Tales and Trails of Wakarusa,  by A. M. Harvey

The Trail That Was Never Traveled

     AS YOU drive from Topeka to the stone bridge, just before you enter the valley, you notice what may appear to be a road extending eastward between two fences set about thirty feet apart. The way is rough and stony, and full of weeds and brush, and if you ask whether it is a laid-out road, you will be informed that it is, and that years ago road viewers went over it and established it as one of the public roads of Shawnee County. If you ask whether it was ever traveled, the answer will be, "no." And if you ask why it was laid out, this will be the explanation:

     William Cartmill, a tall, vigorous, turbulent Irishman, owned the land to the north. George Franks, a hard-working, sturdy, honest, conservative Englishman owned the land to the south. They never agreed about anything. Franks was a church man, and loved peace and quiet. Stern necessity had taught him the ways of a pioneer. He could build a good log house without a nail or any other article that would cost money, and with very few tools beside his ax and broadax. Cartmill paid no attention to the church, and was always in a row of some kind. He had a good heart, but he was naturally full of devilment, and he enjoyed making trouble for Franks. He soon learned that Franks was afraid of him, or at least he treated Franks as though he were. The fact was, that the Englishman did not fear him, but simply wanted to avoid trouble with him; but it was all the same to Cartmill, and gave him an excuse for making Franks all the trouble he could. He found Franks starting to build a fence one day along the line, and went out and ordered him off, and yelled after him as he went:

     "You know bloody well that the line's four hundred yards further south, and if I catch yez here any more I'll cut your heart out and set it up on a sharp rock."

     Of course, Franks was right about the line, but Cartmill quarreled with him until it became necessary to get a county surveyor to make a definite location and plant the corner-stone. Franks then built a fence just two feet south of the line, and as soon as he finished it Cartmill hitched onto it. This gave Cartmill the use of the fence and two feet of the Franks land. Of course, Franks didn't like this, and he tried to find some legal way to get rid of the annoyance without bringing a direct suit against Cartmill, and so he petitioned for a road to be laid out. The neighbors helped him with it, although they all knew that the road never would be traveled, and thus it was that years ago there was established a laid-out out road along the brow of the Wakarusa hills, running over gullies and bluffs where no one would or could travel.

     Cartmill used the lane for a calf pasture in the summer and a place to shoot rabbits in the winter, and always claimed that he had the best of the row. To this day the lane is a rendezvous for rabbit and quail, and as the country boys tramp through it they thank all the lucky stars for the row between the English and the Irish.

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