Author Page


The inspiration of all my writings orginated from a fun pastime, family history and history in general.

Welcome to My Author Page

This page is a synopsis of my writing career. It is a small glimpse of the numberous volumes of writings over the course of my life.

Beryl, A Soldier’s Story

Phoenix, Arizona….11/06/2010……..The Arizona Author’s Association Awards Banquet was held on November 6, 2010 and I won third place in the Unpublished Novel category for ‘Beryl, A Soldier’s Story’.   The novel can be read on-line at:


Beryl Banner


Beryl, A Soldier’s Story is a yet-to-be-published historical novel set in WWII and is based on a few short years in the life of Kenneth Beryl Edgell, the late Uncle of the author.

The story is set in Goodland, Kansas, England and Normandy, France. Beryl Edgell was an officer in the 175 Regiment and commanded a platoon of riflemen. Beryl is a study in human nature as young recruits from across America mature to fighting soldiers in Normandy, France. Based on soldier’s stories and battle reports, the historical context of the story preserves the movements of the 175th Regiment, ‘Dandy Fifth’ during their training in England, the landing on the Normandy beach and the drive south to battle the German army in the bocage as they fight their way to St. Lo. Day by day, hour by hour, the movements of Beryl’s platoon include the battles, missions and patrols as they encounter a well concealed German army and the snipers that are left behind to slow the advancing Allied army.

Beryl is a young Lieutenant from Goodland, Kansas and his only experience with leadership was in High School when he led his Tennis and Football teams to victory. He soon finds military life presenting him with new challenges as an officer and doubts begin to erode his boyhood confidence. Now he has a platoon of 36 men and he must mold the green recruits into a fighting unit. He is joined in this task by his Staff Sergeant, Frank Deitz, who left the Catholic Seminary at the moment of his final vows to participate in the military campaign against Hitler’s army. Sergeant Deitz is educated in dealing with people and their problems and through a combination of psychology and his experiences in the seminary; he is able to counsel the men of the Platoon as they struggle with personal issues and military relationships. Sergeant Deitz has his own vulnerabilities as he meets a young British girl and falls in love. It is his first girlfriend and even though mature for his age, he is a neophyte in matters of love and romance. He had never kissed a girl romantically, let alone make love to one. Deitz, the virile head of the platoon matches wits with Angela as she lures him to her heart.

- Angela, the British girl who seduces Deitz and educates him on the horrors of the German bombing of London.

- Kate, the beautiful neighbor of Beryl’s village host who is engaged to Sonny, a British soldier fighting in North Africa. Kate shares her loneliness with Beryl at the Tedworth mansion.

- Esther Copeland, the girl from Kansas who becomes Beryl’s wife and soul mate.

- Sergeant Anderson, an angry young man that must work through his anger to become a squad leader concerned with the men in his unit.

- Private Torkeldson (Tork), the farm kid from Iowa who must learn to fight and think for himself.

- Sergeant Gault, a son of a General Motors VP who contributes a unique prospective to the military and war.

- Private Davison, the bastard son of a laundry worker whose Deism and pedantry both intrigue and amuse his fellow soldiers.

- Private Love, the Georgia boy who attracts the ladies and entertains with his music and charm.

- Private Kuzinski (Ski), the Platoon clown who adds humor to the hazards of training and diffuses conflict with his comedy.

Several literary cameos are presented in the context of the story:

- Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt Junior, the mistress of Tedworth mansion and hostess for parties benefiting the soldiers.

- Lady Nancy Astor, who visits Tedworth to boost the moral of the soldiers training in England.

- General Gerhardt, Commander of the 29th Division, who inspired and cajoled his men to advance to St. Lo.

- General Cote, Assistant Commander of the 29th who stayed in the battlefield and coordinated Battalion movements.

- Colonel Goode, Commander of the 175th Infantry Regiment (Dandy Fifth) who led his men on critical missions.

Beryl combines romance, religion, intrigue, cultural clashes and the adventure of hedgerow battles with the German army in this historical tale of a platoon of men who have trained for over a year in England and must engage with the well-trained German army in the bocage of Normandy, France. The personalities of the men are exhibited by their behavior in battles as they protect their fellow squad members during the harrowing experience of war. The reader will feel the intensity of each patrol and battle as the 29th Division moves south from the beaches of Normandy to drive the German army from France.

A Prince And A Pomeranian

(First titled 'Pagenkopf')

At the award's banquet, I gave a short speech explaining the creation of the novel.  The video of the speect can be found here:

Phoenix, Arizona….11/05/2011……..The Arizona Author’s Association Awards Banquet was held on November 5, 2011 and I won second place in the Unpublished Novel category for ‘Pagenkopf."  'The Royal Connection.’


 This full length historical novel is centered on two themes: my family history (Edgell – Deves – Pagenkopf) that dates back to Pomerania, Prussia and the second theme of the Hohenzollern monarch family who ruled the Kingdom of Prussia in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries and were key to winning the battle of Waterloo against Napoleon and his French 'Grand Armee".

The story begins at the Versailles Palace outside of Paris and the European leaders are assembled for a ceremony. Inside the palace apartment of the French monarchy is an old King, his two sons and his trusted advisor: the year is 1871. The King is not the French King. The King is Wilhelm I, King of Prussia. King Wilhelm is reminiscing on the many times he has had to travel to Paris to finish a war started by the French. The story then takes the reader back in time to 1815 and the fields of Belgium. Wilhelm is an 18 year old cavalry captain under the command of Field Marshall Blücher, the appointed leader of the Prussian army.

We are then introduced to Peter Pagenkopf and his son Martin. Peter is in the Pomeranian cavalry unit and Martin is the vassal to Prince Wilhelm. The story develops through the battles in Belgium against Napoleon Bonaparte and we learn more and more about the personalities and characters of Wilhelm, Peter and Martin. After the war, we follow Wilhelm and the history of the Hohenzollern monarchy and parallel it with the Pagenkopf family as they build their farm estate and become more involved in the intrigues of Prussian diplomacy and politics. There is a romance in the story, revealing a special connection between the Hohenzollern and Pagenkopf families.

There are many key historical European figures in the novel: Hapsburg family, Prince Metternich, Alexander and Nicholas Romanov, King Ludwig of Bavaria, Napoleon I, II and III, General Ney and General Vandamme, King Frederick Wilhelm of Prussia, Crown Prince Frederick and Prince Wilhelm, Charlotte Hohenzollern (married to Nicholas Romanov), Princess Victoria (daughter of Queen Victoria and wife of Crown Prince Frederick), King Louis XVIII, Prince of Orange and many more. The reader will be entertained and enjoy the rich history of this period in European life: a period of political intrigue, wars, changing borders and of course, the industrial revolution. There are similarities between the strife in America between the North and South and the struggles in the German states between the machinery manufacturing industrialists and the agrarian landowners in Europe.

The reader will see the American civil war through the eyes of Martin Pagenkopf who has settled in Eastern Kansas and finds himself embroiled in the duel between the free state Kansas Jayhawks and the pro-slave Missouri bushwhackers.

The story then takes the reader back in time to 1815 and the fields of Belgium. Wilhelm is an 18 year old cavalry captain under the command of Field Marshall Blücher, the appointed leader of the Prussian army. We are then introduced to Peter Pagenkopf and his son Martin. Peter is in the Pomeranian cavalry unit and Martin is the vassal to Prince Wilhelm. The story develops through the battles in Belgium against Napoleon Bonaparte and we learn more and more about the personalities and characters of Wilhelm, Peter and Martin. After the war, we follow Wilhelm and the history of the Hohenzollern monarchy and parallel it with the Pagenkopf family as they build their farm estate and become more involved in the intrigues of Prussian diplomacy and politics. There is a romance in the story, revealing a special connection between the Hohenzollern and Pagenkopf families.


Many key historical European figures are introduced and described in the novel: Hapsburg family, Prince Metternich, Alexander and Nicholas Romanov, King Ludwig of Bavaria, Napoleon I, II and III, General Ney and General Vandamme, King Frederick Wilhelm of Prussia, Crown Prince Frederick and Prince Wilhelm, Charlotte Hohenzollern (married to Nicholas Romanov), Princess Victoria (daughter of Queen Victoria and wife of Crown Prince Frederick), King Louis XVIII, Prince of Orange and many more. The reader will be entertained and enjoy the rich history of this period in European life: a period of political intrigue, wars, changing borders and of course, the industrial revolution. There are similarities between the strife in America between the North and South and the struggles in the German states between the machinery manufacturing regions and the agrarian movements. Finally, the reader will see the American civil war from a European perspective and gain new insight into the character of the Prussian and German people and leaders. Peter Pagenkopf, the patriarch of the family was a captain in the Pomeranian Hussars (cavalry) who fought alongside the young Prince Wilhelm Hohenzollern during the Napoleonic war of Waterloo and later became an agent for the Prussian foreign minister. His daughter, Louise, worked in the castle at Königsberg as a seamstress and becomes involved with the young Prince Wilhelm. Peter’s son, Martin, was a vassal (lackey) to Prince Wilhelm and also took part in the battle of Waterloo.

The novel is rich in European history and takes the reader on a journey from the battle of Waterloo through all the power politics of the 19th Century. The reader is introduced to a multitude of historical persons, their personalities and positions relating to the politics and customs of the time. An example is the character of the Austrian foreign minister, Prince Klemens Metternich, whose political raison d’être was twofold: insure a balance of power in Europe, denying any one country overall superiority in economics and military might and most important, keeping liberal movements in Europe from attacking the many monarchs. The American and French revolutions gave rise to movements in Europe to depose the monarchs and create constitutions. Along the trail we experience the aftermath of the French revolution and the power politics surrounding King Louis XVIII, Napoleon and the different factions vying to control the unruly French population. North of France are the southern German states (Bavaria, Baden and Wurttemberg), monarchies whose absolute rule is in danger from the liberal movements in their press and universities.

The Hohenzollern family is related to the Russian Romanov family through the marriage of Charlotte Hohenzollern (Prince Wilhelm’s sister) to the future Tsar, Nicholas I Romanov. Prince Wilhelm becomes involved in the Russian political turmoil involving the question of Nicholas’ rightful succession to the throne. The Hohenzollerns are also related to the Bavarian Wittelsbach monarchy due to the marriage of Crown Prince Frederick Wilhelm Hohenzollern to the sister of Ludwig I, Princess Ludovika.

Martin Pagenkopf eventually immigrates to America and the reader will be exposed to the violence Kansas and Missouri in the aftermath of the civil war. Meanwhile, Prince Wilhelm succeeds his older brother Frederick Wilhelm and becomes King of Prussia. Through the intrigues of his foreign minister, Otto von Bismarck, Prussia engages (France declares war on Prussia) in a brief war with Napoleon III of France and during the treaty proceedings in Versailles, the German states all agree and pledge to the creation of a united Germany/Prussia with Wilhelm as the absolute leader: Kaiser Wilhelm I, King of Prussia and Kaiser of a newly formed Germany. The author is related to the Pagenkopf family.

Chronicles of the Edgell Family

Edgell Chronicles


Adult members of the Edgell family wrote their life stories and contributed their special photographs for this project. The project not only provided the Edgells a way to preserve their own personal history, it also became an assembly of the numerous photographs held by all the members. The result was a leather bound book of the Edgell family chronicles.

Chronicles of Fernand Graser

Fernand Graser

I first met Fernand (Fred) Graser at the Phoenix Tennis Center in 2010. We were participating in a casual ‘drop in’ round robin match with other ‘drop in’ members. Fred was 81 years old in 2010 and still plays a good game of tennis. A player that lives near Fred mentioned to me that Fred spoke English, French and German and had the distinction of being in the German army during WWII and later he was in the French army. My second language is German and Fred’s story piqued my curiosity. We started to talk and several months later I finished his chronicles: 162 pages and most of Fred’s prize photographs.

Table Soccer Rules and Strategy

Table Soccer Rules and Strategy

My first published work was a book titled 'Table Soccer Rules and Strategy'. In 1974 a faddish game began to emerge called Fussball. Even though the game has been around since World War One, its popularity didn’t emerge until the 1970s. At the height of its popularity, Fussball was a national pastime among the young and 1/2 million dollar tournaments were held in the United States. My brother Steve and I got 'hooked' on the game during college in 1971 and 1972 and began writing the book. Steve was finishing his dissertation for his PhD and I was taking post graduate courses at the University of Minnesota. In our spare time we either played Fussball at the 'Big Ten Bar' on campus, or we were writing the book. After college, we both moved to Phoenix, Arizona and found a local publisher. The book was published in 1974 by O'Sullivan Woodside and Company and sold over 20,000 copies.

There are many references to the book on the World Wide Web and it is commonly referred to as an 'obscure little book'. One would expect such a label after 32 years and the book out of print for 20 years. Still, it was the first book to address the rules and the first book to teach novice players about the strategy and psychology of the play. And, yes, that is me on the cover eons ago.

Marshall High School Memory Book

Marshall High School 50th Reunion Memory Book

In the summer of 2011 I had the pleasure of compiling and editing the Memory Book for my 50th high school reunion. The reunion committee had sent out letters and invitations to all the classmates asking them to send in their current ‘bio’ and photos to be included in the book. The compiling of the material involved scanning many of the pages of our yearbook from 1961 and putting the material in the manuscript. Each student photo from the yearbook had to be cropped from the page so it could be in the heading of each classmate’s individual ‘bio’ page. Also, photos from events and sports were assembled into a collage. There was a page devoted to those who served in the military and pages devoted to the known deceased, to the classmates we couldn’t locate and the classmates we located but didn’t respond. The memory book was finally put to print before the class reunion: 101 pages and a real pleasure to perform the task.

The complete memory book and additions since the reunion can be found on this web page:

Miscellaneous Writings

Mr. Wrinkles


Bob Edgell

Mr. Wrinkles is an elderly man who lives in Kansas and he gets upset with a local, young, newspaper editor due to the way he slants and presents the news. So, Wrinkles writes him a letter to the editor, hoping to educate the young man.

Topeka Gazzette
Topeka, Kansas 66606

Dear Editor,

My name is Sir Geoffrey Alexander Wrinkles. Oh, I’m really not a Sir in the sense of a Lord or Duke; in fact, I gave myself the title when I turned 90 years old. I figured that if a modern man could survive the wars, disease and turmoil of 90 years, walk without an aid such as a cane or walker and still manage one good bowel movement a day, he had earned the right to have his peers and later generations call him ‘Sir.’ You may call me Sir Wrinkles.

I have always loved names and words. They fascinate me; especially onomatopoeic words that always seem to roll off the tongue as smoothly as the drool off an ancient chin. Drool is a good onomatopoeic word, so is buzz, gurgle, gargle, babbling, fart, and my favorite, whistle. Proper names can also be onomatopoeic and they have that added quality of providing the bearer of the name another dimension to their being. Nicknames are usually bestowed at an early age by an adult who sees something in a child that is emerging slowly, but not yet fully defined. It could be a boy or girl that receives this moniker and as they grow their personalities will gravitate to an identity that matches their new name. Butch, Duke, Pete, Chuck, and Angel are just a few to mention. Of course you have last names like Fox and Musil that conjure up an image for the holder to live up to and provide that reflection for the onlooker.

Then you have words like sesquipedalian, a wonderful word with both onomatopoeic quality and a certain irony. Old Daniel must have had a good laugh when he put that in his book.

The adage that tells you to not judge a book by its cover could have also mentioned that you shouldn’t judge an author by the multi-syllable words that send you rushing to your dictionary at every paragraph. Personally, I don’t like these seven consonant, seven voweled words. We don’t speak them, so why should we have to read them? I must say ‘oy vey’ even though I’m not Jewish. Why must the children of learning suffer so much? Oy vey.

You must wonder why I’m writing such a letter to the editor. Here I am in my 90th year and for the first time in my life, I find myself writing to a thirty- something to offer my opinion when this young soul is still filling his ink pen with words and similes and metaphors, trying to find answers to life’s puzzles. Not that 90 years will help much, but it does fill your brain with all kinds of minutia that one can call upon for answers.

Take for instance, the other winter day when I turned on my car heater and it didn’t blow. No air, not hot or cold. So I get out my manual and needle nose pliers and started pulling fuses. My last resort was a series of relays under the hood so I open the hood, take the cover off the relay box and pull each one. They are all good. Leaning over the fender and looking at this old engine, I spot the housing to the blower motor. Now you would think that after 90 years of living with mechanical contraptions a person would call upon the minutiabrain (I just coined this and you may use it royalty free) where an answer would be lying. As I leaned over looking at that housing, I did indeed find a nugget in that minutiabrain and when it appeared, I took immediate action and pounded on that housing with my pliers. And you know young man, that motor starting whirrrring and it has whirred ever since. Whirring, another great onomatopoeic word.

This takes me back to why I am writing to you. I read your column every day so you must be a man of letters or you at least have some kind of degree; but you know, your education doesn’t always bleed through the ink on the pages. You seem to think that all is black and white, right or wrong, true or false, or just plain whatever you want it to be. In your education you forgot one basic principle: the Anatomy of gray. There is a whole world out there that you seem to overlook. The world of gray and all that it entails when discussing humans and their events. Even the simplest of minds see gray and understand that society requires these gray areas to co-exist. Take for instance, justifiable homicide, aggravated assault, intentional grounding, accidental drowning, bold face or white lie, or, I like this one: ‘yellow journalism.’ You seem to have skipped the class in adverbs and adjectives. Society comes up with these modifiers to sneak in a little gray so we can better deal with all types of situations. You avoid them in preference to your trenchant style. And I guess that is where we differ.

You see, I grew up with a name like Wrinkles and it is a good name and has served me well for these 90 years. Oh, I must admit, there were times in my youth when I would have preferred another name, a name that the other children couldn’t make fun of or had a bad rhyme to it. Say the word wrinkles and feel your mouth and chin contort, much like the wrinkles in a newly washed shirt: it’s quite onomatopoeic. To make things worse, my mother hated to iron so before I ever knew a piece of cloth without wrinkles, she threw our only iron in the garbage and made her stand that wrinkles were natural and beautiful and part of the fabric of living. So I came to love my name as much as I love the wrinkles in my shirts and pants and the wrinkles that adverbs and adjectives give us as we traverse the hills and valleys of our world. Wrinkles give us texture and the shades of gray we require to be a just and fair people. They provide character: a natural character untouched by the myopic pressure of the iron or the pretentiousness of a flat, unnatural surface.

You see, young columnist, you are cheating yourself by remaining in your flat world of black and white, in your starched shirt without texture or the grays that would provide some depth to your world. As you grow older, your minutiabrain will fail you because you will only ask yourself if the fuse is good or bad and you will always be obliged to others to fix what is wrong in your life. You will live in your world, devoid of adverbs and adjectives, without imagination and creativity, and wonder why your career and life are stuck on page three.

I don’t expect you to understand and I certainly don’t expect you to change your two dimensional life because of this brief letter. You, like most of our society, will continue to look at fuses and the only way you will change and make a real contribution, is if someone, or something, pounds on your housing and starts your motor whirrrring.


You may call me Sir Wrinkles

Stories About Goodland and the Edgell Family


The Episcopal Church is called St. Paul’s Church, erected in 1925, organized in 1890.

The Catholic Church is across the park. It is a large structure with steps going up the front, ivy covered walls on each side of the steps lots of shrubs. Built in 1926. Church of our lady of perpetual help. On the corner of 13th and Sherman. The Episcopal Church is on Center and 13th. Handy House is on the corner of 13th and Center, across from Episcopal Church. The High School is on Cherry and 13th. The mascot is the Goodland Cowboys. Grandma’s house is 1016 Cherry Street. Grandpa Robinson’s house is in the 1100 block of Walnut. The cemetery is at the north end of Main Street. The Robinson plot is about six or seven small dirt roads in on the second drive. Cora and William, Aunt Vad and Frank Fowler, Lelia Baldwin and Lucille Deves are buried in the Robinson plot. The Goodland Library is on 8th and Broadway.

Goodland, Kansas is located 100 miles east of the Colorado border and can be considered the beginning of the great Kansas wheat belt. You wouldn't use the term "sleepy" when referring to Goodland. Nor would you use the term "bustling. A key person in Goodland who always manages to get Goodland on the National news is the weatherman. Often you will see National weather news reports referring to Goodland with a high or low for the day. Otherwise, Goodland is pretty much absent from anyone's radar.

Goodland elementary school is located on Main street, across the street from the gas station and furniture store. Above the furniture store are small two room apartments that house whole families and which would be considered cramped for a single person. In 1949 a family of four occupied apartment B above the furniture store and the events of August 1949 would forever change Goodland.

Above the furniture store are apartments A, B, C and D. The front entry to the apartments is a door to the right of the large plate glass window of the furniture store. The door is an ordinary solid door with no lock. Just inside the door is a small landing leading to the 16 steps which takes one to the second floor hallway. If you go straight down the hallway, you will reach the back door, a solid door leading to the flat rooftop of the linoleum store, which is located behind the furniture store. Lynn, Steve and Bob, ages 12, 10 and 8, would use the rooftop to play and spy on the few people who would travel down Fourth Street. From the rooftop, they could look to the West and see the people traveling down Main passing the Elementary school and the furniture store. To the East, they could see the Episcopal Church and Central Park, both important locations for activity and play. Central Park is a one square block piece of greenery. Trees, walkways, statues, and a small pavilion are the only structures. Across the street from the park, diagonally across from the Episcopal Church is the rectory where the Priest lives. Across the park and to the East, directly facing the Episcopal Church one block away, is the Catholic Church. It is in this small setting where the events occurred which would effect Goodland and the entire world.

Apartment B on the corner of Fourth street and Main was home to a divorced mother and her three sons, Lynn, Steve and Bob. August in Goodland is a hot month and water games are always a good way to pass the time. Central Park only had a drinking fountain, but it was a good source of water for any kind of container you could find. Lynn, Steve and Bob would spend some of the hot August days chasing each other with containers of water, not really caring if one were caught because the cold splash felt good in the August heat. Other pastimes included wrestling, tree climbing and spying on the Priests. When it rained, it was time for building dams and making boats out of anything that would float. As the water flowed down the curb on Fourth street, the boys would throw sticks, rocks and dirt for the makeshift dam. Lynn, the oldest, would always have the best boat and always added the extras like a vertical stick and cardboard for a sail. Steve would build for durability and his was always the fastest. Bob, at age 8, would try to copy both his brothers and ended up with a boat that looked strange and barely floated. Goodland rarely had a water shortage, but the Fourth Street boys would play in it whenever it was presented. In the winter, a certain water depression took hold of the boys because snow play just isn't the same.

Goodland was not a community to have a boys club or YMCA where the youth could go indoors and escape the winter. The focal point the first winter in Goodland became the Episcopal Church. The divorced mother became involved in the Episcopal Church, even though her mother, who lived across town, was an ardent member of the Fundamentalist Church of God. "Across town", was a whole six blocks away but considering the scandal of a small town divorcee and the nearness of the Episcopal Church, it was better for all if she and the Fourth Street boys embraced the Episcopal faith. The Priest, Father Johnson, who lived a block away at the rectory, was a young idealist and spent time with this family. The Monopoly game was the main event when Father Johnson visited. In turn, the boys became involved in his work, becoming altar boys. Father Johnson, though a single man, was keen on the psychology of young people and never referred to the three boys as altar boys. He always referred to them in first person and third person as "acolytes". This sounded more official and important and the boys responded with greater loyalty and pride in their work at the altar. Lynn the oldest was the somber one, doing all the moves with that serious and officious look. Steve, the middle child, was the tight, scared, rigid acolyte. Bob, at age eight, had the deer in the headlight look, not a clue. His only job was to remember the moves and each Sunday had its mistake or the verbal whisper from Father Johnson. The Episcopal Church was small and only had eight rows of pews. The verbal whisper could normally be heard back to the fourth row.

"Now the wine, Bob," Father Johnson would whisper when Bob stood there with the water container, hesitating, after pouring too much into the chalice being held by Father Johnson. The congregation, although not amused by this eight year old's mistakes, was not annoyed either. They accepted it as an eight year old trying to be a good acolyte but just not focused on the task at hand.

August of 1949 was an especially hot month and seemed to take most of the energy out of everyone, even the Fourth street boys. In 1949 you could not find an air conditioner in all of Goodland and Apartment B was especially hot because there was only one window and no cross ventilation. On Tuesday, August 6, Lynn, Steve and Bob were on the lawn in Central Park, sitting under a large Oak tree. You could still see some of the litter left over from the migratory farm workers who had came to Goodland for the wheat harvest. Central Park was their campground during the harvest season. On the north end of the park a few of the workers were still hanging out, finding odd jobs around the local farms. The town tolerated it because of the pressure from local farmers who needed the cheap labor. During this season, Father Johnson would stock up on extra razor blades and soap. Lynn, Steve and Bob would help cut up the soap into small shavings. Somehow, every year, the migratory workers would learn that the Episcopal Priest lived in the rectory across the street. And every year, the only thing they would ask for was an old used razor blade and a sliver of soap. It was as if they knew a Priest would be poor and have no extra money, so they would ask for the blade and soap so they could wash up and shave.

In the park, the Fourth street boys were sitting and just staring. Steve was looking East and Lynn was looking West. Bob was playing a tennis match with his head, looking back and forth to the East and the West to see what Lynn and Steve were looking at.

"Let's play water chase", Bob broke the silence.

"Nah", said Steve. "No", said Lynn

That little bit seemed to prime the conversation pump.

Steve, looking to the East, thought he noticed movement near the Catholic Church.

"I think Catman is going to work", said Steve. "Or it could be his helper". Steve had come up with the name for the Catholic Priest to shorten it and make it easier to say.

Lynn turned around in unison with Bob. "That's his helper, the grouch", said Lynn.

"Yeah, the grouch", chimed in Bob. "Let's go over and just stare at him like we did last week".

Both brothers ignored Bob's suggestion as they did most of Bob's suggestions. Only on rare occasions did the eight year old come through the fog of his age and illuminate some part of the conversation.

And the eight year old would ignore their silence and move on to staring, repeat what he had said, or change the subject to something else that would get him a rebuke or the silent treatment.

Steve was the first to break the long silence. "Why does a Catholic Priest drive a new Buick and Father Johnson has an old junker?" Although it was a rhetorical question, Lynn was quick to respond.

"Look at his Church?" "It is ten times bigger, more gold inside, and a lot more people go to his Church." "He even has enough money to pay Grouch."

"There is really gold in there?" Bob asked wide-eyed.

"Lots of it," Lynn said

Steve looked at Lynn with a question mark expression. "How do you know?"

"I know," said Lynn, with that I know look on his face, tilting his head forward as to challenge the one who was challenging his information.

It was true the Catholic Church was richer and bigger. The congregation was tenfold the Episcopal Church which had only eight double rows of pews. The isle down the middle was barely wide enough for two people to walk side by side. Each pew could seat five grown adults at most. The Catholic Church was a very large edifice. Where the Episcopal Church stood on a small corner lot, the Catholic Church and rectory occupied a quarter of a square block.

"I don't like him," Bob said.

"Who?" Both Lynn and Steve said at the same time. One of the few times either one would show interest in a Bob opinion.

"The Priest," Bob answered in a eight year old assertive way.

"How do you know there is gold in there?" Steve asked again, as if daring Lynn to answer.

"Have you been in there?" he persisted.

"I know," Lynn answered with a twelve year old authority. "Do you want to go see?"

Bob's eyes widened at this challenge.

Steve looked at Lynn with his serious, tight acolyte look. Later in life it would be his poker and liar's poker face. Right now he was going through a mental racing game. The adrenaline was beginning to rise as his mind raced to the thought of sneaking into the Catholic Church, avoiding the wrath of "the Grouch". The few times they had walked by the church and encountered the Grouch, he would stare at them with an accusing look, as if expecting them to be vandals or thieves. He was in his early thirties, always wore old clothes, and had a smell about him: the same pungent smell that vapored off the wine container during their acolyte service. Lynn had said he was a 'wino'. Steve had merely nodded approval of the evaluation. Bob had begun to think about the word 'wino' and before getting the chance to ask what a 'wino' was, he was distracted by another flitting thought. Lynn had asked Father Johnson about the Grouch and Father Johnson had used the word 'wino' in his description.

Few people in Goodland knew the background of the Grouch, whose real name was Frank. Actually it was Francis Xavier something or other. His mother named him Francis Xavier in the hopes he would become a Priest in the Catholic Church. At age 15 he was shipped off to Seminary school to join the other hopefuls who would devote their lives to saving sinners and filling the empty spaces in the Catholic pews. Frank was an enthusiastic student and a favorite of the teaching staff. At the midnight courtyard sessions where they were instructed to stand on the balcony outside their rooms, Frank was the first to the railing. He was also the first to lower his pajamas in preparation for the thought cleansing exercise that consisted of beating one’s own butt with a belt. T his consisted of swinging the belt from side to side in unison with chants meant to cleanse the thoughts of pubescent boys. Frank would always have the reddest butt. And, without being told, Frank would make a belt of paper clips, turning one end inward to puncture his flesh around his waist in order to help drive out the unclean thoughts. As Frank got older and closer to his final vows for Priesthood, he was having more of a problem with the unclean thoughts. No matter how many paper clip belts he wore, the thoughts and images of his puberty thoughts would demand to be heard. Finally, one month before his final vows, Frank joined the Army. The year was 1943 and Frank was sent to England after basic training to become a part of the Normandy invasion.

Steve rose to the challenge, "Yes," he replied.

"Not me," Bob said immediately. He was thinking of the times they have seen the Grouch in action. Only a few weeks ago he had caught two boys sitting on the front lawn of the Church and chased them through the park, yelling at them. When the park was full of migratory workers, he sat on the Catholic Church's front steps throughout the night to guard against anyone going near the Church. A few of the bolder workers approached him for some charity and he yelled in their faces until they retreated to the park. Bob did not like the Grouch, and more, feared him.

"Let's go," Lynn said and stood up.

"Now?" Steve asked.

Lynn was the take charge type. Rush in where Angels fear to tread. If you were to predict his best future career move, you would say he could be the best fireman in the state of Kansas. If you were in a smoke filled building, it would be Lynn who would charge through the smoke and fire and rescue you. However, a fireman career move may also have proved to be a short-lived career. Lynn, unlike Steve, would not always assay the circumstances and surroundings. He had to be first: first in the water at Smoky River; first to go over the makeshift ramp with his bicycle; and first to crash through the hedge with his bike. In his need to be first, Lynn would suffer a small amount of injury and embarrassment. He suffered a small amount of injury when he jumped into the river off the wooden dock The water was low and Lynn ended up in a summersault position sitting on the bottom of the lake, water barely covering his waist. When he had to be the first to ride through the hedge, he hadn't checked out the other side and ran into the fence on the other side. His bike stopped and he went flying over the fence. This caused a few cuts and bruises. What hurt most was the unstoppable laughter from Steve and Bob. Yet he persisted in being first and asserting his "big brother" status in the family.

"No," Lynn replied. He may rush in, but he knew at 12 years old he did not want to ever be face to face with the Grouch. What he didn't tell Steve and Bob about the Grouch was some of the talk among the older teenagers that would sometimes hang around Central Park.

"When," Steve persisted.

"Sometime when the Grouch is not there," Lynn replied, with the authority. He would definitely be the General and Captain of the expedition and he had just asserted his first strategic plan. Somewhat more of a non-plan, but still a Lynn plan.

Dinner that night was normal for the family of four. Mom would come home tired from working all day in the furniture store and after some coffee and a few cigarettes, she would start dinner. Tonight she was making their favorite, spaghetti red. It would start with two pans: one for the entire box of macaroni and the other for the can of chili with meat chunks. The boys were in the living room, on the floor, facing each other and whispering about the non-plan. Steve was asking a million questions. Lynn was partly answering and partly using Mom's favorite expression when she didn't want to answer, "we'll see".

Bob had an answer for everything, mostly without thinking and saying the first thing that came to his mind.

"We can't go in the daytime because the Grouch and the Priest are always coming and going," Steve was asserting.

"I know," said Lynn.

"Let's go tonight," Bob whispered.

"We could go before Father Johnson gets here," Lynn said as a statement, not as a reply to Bob's comment.

"We can tell Mom we are going to the go for a walk down Main." Steve said. This was a common evening pastime for the boys after dinner. Although Main was not a bustling street, there were many ways to pass the time. The movie theater was only half a block away on Main and the boys would stop by and read the coming attractions or just watch the movie goers come and go. They would look in the Saloon front window and see the people just sitting with their drinks and smoking. When they passed the barber shop, Steve would walk a little taller. After school each day and four hours on Saturday he would work in the Barber shop shining shoes. Mom had agreed to this providing he spent some money on clothes and gave Bob one-fourth of his earnings. In return, Bob would do all his housework.

They sat silent for awhile, each thinking of the evening adventure.

"Dinner's ready," Mom announced from the kitchen. She didn't have to yell because the kitchen was only about ten feet from where the boys were laying on the living room floor. The boys dove into the spaghetti red, augmented with lots of bread and butter and large glasses of milk. The meal was completed in less than five minutes. Mom brought out the pie for the desert and the ritual began. Mom had devised this ritual to end the arguing over who got the biggest piece, or portion, of desert. The pie was a "Home Best" prepared apple or cherry pie, eight inches in diameter. The ritual began with Lynn slowly and carefully drawing a perfect "plus" sign on the top of the pie. He would then, very slowly, slice the knife through the pie, make four exactly even pieces. When the cutting part of the ritual was complete, Bob, the youngest would then select the piece of his choice. Next, Steve would choose and then Lynn. Mom would take the last piece. It would always take longer for the ritual than the time it took to devour the desert.

"Let's go down Main," Lynn said. It was said for Mom's benefit and also as a starting pistol for the evening out.

"I need some cigarettes," Mom said. "Go down to Carl's first."

The boys looked at one another. Carl's was a small store one and one-half block West of Main on Fourth street; the opposite direction of the Churches and the park. Mom handed Lynn a dollar.

When the boys were going down the front steps, Lynn handed the bill to Bob. "Here, you go to Carl's and get the cigarettes. Steve and I will go to the park and check out the Church. Meet us at the water fountain. Run."

Bob began to protest but Steve and Lynn were already around the corner heading West to the park.

By the time the Bob arrived, Lynn and Steve had already been over all the details they could see from the park. The Church had eight concrete steps leading to two very large wooden front doors. On each side of the steps were large bushes, like a hedge, that flowed along the front wall of the Church and continuing around each side. On the street side, Fourth Street, the hedge continued to the south side door. On the north side, the hedge followed the wall deep into the property, interrupted only by the north side door. The hedge then turned north and flowed along the wall that was the meeting center of the Church. The meeting center was the place for the bingo games, Church socials and other events. It was only six o'clock in the evening and the Sun was a long way from twilight. The one small hitch in the plan was lack of darkness. In August, the sun in Goodland did not set until after 9 PM.

"We can't wait until dark, we have to be home for Father Johnson," Steve finally said after they had spent a while looking at the Church.

"We will come back Friday," Lynn said. "Mom has a date with that salesman and said we could go to the movie." Bob and Steve both looked at Lynn. Sometimes he earned his 'big brother' status.

"When do they lock the doors," Steve asked, more to the park air than to his siblings.

"Let's go see if they're open," Bob said.

Although neither brother acknowledged this, they looked at each other as if a similar idea had just co-developed.

After a brief discussion, it was decided that Steve would check on the south door, wide open on fourth street. Lynn would boldly walk up to the front door and Bob, being small, could sneak along the side of the building, between the wall of the church and the hedge and check the North side door.

Steve left for the street parallel to Main. His plan was to go around the block and approach the door from the west end. He would approach the back end of the Church, walking East on Fourth Street, quickly check the door and continue to walk East to the park.

Lynn would stay in the park until Bob reached the side door. He would then quickly cross the street, check the front door, and walk with Bob back to the park.

Bob's eyes were darting back and forth, looking right to left at the face of the Church. He wasn't really looking for anything or anyone. He was really thinking about how light it was outside. The courtyard with the North side door was well lit by the sun. Lynn gave him a pat on the back, a signal to go. Even though Lynn had instructed him to walk normal, Bob was stiff and walked as fast as he could across the street, onto the sidewalk and rushing to the hedge at the corner of the Church front. At that point, Lynn began to casually walk to the Church front doors from the park. Bob rushed along the Church wall, trying to avoid the hedge branches that were growing close to the wall. As he rushed he could feel himself breathing deeply. His eyes were on the other door in the courtyard, the door leading to the community center. A figure appeared in the window by the center door. Bob stopped and crouched. T his was not discussed in the plan. The figure disappeared and Bob rushed to the side door, now only a few feet away. As he was turning to walk from t he hedge to the steps leading to the door, he tripped on a low branch. As he was falling, another branch flew in his face. He let out a loud yelp. His first thought when he landed was to look up at the door to the community center. If eyes of fear are silver dollars, Bob's were frying pans. C oming out of the Center door was the Grouch. The Grouch saw him immediately and began to hasten his step to the downed intruder. Bob jumped up and immediately went back down as the branch held his ankle. The Grouch was crossing the grassy courtyard, approaching very fast. Bob yanked his ankle Free and was up and running. As soon as the Grouch saw he was up, he began to chase.

"Stop there, come here."

Bob was running. He felt if he could make it to the park he would be safe. The Grouch was running faster. In the few seconds it took Bob to go from the North side door to the sidewalk, the Grouch was two feet behind him. Just before reaching the sidewalk, Bob fell from trying to run too fast. The Grouch began to skid on the grass as he put his feet brakes on. As he was leaning over to grab the collar of Bob's shirt, he let out a loud groan. Bob turned to see Lynn and the Grouch tumbling on the grass. Bob was up and running. Lynn was right behind him. The yells from the Grouch became fainter and fainter as they ran through the park.

"I know who you are. I know who you are. Come back here. Come back here."

Steve was checking the Fourth Street side door, which was locked, and when he heard the yelling. He walked down the steps to the sidewalk and hesitated. Not knowing whether to walk west on Fourth street to the front of the Church and to the park, or to backtrack around the block. His curiosity was too much and he walked fast to the front of the Church. When he got to the front corner of the Church, he slowed and crept to the corner. The front steps blocked the view of the courtyard. He rounded the corner and tiptoed to the wall of the steps. He glanced at the park to see if Bob and Lynn were there but they were not in sight. Slowly he edged along the wall until he was able to lift his head above the wall and see what might be happening. He faced the wall and slowly lifted his head. His eyeballs were a nose length from the concrete wall. A sharp pain in his left shoulder interrupted his concentrated fear. All-consuming fear now took over. He looked into the face of the Grouch. A face contorted with anger and the pain of being slammed to the ground by a running twelve year old.


Four blocks west of Main Street is Cherry Street. The boy's grandmother lived on Cherry Street and every other week they would walk the six blocks over to Lelia's house for dinner and games. North of Lelia's house on Cherry Street, past Carl's market on Fourth Street, is Goodland's oldest boarding house. In 1949 the boarding house was owned and run by sisters, Mary and Carol Cole. Their parents had bought the house in 1885, four years before the twin sisters were born. The father, Dan Cole, had been very successful at a young age He never had a trade, just the ability to know when to buy and sell things. Land was his favorite commodity. When the railroad needed land for a boxcar repair barn, he happened to be the owner. When the town wanted to build a new high school, with enough land for the sports activities, he owned the largest tract in the town proper. Dan Cole and his wife, with the early success, planned out their first and only dream home. A three-story small town mansion with multiple rooms, porches on each floor with carved wood railings, a small tower on one corner, and a large yard area. Dan Cole could be described as a frustrated artist and spent many years constructing his carriage house, tool shed, and a potting shed for his wife. When not building on his lot, he would spend considerable time in his rock garden. Dan Cole was fascinated with rock and mortar. He would take his wife for long buggy rides through the countryside looking for interesting rocks. In his leisure time, he would build wooden forms for his rock and mortar creations. He built a high arching entryway to the garden, a rock bridge over a small makeshift pond, a simple flower gathering basket and numerous birdbaths. The wooden frames were the most difficult part of the project. He would spend days carefully constructing the frames that would hold the rocks and mortar. Some of the structures, like the garden archway, would require several phases. Build and pour. He would then insert mortar and the colorful rocks in a way to insure the most exposure for the rocks. After his first project and the numerous hours he had to spend chipping and scraping off the excess mortar, he became more careful on future projects when inserting the rocks and mortar.

Mary and Carol were both fifty-four years old in 1945 when Father Neuhaus of the Fourth Street Catholic Church paid an unannounced visit. The visit was a surprise to the Cole Sisters since both had been members of the Fourth Street Episcopal Church since childhood and barely knew Father Neuhaus. He had knocked on their door late on a July afternoon. Mary invited him in and after exchanging a few pleasantries about the weather, she took his hat and coat to the hall closet. Carol came to the foyer from the kitchen and greeted Father Neuhaus. She invited Father Neuhaus to the parlor for a cup of coffee. She was a little annoyed when he accepted. The war against Japan was still intense and the rationing of coffee, sugar, gasoline and other commodities effected everyone. Also, she had just started peeling potatoes for the evening meal. This meant she would have to stop what she was doing and make the coffee. It also meant the boarders would be eating a little later than the prompt 6pm schedule that Carol had instructed repeatedly when one of the boarders came late for a meal.

Father Neuhaus, after a few seconds of silence when Carol left the room, began talking to Mary.

"I am here to inquire about a room," Father Neuhaus started. "Not for myself, but for someone who is an employee of the Church."

"Father Neuhaus, I wasn't aware the Church had employees," Mary said with a slight edge of sarcasm. The edge in her voice was the same edge used when some non-Catholic families would greet the Catholic families. When the Catholics greeted the non-Catholics, it was more of a slight nod of the head and a low-voiced greeting. The non-Catholics interpreted this attitude as a 'better-than-thou' greeting which would insure the edge on their voice. Goodland was a town with prejudices. Catholic vs non-Catholic, Jews against gentiles and everyone against Blacks and Mexicans.

Father Neuhaus was well aware of the edge in Mary's voice and was very tactful in his manner. He was also aware that Mary was one of the more prejudice of the town people and approached her with a voice and manner of one Christian to another. He needed the sisters now. He knew they had empty rooms and their location would be ideal for his need.

"Yes, actually, he is a new employee," said Father Neuhaus. "A very nice young man named Frank Dignam."

"Is he a good Christian?" Mary asked, softening to the Priest. She hoped he would notice she hadn't said is he a good Catholic.

"Yes," Father Neuhaus replied. He was tempted to say, "Yes he is a good Catholic," but years of training and working with people had taught him that when facing the enemy, avoid anything that will get their adrenaline flowing. Keep calm, be conciliatory. Calm them to a point where they believe they can say anything. If you need to strike, it will be such a total surprise that one strike, verbal or physical, would win the round. He often would walk into a high tension situation and need to use all his skills to calm the parties or situation. The toughest and most frequent situations were the marital difficulties. He was most unsure of his skills in these highly emotional situations because logic and reason had little effect. Here he would use his calming skills. He felt most secure in the political and power broking circles of this small town where his nine years of seminary school had given him an excellent education. In those circles it was more of polemics and reasoning sugared with keeping all parties part of the pie.

"Well, Father Neuhaus, if you would vouch for this young man and if he obeys the house rules, I am sure we can make him feel welcome. Does he have family in this area?"

Father Neuhaus hesitated at this question. He knew he was talking to one of the more energetic town gossips and he was urged to answer cautiously.

"Frank was visiting a family in Goodland and stopped by the Church. Before the war, he was in the seminary and he just stopped by the Church."

Father Neuhaus was a little annoyed at repeating himself.

"We started to talk and he decided to stay in Goodland for a while."

Carol came in the parlor with the coffee and some oatmeal cookies.

"Father Neuhaus has a new employee named Frank and he is asking about a room for the young man," Mary said, looking at Carol.

"Oh, the young man that visited the Edgell family. Too bad about Beryl. Nice young man and his poor wife, what with a baby daughter," Carol said in her normal blurt it out way.

Mary gave Carol a quick glance with a little bit of stern.

Carol nervously continued, "Of course, if he behaves and respects the rules, we would be happy to have him."

Father Neuhaus took a sip of the coffee Carol had poured. "Have you talked to the Edgells Miss Cole?"

"Only briefly," Mary answered too quickly.

Father Neuhaus didn't respond. The oldest trick in the book was to let the silence hang there like a backhand held high over an intimidated face. Silence makes everyone nervous. And nervousness leads to chatter.

It was Carol who first broke the silence.

"The Edgells were very upset with the visit. He told them things they didn't want to hear: even thought he might be a little crazy. Of course we don't believe it. They were just upset at him bringing up what has already been buried."

Father Neuhaus nodded.

Silence again.

Mary, wanting to change the subject, spoke next, "We have to get supper for our boarders. If you want to send the young man by we would be happy to room him."


To be Continued