Tales of Early Day Youth

      IN EARLY DAYS AS IT IS NOW, ALMOST ANY BOY WAS AT "HOME on a bike," and he spent long hours practicing to see how fast he could race. Robert Rath reported that he was out of bed early and into the kitchen where he quickly cracked an egg and let the contents slide down into his stomach so he could race on his bike to the fort and back, a matter of about nine miles, and be back by the time his mother had breakfast on the table. As names of many early day racers enter into the lime-light, the chances are that other boys were doing the same,-racing along a country road, head lowered almost to the handle-bar, and sturdy legs pumping the treadles as fast as they could.

      Henry L. Carey and Robert M. Rath used to relate how they started out on a Sunday jaunt on their wheels, going to Ness City, Larned, Jetmore, and Kinsley, just for the fun of it. Asked if they weren't tired when they returned, brought forth a sly wink and a "sort-of-smug" smile as they answered, "Not too tired to take our girls out for a spin in the evening."

      Any number of these early riders, from boyhood to early manhood, owned and proudly rode the great "front wheeler" up and down the main thoroughfare through the city and sometimes on the country roads. A few photographers of teenage participants lining up for a race are to he found yet today, and some of the stories of the races have been retold, the following in June, 1954.

      Robert M. Rath recalls the bicycle race years ago in Colorado in an interview with Ida Ellen Rath. This interview was published in the Dodge City Daily Globe and was also used in the Fair Edition of the Rocky Ford Gazette for publicity for their coming watermelon day. The article follows:

I went to Rocky Ford to win in the bicycle races damn, I wanted to win. I'd seen cousin Ed Silver race there one year. I couldn't get the idea out of my head. In a week, I'd be in K.U. in Lawrence for my last year and I just wanted a chance to win in that race, bring some prize money hack to Dodge City.

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I wheedled my pals, Henry Carey and Tobe Anthony, until they agreed to go with me. It was plenty hot that September day in 1900 when we rode into Rocky Ford.
At the fair grounds, we stopped at sight of the biggest pile of watermelons I'd ever seen, our mouths drooling. Big slices of Delicious and Rattlesnake watermelons and halved Rocky Fords, and folks just eating the hearts out of them. I turned my back and rode on; I didn't want to put myself where I could not ride. Coming up, Henry said, "Just you wait until the races are over," and Tobe nodded agreement.
All three of us were in good trim for the races, well drilled for fast bicycle riding. Tobe Anthony's "Victor" bike was not very good for this was before Tobe really took bicycle racing in earnest, turned professional and raced at Salt Lake City. Henry Carey's bicycle was in good shape for he owned a bicycle shop under the Bee Hive Dry Goods store. My bicycle was a real good "un," a Cleveland, weighing 21 pounds. As was the custom for racing, our handlebars were real low. Horse racing had been going on all day and the track was heavy with dust when the management called the novelty race for amateurs, four half-mile races in one, $5.00 each on the oval track. Eight men lined up alongside their bicycles, among them Henry and I, and two big fellows from Pueblo, each weighing around 200 pounds, Eph Jones, formerly from Dodge City, and George Bowman. Eph and George had bicycles with big high gears, about 120 gear. I weighed 130 pounds and my bicycle had 77 gear, which was all to the good for I wanted that prize money badly.
I thought, "With my bicycle, I can start quicker and race better on a heavy track."
I watched those big, smug fellows and began to figure how to beat them, not paying any attention to the other riders. I whispered to Tobe who stood ready to push me, "I'll hang on to the stretch. It'll take them too long to get really rolling. I'll sprint and beat them out." Tobe nodded. "They think the race is between them."
Behind us, sounded the crack of the starter's pistol. The starters pushed and the race was on, nobody hurrying yet, just loafing.
Eph Jones urged, "Go on and run Bob."

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"Go on and set the pace yourself," I answered.
I tacked on to whoever was in front all down the back stretch. Nobody could get me to lead, break wind for the others. I wanted to win and I kept my eyes on Eph and George.
Eph was watching George who was on the outside. I saw when the two men increased speed gradually, then in racing terms I "set sail for home" and was 15 feet ahead before those men knew I had jumped them. On I went, back bent and head low over the handle-bars, crossing the wire without stopping, racing on around the oval turn, leaving all seven riders way behind.
Henry called, "Wait for me, Bob," but I ducked my head lower over the handle-bars and just kept going.
I was afraid those two big men could get those big gears rolling and beat me in the end. I needn't have worried; I won all four half-mile stretches.
Then the manager came up with a big man weighing all of 200 pounds, the Colorado professional champion, saying there was only one entry for the race.
"Race with me," the champion urged. "I'll lead the pace."
I had a chance to turn professional, get out of the amateur class. Twice around the track. I was in shape. He wasn't. Maybe I couldn't beat him but I was feeling my oats. It was soon over. I just did beat the man, winning the $10.00 first prize.
I put the money in my pocket, along with my other twenty, and went with Tobe and Henry to see if there were any melons left. There were a lot more than we could eat. But we ate plenty, just hearts, like we'd seen the others doing. I felt fine.
That was fifty-four years ago, but I'd like to try some of those melons again and win another race.

      No sooner were the three young men at home again until they began planning another race as told to Ida Ellen Rath and published in the Dodge City Daily Globe, July 1, 1954, entitled, Widow's Mite.

Henry Caret, Tobe Anthony, and I had returned from the races in Rocky Ford, Colorado, full of racing talk. Since so many of our young men were ready to hie away to the fall term of college, we decided to hold one grand bicycle race at the old race tracks on the Carlock place. You know do

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something to make the old hometown folks realize we had come of age.
Jake Carlock was dead but his widow still owned the old race track land in Dodge City, Kansas. The old race track wasn't kept in good repair but it wasn't plowed under either, which was something to be thankful for. Mrs. Carlock never objected to its use.
It would be a handicap race so all the boys--we still called ourselves boys-would feel free to enter. There would be an admission charge at the gate. Why the charge, no one seemed to know but there it was, an admission charge, which we agreed upon definitely. The charge must have sounded grand to us. Anyway, as things turned out, the admission charge went a long way toward making the race an important event.
Henry Carey owned the bicycle shop under the Bee Hive Dry Goods store and was always interested in a good race. Tobe Anthony was beginning to get his interest in cycling really going and later became a professional racer. He raced several years in Salt Lake City as a professional, in long and short races, and won quite a reputation. I had copped all the first prizes at Rocky Ford in the bicycle races and was due in a few days at college to finish my pharmacy course. I had the job of placing or handicapping the entrants.
Fourteen boys showed up to enter the race. I gave Karl Miller, now district judge, along with several other boys, 200 yards. Tobe Anthony drew 25 yards. Other boys had handicaps in between the given lengths. Henry Carey and I were to ride from scratch. Henry in the lead, setting the pace, or breaking the wind, as it is sometimes called. Henry and I were in fine trim, practicing daily.
I overheard Henry saying, "Bob's generously given you others fine places, willing to take all the hard wind breaking knocks himself along with his practiced pal, myself."
The track had us all worried, especially Henry and I. It was not in good repair but to make matters worse, the lower end of the half-mile oval track was covered with water. It left a path barely wide enough for one bicycle at a time to go through. That muddy stretch certainly presented complications. Early comers were soon joined by other race fans. Some had come afoot, others on horseback, but mostly, the onlookers were seated in high-topped buggies. The oval track was

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rimmed with folks standing, behind them the buggies and horses, holding the sight-seeing townspeople.
The crack of the starting pistol sounded. The race was on.
I caught Tobe at the end of the first half-mile. Just ahead was the bunch, going single-file through the muddy stretch, edging the water. Tobe and I showed up. Then we had to overtake the leader of the single file which took the entire back stretch. I paced Tobe to overtake him.
Henry Carey was somewhere in the rear. The others were behind him, How we did ride. It must have been a grand sight. I could hear the people cheering.
I knew I rode as I never had ridden before. My legs were getting numb, numbness which I feared might put a pedal on my breaks. But even then as I realized this numbness, I was wondering why Tobe didn't jump me, which he promptly did.
With Tobe around me, I still rode like mad, head low, back bent above the handle-bars. Henry and all the others were behind somewhere. With all my hard riding, I saw Tobe forge ahead. He went over the line about a bicycle length ahead of me. The crowd went mad with cheering and hallooing.
Now I had a little time for thinking. I discovered that I was numb from the waist down. I'll never forget that. Coasting along until I could get stopped, I kept thinking I'd never been numb before, never in all my racing. Maybe I'd ridden faster than I ever had before. I thought about the numbness but it didn't really scare me.
I was used to all that stuff, things going wrong. But I kept thinking as I coasted. I'd never ridden that hard before.
We didn't have coaster brakes at that time. I went on around the track before I could get stopped. I got from my wheel to stretch my legs. I was highly pleased to find the numbness had gone from my limbs.
When Henry, Tobe, and I, along with some of the other boys, got together, our gate keeper said we had $8.00. We were awed. We got to wondering what we would do with all that money.
Henry Carey said, "Well, after all, boys, it's just a mite of money."
That set up a roar of laughter among us. All being Sunday school boys, someone piped up with the Bible expression, "Widow's Mite."

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That did it. One and all, the boys must have thought of Jake Carlock, not so long dead, and of his widow, for several glances strayed toward her home. But it was Henry Carey who voiced the general decision.
Henry said, "She has graciously let us use the track and could certainly use the money."
"All right," I said. The others nodded agreement.
So we sent gallant young Henry Carey to the widow Carlock's cottage with the gate receipts, along with our thanks for the use of the track, which none of us ever had time or money to keep in repair. It made us feel good, like men- sort of a finale to a fine race which was to be our last for many of us went on to the work of our future lives, leaving little time for the sport of bicycle racing.
An article by Ida Ellen Rath in the High Plains Journal, December 27, 1956, Early Day Holidays follows: Christmas gaiety in 1885 gladsome with spiritual significance and festive with soul-satisfying feasting, had lingered, grown to a heightening climax by New Year's eve. While grown-ups and youngsters joined in the holiday fun, it was gay young blades and the most genteel of young ladies who really rocked the growing city of Dodge.
New Year's eve, McCarty's rink was decked in festive green and early in the evening its vast space rang with the crack of a pistol shot Roy Drake's way of starting the music for the grand march, of keeping the highly individualistic artists of Beeson's famous Cowboy band in line. Gaily the elderly couples led out, vying with youth in spirit at least as they sailed grandly up toward the players who were garbed in cowboy fashion boots and spurs, blue flannel shirts, big white hats, a silk scarf, and belt and brace of guns. Many a cattleman viewed with pride his brand on the artists' hat-bands. A generous sprinkling of cowboys, having sampled holiday sheer, added a touch of prairie flavor but did not get out of hand. Merry-makers skipped and do-si-doed the Old Year out and the New Year in.
So pleased were the early day funsters, still feeling the effects of the pleasurable noon-day feed, that they welcomed the windup of the day with another dance that evening. If anything this dance was the merrier of the two.
After it was over, folks had fully expected to settle down

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to the usual prosaic way of living. However, around 11:30 that night, the mirthful, hilarious dancers cocked an ear, hearing the whine of wind roar around the skating rink, mute some of the cadence of the music, and slow the lively steps of the dancers. The few unlucky ones who had stepped outside for a moment, saw the blizzard roar down upon them and were almost swept from their feet by its fury as they struggled to gain safety inside the big rink. Thus more quickly than the snap of a finger, the still talked-of blizzard of 1886 was upon them.
Many of the merrymakers were trapped within the rink that night. Others who started to nearby homes arrived with New Year finery bedraggled and practically ruined. Already, flour-like snow was sifting through cracks and key-holes. Through song and story, the tragic happenings of the following days have been told by many an old timer.
Moving on to holidays in the nineties, more than ever the youth of the city took over, especially before the dawn of the New Year. Always known for its pranksters, Dodge City people smiled as they met three popular young men, locally known as "The Noble Trinity," and young ladies laughed outright as they shyly peeked from lace-curtained windows. Nattily attired in their Sunday best, with added high top hat and jauntily swinging a cane, a gleam in their eyes and no shame in their hearts, those three abreast, swaggered along all the prominent streets, being careful to miss no chances to show off their particular brand of behavior to attract the attention of all, especially the much admired young ladies of the city.
In this frontier town many a man had no family ties, and any number of men still had not taken a wife. Therefore, they had no sideboard on which stood the silver decanter with time honored whisky, melting rock candy inside. So, from home to home, throughout the city, on a presumably friendly afternoon call, trooped these more sedate but nevertheless serious seekers of New Year's cheer. Wives and mothers smiled benignly, producing for each a generous hunk of delicious, spicy, nut-filled, fruit cake on a precious china plate, setting beside it sweet whisky from the decanter to wash it down.
Some of the city's very popular young ladies basked in the delights of New Year's festivity. They donned their newly fashioned clothes, and appeared here and there, about the city,

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their weather eye peeled to see the surprise in women's eyes, the undeniable pleasure in a certain somebody's long look. They had spent hours the night before, winding strands of hair in and out of a hairpin to make the wave so popular in that day, while an extra beau-catching curl was achieved by rolling the hair around a strip of paper-covered tin, the ends bent over to hold it tight throughout the night. A few had fluffed a "rat" in their hair. They were "well-clothed" and gracious of mind and heart.

      In the following article, titled, Lonesome Boy, Robert M. Rath tells of his first year in college

I was a month late arriving at Kansas University in Lawrence, Kansas, October 1, 1896, because mother had me get a job in Stubb's Grocery during the months of August and September, and from the very first day a more homesick boy than I would have been hard to find. I had the whole of my wages to bring with me, $2.50 a week those were the days of long hours and low pay-and a little black book to jot down all the money I spent, which caused a conscientious boy to hesitate somewhat before he spent a dime. Lonesome, well I never saw a face I had seen before and the other students had their month-long acquaintance and already had picked their pals so all, everything was new and strange and I thought I was too.
I had wanted to be an engineer but mother wouldn't hear of it. I'd wanted to be a lawyer. Mother would have none of that. I would be a pharmacist, she said, so I was enrolled in pharmacy. I'd never had a thought of it and I wasn't exactly proud to be classed as a pharmacy student. I'd had a bit of experience in High School in our Literary Society practicing law, defending fellow student clients for this little demeanor and that, and I had felt that I did right well as a lawyer, so I watched the law students with a bit of envy and a feeling that I would not be lonesome if I could mingle freely with them.
Then because of a law student's oratory, I became more lonely if that were possible. At Frazier Hall in the downstairs hall, he exhorted his political belief, talking so enthusiastically and so fast that I wanted more than ever to be again in Dodge City. He had brought to mind one of my favorite amusements, going down to the Santa Fe station and sitting around on the platform, waiting for a switchman, Jack Oakley, to happen along. He could swear so profusely that it was

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really something to a growing boy just to hear him swear. But after hearing a few of the K. U. orator's early morning fast speeches, I began to feel I had a tic with folks back home. This fast talking orator aired his beliefs often, 1896 being the campaign year for McKinley and Bryan, and just as I had never intentionally missed hearing the switchman swear, I made it a point always to be on hand in Frazier Hall so as not to miss hearing this fast talking politically minded budding young lawyer.
One morning as I waited hoping to hear my favorite speaker, a last year's student stood beside me. It seemed he had been one of a crew of college students sent to work out their poll tax. At this time, a $3.00 poll tax was levied on each male eighteen years or over. I knew about that for mother had sent me out the past year to work out father's tax. A man could pay the $3.00 or he could work single-handed two days or one day with a team to hitch to plow or scraper. For some time the Lawrence residents had felt that college students should work or pay.
Well, when the students got their call, they reported in a body for work on upper Massachusetts Street, taking along pitchforks, spades, rakes, hoes, even brooms, mops, and sticks. When work started, the young workmen got in the way of horses that were hitched to plows and scrapers. They dug holes where holes weren't wanted and piled up earth in the same way, making a game of seeing who could throw the earth the farthest and in the most unwanted places. After an hour or two of this, the bosses, not complaining that they could not get the students to work but that they could not get the proper work out of them, gave up in despair and dismissed them. The young men tramped back to college in a body but of course this was not the end of it. The law students took up their cases, one by one, and defended them so successfully that each was cleared and all cases were dismissed. Hearing all this made me wish more than ever that I was a law student so I too might have the opportunity of coming to the front in some of these hotly contested law suits.
The boys were practicing foot ball and had been since the beginning of the fall term. I wasn't in on that either, excepting as a spectator. But I did have a chance to help celebrate when our team won a game. Those were the days when one could

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have a bonfire and when merchants still got their merchandise in pine boxes which made merry fires. It was customary for each and every student to congregate down town that night and gather up wooden boxes. We piled them in the center of Massachusetts Street, a pile as big as an ordinary house, then set them afire. How they would burn and crackling sparks rose skyward. The heat was intense but someway we managed to do a dance around the fire like so many wild Indians, hallooing and yelling our heads off, "Rock Chalk, Jay Hawk, K. U." When we were beaten as happened at times, nothing doing.
All this brought to mind hometown celebrations the young folks put on for practically any event that took place worthy of young folk's attention. From the time I had left home in October, through the last of the football games at Thanksgiving and preparations for Christmas holidays, I had never seen a face I had seen before I entered college. I was wild with joy when I boarded the Santa Fe for I was going home! So eager was I that when the train rounded the bend at the top of the hill east of Dodge City I got out on the platform and feasted my eyes and soul on the lights of my home town. Home again, I walked the short distance from the depot to our home where the Lora Locke now stands and said "Hello" to everybody but I never let on nor said one word about what a lonesome boy I'd been all those months at Kansas University.
The Hon. Ed Madison was a congressman from Dodge City, a well liked young man. His political career was cut short by death but he had given promise of big things in the future if he had lived.

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Dodge City History