Heroes from Many Walks of Life


To all of you who are still waiting for a copy of Footprints in the Dew I am working hard to get the book into print. Stay tuned.

Welcome back.  In the past I’ve written about the importance of volunteers and the great service they provide to organizations throughout our community. These dedicated people donate their time saving thousands of dollars in salary and benefit costs which makes it possible for many not-for-profits to survive.

One volunteer group that I have never mentioned and that seldom gets its due unless you suddenly need them began in Rome in 6 A.D. You may not know it but your local part-time or on call volunteer firefighters usually work at other jobs when they are not responding to fires, accident scenes or health emergencies. These men and women spend hundreds of hours training in fire suppression, first aid and lifesaving. They also learn how to repair equipment and keep it at the ready which can take hours after they respond to a call. This maintenance which frequently occurs at rural fire stations is as important as the response to the call itself.

After watching our local team work an out of control fire this past weekend that threatened several homes, I think that these fearless people should be considered heroes to all of us who live in rural areas and depend on them, That said I am hoping that some of you might like to join this noble group so here’s the pitch:

First of all make sure you’re ready to commit. This is serious stuff and taking on this type of responsibility isn’t for everyone.  It’s dangerous and requires long hours of training and preparation. There is an age requirement and you have to pass both a background check and a physical fitness test. If you think it might be for you, contact your local rural fire department for screening. Then get ready for the 110 N.F.P.A. certified course that all volunteer fire fighters must take. After completing the course many people decide to pursue a career in either firefighting or as an E.M.T. so volunteering is a good place to start.

If hazardous materials, arson, public safety, civil defense and disaster relief interest you, this may be your calling. If it is you will be joining a much larger group of volunteers not only in the United States but also Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Canada and many other countries where people depend on their V.F.D. So next time you get the chance thank a fireman or better yet send them a check.

I’ll end this week with the inspiring history of some of our fellow Americans from World War II which you may have heard of:

James Stewart, Actor, Bomber Pilot and General.

Ernest Borgnine, Gunner’s Mate on the destroyer USS Lamberton, who served ten years and then re-enlisted in 1941 to fight the Japanese.

Kirk Douglas who served on a U.S. Navy sub chaser and was wounded in action.

Dale Robertson, a Tank Commander under General Patton and twice wounded in action.

Lee Marvin, a U.S. Marines sniper, wounded in action and buried in Arlington National Cemetery next to Joe Louis.

Art Carney, served in the U.S. Army and was wounded on D Day in Normandy resulting in a limp he had for the rest of his life.

George Kennedy enlisted in the Army after Pearl Harbor and served for sixteen years.

James Arness was an infantry man in the Army and was severely wounded in Italy.

Don Knotts fought with the Army in the Pacific theater.

Raymond Burr served with the U.S. Army and was shot in the stomach at Okinawa.

John Wayne volunteered three times to three different branches but was considered unfit due to pre-existing injuries.

Audie Murphy, America’s most decorated soldier, who served in the U.S. Army.

These are just a few of the famous people who could have chosen a much different path during World War II but decided to fight for our country instead.

Before I go I want to thank all our service men and women for all they’ve done and will do.

Till next week, I’ll see ya down the road….










The History of the “Bloody Benders” of Southeast Kansas


A spooky experience during a recent trip to southeast Kansas while I was editing the manuscript.

Welcome back.  The 170,000 square foot River Spirit Expo Center at the Tulsa Fairgrounds was completely sold out with 513 exhibitors this past weekend and over forty thousand people expected to attend the annual Tulsa Home & Garden Show so as you can imagine parking was at a premium. I’m here to tell you that’s not a bother any longer as I found several trolleys picking people up from all corners of the fairgrounds property. The friendly drivers work for tips and they will take you right to your vehicle which is even handier if you are carrying parcels or are handicapped.

The Tulsa Home & Garden Show started in 1949 when it was the first new home products show in the country. It has always drawn a crowd and on Saturday the organizers told me that attendance records might be broken. Spending a few hours walking down row after row of exhibits of every imaginable home products, the show is always a reminder to get my summer to do list ready.

The hot tubs are always a big attraction for me and there had to be a dozen different dealers there. Of course if I got one there would be a brick sidewalk to be laid leading to the tub and landscaping around that would also mean additional lawn maintenance. An electrician would be needed to wire the tub itself and then install lighting around it and then finally a storage shed to keep all the supplies it. If I had the cash I wouldn’t have to worry because all the people I needed to help were right there at the show. It was a great start to the summer and as for me, I hope that old lawnmower of mine will start and maybe next year I’ll get that hot tub.

This past week I also had the opportunity to spend time at a place just west of present day Parsons, Kansas. It is still remote in the area where I was camping and I’m going to end this week with a story that could have been the fate of any weary traveler like myself.

Back in the early days of Kansas settlement, this southeast corner of the state was a busy crossroads for travelers passing through, somewhat as I was last Wednesday. It was getting dark when I reached the camping spot I’d been told about. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky as the sun went down and with water close by I wasn’t surprised to see a cabin on a hillside surrounded by trees. The lights were on and I could smell smoke coming from the chimney. The big sign reading “Benders Store Supplies for Sale- Strangers Welcome” reminded me of something but tired as most travelers are at the end of the day, I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

Sometime in the middle of the night I must have awoken because the next morning I could remember my experience as clear as day. I remembered that a man and his wife lived in the cabin with their two grown children and they had offered me a meal. While the couple seemed overly friendly, their muscular son was obviously mentally challenged and kept to himself. The buxom daughter was in her early twenties and she sat right beside me no matter where I moved in the room. She was very inquisitive about my travels, seeming to hang on my every word. When it was about time to eat she led me to the table and sat me down with my back to a hanging blanket that divided the room. I’m not sure if it was her perfume, the attention she was giving me or just plain exhaustion but all of a sudden I realized we were alone and she was pushing me back against the blanket. The blow to the back of my head from the sledgehammer that came from behind the blanket felt almost real before I opened my eyes and understood that I had been dreaming.

Was it the spirits of the dead calling to me? I don’t know but the story of the Bender family is true. Known as the “Bloody Benders” the family operated a small general store in Labette County and were known to have murdered at least a dozen travelers before their crimes were discovered and they fled from the area.

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road……………….










Ski Colorado and New Mexico

The snow has been outstanding in Colorado and New Mexico this year. Here is the report from a couple of my favorite resorts….

Welcome back. I’ll start this week with the snow report from Angel Fire Resort in northern New Mexico. As many of you know this is one of my favorite areas of the country and this year the skiing is outstanding.  They have had 198” inches of snow and all the lifts and trails are open just in time for spring break.

The ski area is hosting the “Fiesta del Sol” over break which includes contests and special parties. They have also installed a giant airbag for skiers and snowboarders who want to test their skills with special jumps and tricks. Angel Fire is a perfect family resort and an easy drive from my home base in Bartlesville.

I’ve often mentioned Cimarron, New Mexico in my column which is just thirty miles from the slopes. If you are unable to ski like myself, a stop at the St. James Hotel offers the opportunity to spend the night in an historic lodging dating back to the early settlement of the area. Philmont Boy Scout Ranch is just down the road as well and it is always worth a visit no matter what the season.

My friends at the Springs Resort in Pagosa Springs, Colorado tell me the skiing is also fantastic at nearby Wolf Creek ski area. Wolf Creek has had over 200 inches of snow and their entire 1600 acre ski area is open. This mountain offers trails for everyone from the novice to the expert skier.

The Springs Resort has some special lodging and ski packages for Wolf Creek and all of their guests have 24 hour a day access to the 23 soaking pools on the property which are fed by the natural hot springs there. The Springs encompasses the world’s deepest geothermal hot spring and is situated alongside the Pagosa River. I can tell you from experience that this is a wonderful place to stay and there is nothing like the hot springs to ease your aches and pains.

In other sporting news, I was able to attend Saturday night’s sold out professional boxing matches at the Buffalo Run Casino in Miami, Oklahoma and the boxing fans in attendance got their money’s worth. The promoter Tony Holden is well known in the boxing business and in 1990 with a world champion in his stable  he was king of the hill so I knew it would be a good show. Always on the lookout for a story, I’ve interviewed professional boxer Kenzie Morrison both for the paper and on the radio and I knew his dad. Even if you are not up on boxing, Kenzie and his brother Trey Lippe Morrison are names I think you will be hearing frequently in the future. They are the sons of World Heavyweight Champion and film star Tommy Morrison whose story has been told many times before. Tony Holden was Tommy’s promoter and now he is helping Kenzie and Trey make a name for themselves in a tough business. In their early twenties Kenzie and Trey are rising stars in the sport and with Tommy’s blood in both of them, my scoop of the week is to catch one of their local fights while you can. Before long you’ll have to spring for airfare to a major venue and your seats will cost a whole lot more. If you haven’t heard, both boys won their fight with a knockout in the first round.

I’m wrapping up this week with a “save the date” reminder for your calendar. Each spring Elder Care in Bartlesville holds their annual fundraiser The Good, The Bad and The Barbeque at the Mullendore Cross Bell Ranch which is opened to the public just for the event. There is always great food and music and lively silent and live auctions with something for everyone.

This year the date is Saturday May 9th and the event chairperson, Virginia Sawyer, tells me that there will be new bands and other surprises in store for guests. Call Elder Care at (918) 336-8500 for ticket and sponsorship information.

Till next week, I’ll see ya down the road…..


Stephenville, Texas 1974

Another story of murder and mayhem from Stephenville, Texas. Stay turned for more on Footprints in the Dew….

Welcome back. This week I’m taking you back in time again. It’s late August 1974, the year in which Patty Hearst was kidnapped and Oklahoma was NCAA Football Champions. 1974 was also the year in which Richard Nixon became the first President in our history to resign. Chub was dodging subpoenas and living in rural Caney, Kansas.

In Stephenville, Texas one of the largest manhunts in the history of the state was underway. Residents in the area had been in a state of terror ever since Richard Mangum, Dalton Williams and Jerry Ulmer escaped from the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City, a small town just over the border from Oklahoma.

According to the Stephenville Empire Tribune, after the trio had stuffed pillows under the covers of their beds to make them look occupied, they had hidden in a tool shed, climbed over three prison walls and stolen a car. They planned to rob a bank and flee to Mexico but first they had a few scores to settle.

First the escapees went to Roswell, New Mexico where they stole two rifles and a gas station and robbed a gas station. They hid during the day and then headed out for Las Vegas, New Mexico. Along the way they kidnapped two young women whom they raped repeatedly during their travels. In Rotan, New Mexico they murdered rancher R.L. Baker whose testimony had put Williams in prison.

The three then came to the Stephenville area hunting for Mrs. Ray Ott who had testified against Ulmer. When they found Mrs. Ott they killed her also.  After both murders there were wounded witnesses left alive and instructed to tell everyone in the country that they were back.

Over the next two days the three convicts engaged in running gun battles with over 200 state police, Texas Rangers and local authorities when it was discovered that they were just right outside of town. Investigators assumed that their next target would be D.A. Bob Glasgow who had prosecuted them. Jury members and other local officials were also considered to be in danger.

On Wednesday August 26th, the three stole another car and then wrecked it, leaving them on foot. Residents throughout the county were either evacuated or told to barricade themselves in their homes as the manhunt intensified.

After raping the two young women several more times, in a rare act of humanity the convicts released them. The three made their way to a nearby creek bed where they attempted to elude law enforcement and shot several dogs who barked as they crawled by. Now they were literally running from hedgerow to hedgerow, crossing through yards as the police closed in. It was then that Officers Richard Trail, Jim Ellmore, Freddie McDonald and Larry Brandenburg fired several times at the fleeing men. Richard Magnum was shot once in the jaw and died on the scene. The other two men threw themselves to the ground in surrender and their vendetta was over. Hundreds of residents came back to their homes and normalcy returned to this quiet community which had been in the national spotlight for several tense days in 1974.

Stephenville, Texas faded from national awareness until two years ago when Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield were murdered there. The town has remained the focus of attention again throughout the arrest and trial of their now convicted murderer, Eddie Ray Routh.

Moving forward, this past Sunday marked the end of my experiment in social media, namely my kickstarter campaign. This has been an interesting experience which I will be writing more about soon.

Thank you all very much for your great support and interest in my project.

Till next week I’ll see ya down the road……




Travels to Oklahoma City and the Man of the Year Awards

The kickstarter campaign has just ended and it has been an interesting experience to say the least. Thank you to everyone who supported the project. Stay tuned for the next developments.

Welcome back. Although I’m currently back in Stephenville, Texas to continue covering the murder trial of Eddie Ray Routh, I’m starting this week with Oklahoma State’s basketball team. On Wednesday my travels took me to Stillwater the game against Iowa. Henry Iba brought big time basketball to this town and unbelievably you can still see a game there for just fifteen dollars. I started off sitting in the nose bleed seats but when I caught my breath after the climb I really enjoyed the view. During the second quarter I was able to move down to the dead center of the court, just a few rows back from the floor. It’s hard to figure out why attendance wasn’t better that night because when you have two ranked teams playing you know you’re going to see a good game and I did. Another highlight of a visit to the university is seeing all the student life on campus. When you are far beyond your college years like I am, it’s fun to see all the energy and enthusiasm these kids have.

After spending the night in Stillwater, and with basketball still on my mind, I headed down the highway another two hours to Oklahoma City where I knew the Oklahoma City Thunder would be playing at Chesapeake Arena. As we now know, it would be the last scheduled game for two members of the team. Here’s a tip if you plan to catch a game. There’s lots of street parking right next to the arena and if you arrive a couple of hours early you can park practically right in front of the building. While you’re waiting, Bricktown is just a couple of blocks away which is an area that is full of great restaurants. The Oklahoma City Bombing memorial and Museum is also close by and if you haven’t been there I highly recommend a visit.

My next stop in town was the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club where IMPACT OKC Magazine was honoring their “Man of the Year”. You regular readers know that I learned about this person about five years ago and I have written about him and his generosity several times since then. However for you new followers, I will start from scratch with some of the information that was included in his recent interview in the magazine.

“For over thirty years Robert “Bob” Funk has built Express Employment Professionals into the leading employment solutions company in the United States with over 700 franchisees in the United States and in multiple countries. In 2012 Express had 2.3 billion in sales and found work for over 367,000 people.  Bob has also developed Express Ranches into the number one breeder of Angus cattle in the United States with four ranches in Oklahoma and a 167,000 acre ranch in New Mexico… Despite his great success and the wealth he has earned, Bob has become best known for his generosity to many different causes and he says that his greatest joy comes from giving his money away.”  These are just a few of the many organizations he supports: Children’s Miracle Network, Youth Expo, The Western Heritage Center and Cowboy Hall of Fame and right here in Bartlesville, the #1 Not for Profit Organization in the State of Oklahoma for 2014, Elder Care.

Wrapping up a quick two day trip, I was able to get over to the Oklahoma City fairgrounds where one of the largest sales of its kind was in progress. The Leake Auto Auction is celebrating fifty years of selling rare, collectible cars and their expertise was on display at this sale. With close to five hundred cars to sell, they used two sale rings, bringing in one high dollar car after another. I have no idea how they sold them all in just a few hours but everything worked like a finely tuned watch as they say.

The auction is coming to the Tulsa fairgrounds in June and even if you’re not in the market for this type of car, it is fun just to be a spectator.

Till next week when I’ll be bringing you more from the courtroom in Stephenville, I’ll see ya down the road…

P.S. If you want more on these stories visit my website for daily updates: www.originalbuffalodale.com