Alexander to Dighton - The woman who sat on the toilet too long (and other odd American tales) - CycleBlaze

June 11, 2014

Alexander to Dighton

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SOMEWHERE here we're supposed to be halfway between the Pacific and Atlantic. It sounds reassuring. But do they measure from the nearest salt water on the Atlantic side to the nearest on the Pacific on a line that happens to go through Dighton? If they do, other towns north or south could say the same.

I remember, on the Northern Tier, that Rugby, in Montana, boasted it was the geographical centre of North America. Conveniently, the sign was in the car park of a restaurant. But you don't have to hunt much to find the actual centre, the point at which you could balance North America on your finger, is in a field some way to the south.

...and then I won't need my GPS
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Well, regardless, if they tell me here it's no further to the Pacific than I have ridden from the Atlantic, I am happy. Except that my notes say there is a sign to the same effect in Eads, Colorado.

Well, today is the day we met Glen. We were drinking pop in the sort of place that mends tractors and wonders why you'd come for anything else when in came a slow-walking man, tall, late sixties, a little blotched from the sun and wearing jeans and a blue shirt.

"Git wit the other night?", he asked. "That rained some din't it?"

We said we'd seen the puddles and temporary lakes along the way.

"Need it, that's for sure," he said. "Ain't no more grass. I work down the stockyard and auction place. This county, they had to slaughter 2 300 cattle this last month because there ain't no more to feed 'em on. Grass is short an' there's a worldwide shortage o' feed."

We looked suitably surprised but we felt unsure. How many cows would a cattle area expect to slaughter in a month?

"That must have sent the prices down," I said, trying to sound as though I'd spent my life leaning on farm gates.

"Nope," he laughed. "Din't touch the price at all. There's a worldwide shortage o' beef cos of all these burger bars opening everywhere. The older cows and bulls that ain't of use any more, they go for burgers."

Should you be interested, the local rate is a bit more than a dollar a pound of weight.

"And how long before the farmer can get his stock back to normal?"

Glen's brown, twisted fingers twitched as he did mental sums.

"Three years, prob'ly. Gotta get himself new cows and then a bull and then the calves gotta be viable so, yes, three years. Course, a farmer gets ridda all his stock, he got a heap o' money. But this wonderful guv'ment of ours says either he pays for a lot o' stuff around the farm or he gets a lot more stock or he gotta pay tax on it."

Ness City: the obligatory photo of the skyscraper of the plains
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Breakfast in Ness City
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Glen was a pleasure but it wasn't easy today. We hoped to get to Scott City but we didn't have the legs. So we stopped in Dighton “where children can walk to school,” according to the town web site. That means it's safer now than it was. Because, on 23 May 1928, the Fleagle gang turned up after robbing a bank across in Colorado. Things hadn't gone well and, being desperadoes, they didn't just consult a doctor, they kidnapped one. He turned up to help, kept his mouth shut - and got shot and dumped anyway. What followed was the first case in which a single fingerprint led to a conviction.

The story is that Ralph Fleagle, brother Jake, George Abshier (aka Bill Messick) and Howard “Heavy” Royston piled into the First National bank in Lamar. Edward Lundgren, a one-armed teller, heard one shout: “You sons-a-bitches get them all up!” and “Hands up!”

The bank president, a man called Parrish, opened fired from his office, hitting Royston in the jaw. A fight broke out between robbers and customers, the gang shouting to victims to lie down or put their hands up. In the process, they shot Parrish and killed him. Jaddo, his son, was also killed.

The bungled raid over, the thieves loaded $250 000 in cash, bonds and commercial paper into pillow cases and grabbed Lundgren and a teller named Everett Kesinger as hostages. The sheriff set off after them but the robbers burst his car tyres with rifles.

The gang arrived in Kansas by nightfall. Royston, who'd been shot, needed attention, so the gang tricked the doctor by telling him a tractor had crushed a boy’s foot. Dr Weinenger treated him, whereupon the gang shot him in the head and rolled him into a ravine. They took Kesinger to Liberal, Kansas, and shot him too. He was discovered three weeks later.

It took police 13 months to track the owner of a fingerprint on the windows of Weinenger’s car. Ralph was arrested and confessed. Jake died in a shoot-out in Missouri. Royston was captured at home in California and Abshire was arrested in Grand Junction, Colorado. The trials were sensational and all were sentenced to hang.

And to think it all happened here.

We hoped to stay there but Elaine had had a hospital operation
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Memorial to an Indian battle
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Reminder of chilling times at the court house in Ness City
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Today's ride: 83 km (52 miles)
Total: 3,169 km (1,968 miles)

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