high honors. Kenneth got a scholarship for four years of college.

That summer was somewhat of a disaster. Since jobs were impossible to find around here, they both went to Denver to live with Doyle’s sister Bertie. She had promised that with her help they could get good jobs. The so-called good jobs were working in a drug store for Mary, and for Kenneth it was delivery boy for a hamburger place in Aurora. She did help Mary get a part scholarship. Kenneth entered CU that fall, and Mary entered DU. We’ll just say it did not work out for Kenneth to stay with Bertie so he moved in with my folks. Before the school year was over Mary also couldn’t take any more and she moved out.

Have you ever written a long email only to hit the wrong button and have it disappear? If so, you know that your rewrite will be much shorter and succinct for who approaches that second writing with the same enthusiasm and patience? That’s what I see here in Frances’s “From There to Here”. Her original writing has more emotion, more gusto. I'm so glad we have both versions.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Smith Family Curse Mystery Solved

Since the time he was a young man Robert Doyle Russell knew that he had a hearing problem. It didn’t prevent him from joining the Navy in 1962 where he passed the most rigorous training the Navy had and still has, Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL training, or BUD/S. His particular loss was mostly in the lower range… thunder, deep male voices, car mufflers. He learned to compensate for his hearing loss by reading lips and limiting his social interactions to one on one conversations but by 1966 when his Naval service was complete he knew he needed hearing aids.

Bob’s mother, Frances Smith Russell, had struggled with her own hearing problems for most of her life and as she aged the problems grew worse. Each of Bob’s three siblings had hearing impairment of various degrees, and so did several of their cousins, uncles, and grandfather. The family realized there was a genetic problem affecting a wide range of Smith relatives.

With the success of the Human Genome Project in 2003 when DNA sequencing was declared successfully complete, scientists began to study the origins of genetic medical problems in families, starting with those that are most devastating. And soon after that, Bob’s sister Mary voiced her hope that someday, hopefully in her lifetime, someone would study the genetic hearing impairment of the Smith family. She thought perhaps a graduate student would be interested in making the study the subject of his or her thesis.

In the summer of 2016 researchers at the University of Iowa agreed to include our extended Smith family in an ongoing study they are conducting to identify the specific genes that are responsible for genetic hearing loss, and map the exact location on the genes where the mutations occur, since gene mutations are the cause of genetic hearing loss. Mary had named this family malady “The Smith Family Curse” and corresponded with many of her relatives to determine who were affected and to encourage their participation in the study. She also compiled complex family trees and gathered audiograms from afflicted relatives.

In November of 2016 the U of I sent saliva DNA test kits to key members of the family, those whose audiograms showed similar patterns of limited range, approximately seven of the twenty-five interested in participating. After months of waiting we received an answer to our question in August 2017. The mutant gene causing the Smith Family Curse is WFS1, Allele1: chr4:6304014G>A; NM_001145853:c.2492G>A, p.Gly831Asp, Allele 2: normal allele. This was offered as further clarification:
 “Variants in WFS1 are associated with low frequency autosomal dominant non-syndromic hearing loss at the DFNA6/14/36 locus.”

I don’t pretend to understand this well. But I have googled this subject and these finding and offer this amateur’s take on the findings. From this website,,  I learned: "The WFS1 gene provides instructions for producing a protein called wolframin that is thought to regulate the amount of calcium in cells. A proper calcium balance is important for many different cellular functions, including cell-to-cell communication, the tensing (contraction) of muscles, and protein processing. The wolframin protein is found in many different tissues, such as the pancreas, brain, heart, bones, muscles, lungs, liver, and kidneys.

"Within cells, wolframin is located in the membrane of a structure called the endoplasmic reticulum. Among its many activities, the endoplasmic reticulum folds and modifies newly formed proteins so they have the correct 3-dimensional shape to function properly. The endoplasmic reticulum also helps transport proteins and other molecules to specific sites within the cell or to the cell surface. Wolframin is thought to play a role in protein folding and aid in the maintenance of endoplasmic reticulum function by regulating calcium levels. In the pancreas, wolframin may help fold a protein precursor of insulin (called proinsulin) into the mature hormone that controls blood glucose levels. In the inner ear, wolframin may help maintain the proper levels of calcium ions or other charged particles that are essential for hearing." (I underlined those words “is thought” and “may” to emphasize that researchers are still studying this protein and aren’t certain of it’s functions.)

I also learned from reading various research papers found online that because wolframin protein is not well understood in just how it regulates calcium, among other things, the new gene editing technology, CRISPR, is not being used at this time to edit this gene, at least not at the University of Iowa. Until scientists really understand all that wolframin does and how it does it, editing WFS1 to remove the mutation is risky. At least, that is my understanding.

Apparently there are families in Japan, the United States, The Netherlands, and Spain who, without being related to one another, show the same mutation of gene WFS1, leading researches to surmise that there are locations on this gene that are particularly susceptible to mutating. Fortunately for our family we did not inherit the mutation of WFS1 that causes Wolfram Syndrome. You can read about that on this website: Also, that site has a good explanation of our Smith Family Curse, and I quote: “More than 30 WFS1 mutations have been identified in individuals with a form of nonsyndromic deafness (hearing loss without related signs and symptoms affecting other parts of the body) called DFNA6. Individuals with DFNA6 deafness cannot hear low tones (low-frequency sounds), such as a tuba or the "m" in moon. DFNA6 hearing loss is unlike most forms of nonsyndromic deafness that affect high tones (high-frequency sounds), such as birds chirping, or all frequencies of sound. Most WFS1 mutations replace one of the protein building blocks (amino acids) used to make wolframin with an incorrect amino acid. One mutation deletes an amino acid from wolframin. WFS1 mutations probably alter the 3-dimensional shape of wolframin, which could affect its function. Because the function of wolframin is unknown, however, it is unclear how WFS1 mutations cause hearing loss. Some researchers suggest that altered wolframin disturbs the balance of charged particles in the inner ear, which interferes with the hearing process.”

In conclusion, we now know the cause of our family’s hereditary hearing loss, a gene mutation of WFS1. We know that this mutation is rare but widely dispersed across the globe. Some researchers believe it is more common than we know because loss of the lower ranges of hearing don’t keep people from understanding human voices like loss in the higher ranges. Consequently, many people with low frequency loss probably don’t look for genetic testing. And we know, too, that until wolframin protein is better understood we will not be candidates for gene editing. 

I would like to thank everybody in our big, wonderful Smith family who participated in this study, including those who did not receive a saliva test from the University of Iowa. I was told that any family member can still participate (there is no deadline) but that the researchers require a blood sample now instead of a saliva sample. As quickly as DNA technology is changing and expanding I really expect to learn that gene editing to repair our family's gene mutation will become available someday soon. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Buckhanans, Smiths, and DNA

In July of this year, 2016, our Smith Family was accepted into a nationwide study of genetic hearing loss by the University of Iowa, Department of Molecular Otolaryngology & Renal Research Laboratory. As you, no doubt, know many of the descendants of William Franklin Smith (1865-1921) and his wife Sarah Frances Buckhanan (1864-1937) suffer from a serious hearing impairment. The researchers at the U of I, led by Dr. Richard J. H. Smith, will take our DNA samples, process them with their state-of-the-art equipment, and identify the mutated gene or genes that have caused this malady in our family. Identification alone will be a godsend. If the study leads to treatment or cure then it will be a life changing result and one we can all take pride in.

Mary R. Simms, a gr-grandaughter of WF Smith and Sarah Buckhanan Smith, has made it her life’s work to gather data from her family, including audiograms, genealogy charts, and personal stories, and compile this information in book form which she submitted to Dr. Smith’s research team. It will be instrumental in chasing this gene mutation to its source. It is that source that I am writing about in this blog.

Mary named the hearing condition she shares with so many of her family the “Smith Family Curse,” and that is appropriate, but it now seems that it was our Buckhanan family who brought the gene mutation to our genetic makeup. That is an assumption on my part and may be disproved or amended after the DNA study. I thought you might be curious about the Buckhanan family, as I am.

First, let me say that I am no expert on the Buckhanan family, but we have a relative, Debbie Cooper, who is. She is related to us Smiths this way; Sarah Frances Buckhanan had an older sister named Mary Jane, and Mary Jane is Debbie Cooper’s gr-gr-grandmother. Debbie’s sister, Barbara Rogers, has also become quite an authority on the Buckhanan line and together these two sisters and their mother, Jane, have gathered an amazing Buckhanan genealogical record. They gladly share it and I will draw on their research to flesh out this family line of ours. Any errors are mine for I’ve not kept up with the ongoing study of this branch of our family tree.

We’ll start with Sarah Frances Buckhanan who is the mother of  Tom Smith, Ernest Smith, Rosa Smith, and Julia Smith…just to be clear how she is related to you. Sarah was born January 1, 1864 in Bentonville, Arkansas to John Littleton Trout Buckhanan and his wife Elender Jane Keeling Buckhanan, the fourth of five children born to this couple. Since this is a genealogy study and not her life story we’ll fast forward to December 24, 1887, Grayson County, Texas when Sarah married her longtime friend and neighbor William Franklin Smith, whose maternal grandmother was also a Buckhanan, Elizabeth Jane Buckhanan McConnell. It is possible, even probable, that the marriage of these two cousins, technically not first cousins but first cousins once removed, increased the likelihood of that mutated gene we are trying to identify affecting most of their descendants.

The Buckhanan family was a large, extended family who lived in and around War Eagle in Benton County and later Madison County, Arkansas. Their name is found spelled various ways in old documents of the time, Buckhannon, Buckhannan, Buchanan, and more. They pronounced it like “buck” the deer, not like “bu” and in beautiful. John Littleton Trout Buckhanan was born April 26, 1834 in Madison County, Arkansas, to John Montgomery Buckhanan and his wife Catherinie Airheart, one of eleven children. John and Catherine were both from Tennessee. One of their children, Reaghta “Rollie” H., born about 1840, was listed as deaf in a census record. We don’t have any other accounts of hearing loss in that family but hope to connect with other Buchannan descendants and compare family histories as this DNA study progresses. John was a tanner and postmaster, a successful man in War Eagle. A relative, Andrew, was a Presbyterian minister.

Now that this study is underway my curiosity about the Buckhanans just went up about 10 notches. I will write again when I’ve learned more about them. I’d really like to know how many generations of this family carried the mutated gene and where it came in. Did a Buckhanan man marry a woman with that gene and if so what was her last name?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Palisade Peaches

Summer of 1952, Doyle Russell loaded up his family of six, into their 1929 Chevrolet truck, leaking fumes and outfitted with a homemade canvas cover stretched over the back, a truck Doyle’s daughter Mary affectionately dubbed “Tooky” for that was the sound the engine made as it puttered along, tooky, tooky, tooky…, and ventured away from his once-again-hailed-out wheat crop in Weld County, chugged up over the Continental Divide, and moseyed into the high valley country of Western Colorado, peach country. His hope was to find an affordable peach farm where he and his family could prosper and get away from the hardluck dryland farming in Weld County.

I don’t know how many inquiries he made over there but I do know that his plan didn’t pan out and soon the family returned home, the truck laden with peaches, many of them bruised and overripe but suitable for canning and preserves.

Bob Russell remembers that trip well, especially the trip home, for he and his brother, Ken, and sister Mary rode in the back with all those peaches, actually perched atop those baskets of peaches. The two older kids invented a game, picking up some of the riper peaches, grading them on just how “ugh” they were, then tossing them into the road ditches, all the while making sure Doyle and Frances did not witness this. Bob joined in to their scandalous game.

To this day, in August of the year when
Palisade peaches make their way to our roadside stands from across the divide, and I bring home a box of them for our enjoyment, Bob bends over the peaches, inhales their fragrance, and recalls that summer excursion, an a 64-yr-old memory brought to life again for just a moment. How different his life would have been, the son of a Palisade peach farmer, growing up on the Western Slope, away from the crowds and traffic of the Front Range.

Instead Doyle Russell bought yet another dryland farm, about four and a half miles north of Wellington, right along the road that was soon to become I-25, the busiest thoroughfare in Colorado. The family lived there for the next forty-seven years and rarely thought of that trip across the mountains, that other lifestyle that almost was.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Elias Russell Eulogy - 1960

Mary Russell Simms, granddaughter of Elias Russell, offers this eulogy from his funeral, penned by Elias's oldest child, Bertie Lee Russell.

Elias Russell, born April 14, 1873, at Cass in Franklin County, died at his home in Cass at 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, January 19, 1960, of a heart attack. He was 86 years old. Mr. Russell was a member of one of Franklin County's pioneer families and spent his entire life there. His mother, Maria Tennessee Turner, was a descendant of the Turner's who arrived on the Mayflower in 1620. Mr. Russell was married on September 22, 1900, to Miss Addie Jane Mahaffey at the home of the bride's parents at St. Paul, Arkansas. There were 12 children born to this union and survivors consist of the widow and all 12 children, 29 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.


His children are:

Miss Bertie L. Russell, Denver, Colorado

George W. Russell, Lawton, Colorado
Mrs. Robert Butner, Ripley, Tennessee
Doyle J. Russell, Wellington, Colorado
Mrs. Nannie E. Wilson, Detroit, Michigan
William A. Russell, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Samuel Carter Russell, Richland, Washington
Sidney R. Russell, Ozark, Arkansas
Charles E. Russell, Richland, Washington
Seldon Russell, Ozark, Arkansas. 

Harold Russell, Ault, Colorado. 

Brothers and sisters surviving are: 
Fred H. Russell, Ozark, Arkansas
Sam H Russell, Ozark, Arkansas 
Mrs. May Younger, Duncan Oklahoma
Mrs. Pearl Turner, Ozark, Arkansas 

Mr. Russell attended an old-fashioned revival meeting conducted by a traveling evangelist, Brother Valines, at the New Enon School house, accepted Christ and was baptized in 1908 in Big Mulberry River. There were 19 converts. Mr. Russell lived on the farm and considered himself a farmer, but he will be remembered by many as the peace officer during prohibition days. He was deputy sheriff for years. He was an excellent blacksmith and wagon builder. His shop was always open to help others. He kept seasoned lumber on hand to build caskets when called upon. It was not unusual for a stranger to ask for his services, and he never charged for the material, use of his shop, nor his work in connection with making a casket. He took pride in his work and a homemade casket was often desired. Elias was also a horse and mule trader and trainer and enjoyed this very much. 

Written by Bertie Lee Russell

Thursday, April 21, 2016


by Mary Russell Simms

James Marion Russell was my great-great grandfather.   I am the daughter of Doyle James Russell,  who is the son of Elias L. Russell, who is the son of John W.  Russell, who is the son of James Marion Russell.  Therefore, James Marion is my great-great grandfather.  

James Marion Russell was born in 1835 and died 3 October 1863, at the age of 27.  His wife also died in 1863 leaving their children as orphans.  The orphaned children were farmed out to various relatives and grew up as “poor relation”.  None of the children amounted to much as adults.  They really did not have a chance. 

James Marion Russell was drafted into the Confederate Army—14th Regiment, Arkansas Infantry---much against his wishes.  He did not want to leave his wife and children to shift for themselves while he went to fight a war he did not believe in.  Family history, as it has been handed down from generation to generation, tells the story of how the officials came to James’s home, drafted James Marion and forced him to come with them.  James was told to shut up and “don’t look back” at what he was leaving behind.  Thusly did James Marion  became a soldier in the Confederate Army. 

Shortly before James Marion was drafted, he had “proved up” on his 160 acres of homesteaded land.  His land patent was signed by President James Buchanan on February 1, 1860.  Three years, seven months, and two days later James lay dead on a battlefield in Corinth Mississippi.  The whereabouts of his grave is unknown.  An estimated 7,197 American soldiers were left dead when the Battle or Corinth was finally over.  It is most likely that James Marion’s final resting place was in a huge mass grave along with hundreds of his fellow soldiers. 

James Marion actually fought in only one battle before he died.  On September 19, 1862, he survived the Civil War battle at Iuka, Mississippi.  James contracted yellow fever at some point between September 19, 1862 and October 3, 1862, and died of yellow fever complications while the Battle of Corinth Mississippi raged around him.  James Marion Russell held the rank of corporal at the time of his death.

Bless you and may you rest in peace, Great-Great Grandpa James Marion Russell.