KanColl: The Kansas  
Historical Quarterlies




Bypaths of Kansas History

August, 1947 (Vol. 14 No. 3), pages 320 to 324.
Transcribed by lhn;
digitized with permission of the Kansas State Historical Society.

WEBFOOTED JAYHAWKS

     The evolution of the wartime Jayhawk in the Pacific theater of operations attained a development of phenomenal proportions, a letter to the Kansas State Historical Society from Lt. Col. Lowell R. Whitla, state maintenance officer, Kansas National Guard, stationed at Camp Whitside, Fort Riley, reveals. The seagoing Jayhawk was found to be webfooted of the specie Sailgieriens, a tough and prolific old bird that produced numerous offspring of lesser size. Colonel Whitla was the commanding officer of the U. S. S. Radon, a 4,500-ton vessel described as the seagoing version of ordnance's heaviest maintenance outfit, the base shop. The vessel was maritime commissioned at National City, Cal., and the commanding officer carried his master's papers out of the Port of Los Angeles. The crew was trained at Aberdeen Proving Ground and Bainbridge Naval Training Center in Maryland, Fort Monmouth, N. J., Walter Reid Hospital, Washington, D. C., New Orleans and the San Diego naval base.

     On the forward port and starboard sides of the U. S. S. Radon, this superbarge of 265 feet, proudly stood a guardian Kansas Jayhawk of heroic proportions. "He was eight feet high," Colonel Whitla said, "and wore the crimson and blue colors of a true Kansan. Now, this particular Jayhawk was one of the `old-timers' and no longer a college boy. So, in place of the letters `K' and `U,' he carried an ordnance bomb under one wing and a very serviceable monkey wrench under his other wing.

     "The crew of the U. S. S. Radon was composed of some of the army's finest men, the majority being ordnance men. They are technicians and curious about all phases of their equipment and especially the guardian Jayhawk. These men were experienced and necessarily a little older than average. `A Bunch of Tough Old Birds,' as they became known. Their toughness and curiosity caused them to remove the Jayhawks shoes and, to and behold 1, they found him to be webfooted, with spurs"

     Apparently this Jayhawk was a lineal descendant of the feathered bird of Coronado's day, for the story of "The Mythical Jayhawk," by Kirke Mechem, in the February, 1944, Kansas Historical Quarterly, referring to Apocrypha of Coronado, gave descriptions of Jayhawks with webbed feet and some with boots with high heels and long spurs.

     However, this Jayhawk of Pacific fame apparently learned to carry an ord-

(320)

BYPATHS OF KANSAS HISTORY 321

nance bomb under one wing and a monkey wrench under the other after his indoctrination for World War II. Military experts say this seagoing bird of warlike demeanor is in sharp contrast to the peacetime Jayhawk of the "huggin' and a chalkin"' era.

     The Pacific Jayhawk was a wartime sentry who never slept during his tour of duty aboard the U. S. S. Radon, Colonel Whitla vouches. "In fact," the colonel avers, "he recruited additional Jayhawks of his exact color and kind who were also equipped with the same tools and pedal extremities, to go aboard the auxiliary craft, A. B. T. L., an M. T. L., an L. C. P. L., and a 36-foot yawl, as well as all the motor equipment, consisting of four 21/2-ton, specially-equipped shop trucks, and two 1/4-ton trucks.

     "The two 8-foot Jayhawks had the assistance of the twenty smaller ones who were in proportionate size according to the size of the craft or vehicle he was to protect.

     "Now, to show further the universal adaptability of this bird from the center of the U. S. A., let the writer point out that the gold of his beak and legs with the crimson made the ordnance colors and his blue coat shows his relation to the navy. His facial expression shows he's a tough old bird, emblematical of the men under his protection. His web feet show his aquatic prowess and his spurs, his willingness to fight in a cause that is just. Take particular notice of his stride, his chest, his straight-forward glance and the white of his eye. Yes, the Kansas Jayhawk, with permission of Fritz of Lawrence . . ., and 'Vic' Ellsworth of Kansas University, did do a fine job in World War II.

     "His job was maintenance. He `kept them rolling.' Under his supervision, new lenses for glasses were ground, false teeth repaired, radar and radios rebuilt, x-rays, jeep and tank motors renewed, small arms, artillery, trucks, seagoing boats, put back in action. Even at one time a midget race car was manufactured as a training program for the men as well as a pastime.

     "The last time the writer heard from him, he was taking the U. S. S. Radon, stripped of the 81/2 million dollars worth of special equipment, to Korea, to serve in relief and assist the U. N. R. R. A."

A ROUGH LANDING ON THE MISSOURI RIVER

From the White Cloud Kansas Chief, May 19, 1859.
     Some steamboatmen get above their business, particularly when they have persons to deal with whom they do not suppose to possess full purses. On the down trip of the St. Mary, last week, among the passengers was an old German gentleman, for many years past a resident of Massillon, Ohio, who wished to stop at White Cloud. He is able to buy several such boats as the St. Mary; but being quite plainly dressed, how should the officers of the boat know the above fact? They did not put out a plank for him, but ran close to shore, and let him jump, which he did, muddying himself considerably in the attempt, and by the hardest kind of scrambling, escaped tumbling back into the river. They then threw his carpet-sack out after him, bursting it in the operation. When boats accommodate their passengers in this way, they are not deserving of patronage.

322 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY

HARDSHIPS OF TRAVELING ACROSS THE PLAINS IN 1865

From the "Frank A. Root Collection," used by permission of his son, George A. Root.

WM. N. BYERS,
P. M. POST OFFICE,
DENVER, COLORADO,
Monday, February 27th, 1865.

My Dear Rich

     I reached here last Saturday, (25th) and bother to drop you a few lines, though I shall not write a letter as I have no spare time, being completely worn out in consequence of the severe hardships incident to my trip across the plains in winter. I left Atchison on the 7th and was 18 days making the trip. I staid at Cottonwood Springs five days. From there I came through with five coaches and had a guard of some 25 employees of the 0. S. L. mounted on horseback. We did not travel any in the night, but on the contrary kept a sharp look-out for Indians though did not see any except two dead ones at the American Ranch, 130 miles from here. For more than 50 miles in places there is not a house remaining, every one having been destroyed and in most instances the people taken prisoners or butchered on the spot. Most of the people killed were found with their heads and arms and legs chopped off and piled up in a heap, though they had been buried before I came up.

     At South Platte station, 15 miles east of Julesburgh we filled every coach full of corn and hay to feed the stock between there and Beaver Creek station, there being no depredations committed this side of the latter station which is about 120 miles east of here.

     The property destroyed at Julesburgh belonging to Mr. Holloday will amount to $100,000 though this is not a drop in the bucket compared with other property destroyed.

     I never saw the plains look so lonely and desolate as at the present time and it will be impossible for the stages to make regular trips again before two or three months, as nearly all the hay, corn and stations have been destroyed for nearly 200 miles.

     I shall leave here for Atchison on the 2d March, and take a heavy mail through to the Missouri river. I brought out the first mail Colorado has had since the Indian troubles, and never saw such a rejoicing among the people. One of the grandest illuminations ever known in the Rocky Mountains takes place here to-night in honor of the capture of Charleston.

Yours Truly,
F. A. Root.
[Addressed:] L. R. Elliott, Esq.
(Cor. Ed. "Standard.") Binghamton,
New York.

BYPATHS OF KANSAS HISTORY 323

TWO GALS IN CALICO

From the Wichita Eagle, January 8, 1874.
     MR. EDITOR: I wish to say, through your columns, to the people of Minneha that the dresses worn by two young ladies to the party at the bachelors' den were calico, not velvetine. I have fretted my righteous soul over much about it, for fear the young men might be deceived in the goods, and think it something costly.
Yours,
COUSIN P.

GENTLEMEN, PLEASE

From The Western Home Journal, Lawrence, February 23, 1882.
     The city council of Atchison has refused to give the ladies of the library association of that city, permission to use a billiard table, which was presented to them by Maj. Downs, in their rooms, without taking out a license, such as saloon-keepers are required to obtain for the purpose. A smaller, more contemptible action, says the Champion, was never suggested in any council on the face of the earth.

SMOKED OUT!

From the Atchison (daily) Champion, February 10, 1895.
John Seaton of Atchison, has the stub of a cigar that Abraham Lincoln smoked during the civil war. Mr. Seaton picked up the stub as Mr. Lincoln threw it away, says the Kansas City Gazette. It should be deposited in the State Historical society instanter. Some of the smoke from this identical cigar has been there for years, says the Clay Center Times.

THE FATHER OF WILLIAM ALLEN WHITE

H. H. Gardner writing in the Walnut Valley Times, El Dorado, March 8,
1895.
     I think Dr. Allen White was the strong central figure in El Dorado in the days of '70. He was enthusiastically interested in the growth and progress of the town and hardly a night passed that he did not have some private or public meeting of the people to discuss something of importance. He would go his rounds and notify us all to come out. He was a democrat, but local issues then were paramount and "Doc." would remark that he had to "plow with the republican heifer for the common good." He was the author of the remark that there was "no general or state statute against damned fools." In fact his quaint and terse sayings were the bon mots of the time and today constitute the special provincialisms of old El Doradoites. When he traveled he always carried a bottle of water in his pocket so when he discarded his chew of fine cut he could rinse out his mouth without leaving his seat. Five feet one way and 220 pounds all over he hated to get up and sit down often, but when on his feet and in motion he moved briskly for one of

324 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY

his size. He had enterprise and built a showy drug store where Hitchcock's store now stands, the large fine house on East Central avenue and laid out the handsome block and planted the trees upon it where Judge Leland's and Ed. C. Ellet's houses are built.

     From the Times, March 22, 1895.
     Dr. Allen White was very quick witted and ready at repartee. A little incident is recalled that occurred at the old stone hotel in Florence in 1882, when the Butler county delegation were en route to the state democratic convention at Emporia. Having to linger several hours in Florence the delegation registered, and as Jake DeCou was pretty smooth with the pen he signed up for the party, and in the absence of Doctor White, C. A. Leland made a cross in the Doctor's name and wrote above and below, "his mark." When the Doctor came into the office Jake DeCou said, "Doctor, what does this mark mean?" Harry Brown spoke up and said, "It means that simply `to the cross he clings."' The Doctor with an air of one equal to the occasion replied, "And before I leave this house the landlord will conclude that `a charge to keep I have."' That was his little joke; just as like as not he paid the bills of all.

Go to previous article     Go to next article     Go to cover page for this issue     Go to KHQ main page