About a quarter mile east of Hitschmann is an old, abandoned farm house. It’s where Vernon and Jo Ann Krier lived raised their four kids, Jay, Mike, and Darrell. They also had a daughter, but once again I can’t remember her name. You couldn’t tell it by looking at the place today, but it was once full of life. I remember trying to ride the calves and sneaking into the chicken house to scare the crap out of the chickens. We thought it was fun, but Jay’s dad didn’t exactly see it that way and put a halt to it. They had a huge barn out back we used to play in and I remember when they’d put up hay. Starting at the top we used to dig out the bales and built this huge network of secret tunnels complete with secret rooms, secret passwords, and unless you knew what they were there was no way you were getting in. But once again, Jay’s dad just had to get involved. When he saw how many of the bales we had destroyed in the process of building our secret hideout he had a fit. He didn’t much care about the adventures we were having or the fact that in order to enter our hideout he needed the secret password. Now Vernon wasn’t exactly the kind of guy to beat around the bush. He told us that if we didn’t get out of there right now he was going to beat both of us till we couldn’t walk. He meant it and we knew it. So much for that bright idea. I remember Jay’s mom sending us out to pick mulberries so she could make a pie with them. Now I don’t remember if we ever actually got back with enough berries to make a pie with because we usually ate them about as fast as we picked them. Looking back, I think his mom was probably doing what she could to keep us out of trouble with Jay’s dad.
I backed out of the driveway and headed back the way I came. I still wanted to see the old house we lived in. It was about five miles north of town, nothing special, just a small, two bedroom house out in the middle of nowhere. We called it the lease house because my dad worked as a pumper in the oilfields and the old house sat on one of the oil leases he took care of. I wish I’d taken this trip earlier. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was to find out it had been torn down years ago. But I did pull into the driveway and walked around for a while. I stood in the spot where the bedroom I shared with my three brothers used to be. Yeah, those were good times. I was the oldest and my brothers pretty much had to do whatever I told them because back then I could easily beat them up and they knew it. The old garage that caught on fire was gone. The spot where my dad used to put in his garden is overgrown with weeds and the old building he used to put up the potatoes he grew is long gone too. I stood in the spot where our living room had once been. As soon as I got home from school I’d sit on the couch and watch “Major Asrto,” it was an afternoon children’s show. Most of you reading this today have probably never heard of him. But back in the day, Major Astro was about the coolest friend a kid could have. I hated it when the news came on. We were in this living room as Walter Cronkite told us the news of the day. I remember my dad getting quiet and telling us kids to either shut up or go outside when was talking. I remember seeing my mom cry one day after he had been on the air for what seemed like all day. I didn’t find out until years later that Walter Cronkite was keeping us informed as the “Cuban Missile Crisis” unfolded and that my mom had been crying because she had been watching the coverage of President Kennedy’s funeral. Like most Americans in those days they were scared and worried about the future of the country. I had no idea.
I picked up a copy of a book written by Daniel Fitzgerald titled “Faded Dreams” the other day. It was the same book the guy from the elevator in Hitschmann showed me. It’s full of stories about Kansas ghost towns and on pages 161-162 is his story about Hitschmann. He did a good job of gathering the facts about the town and talking about it’s history. But now, if I can borrow a phrase from Paul Harvey, you know the rest of the story.
Well guys, that’s about it. If there’s anyone out there with a similar story and would be interested in sharing it, I’d love to talk to you. Oh, one more thing, Misty, it’s 6:00 and almost time to rock! You ready?
You can contact Kevin McGinty by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or you can see more pictures of this trip and join in on the conversation by visiting his online blog at: www.rm235.blogspot.com