More to the Story...


     This 1992 photo was accompanied in the Salina Journal by a story of how the class motorcycle gang got started in junior high and regrouped for the 35-year class reunion in Salina.  From the left, that's Jerry Cunningham, Len (Butch) Smith, Bob Steele, David Webster, and John Ivan.  I copied the subtitle and reporter's name into this photo because there's a bit more to the story than appeared in print and Len has sent it in for everyone's enjoyment.



     Here is Len's "addendum" to the article.


     Mrs. Steele, Bob's Mom, called the Salina Journal and told the City Desk person that the five of us
Salina High School Class of '57 graduates were riding our motorcycles to our 35th Year Class Reunion. The reporter who was assigned to write the article, Salina Journal staff writer Nichole Rhine, must have been all of 25 years old.

     After the picture was taken, the interview completed, and her notes recorded, we asked her if she would like to go for a ride with us. Being somewhat hesitant to do this, she asked Mr. Beggs (owner of the motorcycle shop), "Do you think I can trust these guys"? Mr. Beggs responded without hesitation, "If you can't trust these guys, you cannot trust anyone," whereupon he produced a helmet for her. As was usually the case, Jerry got the pretty girl. Nichole hiked up her skirt and climbed onto the back of Jerry's Kawasaki. We took her on a short ride up Iron St. to "the Hill", south on Marymount Rd to Crawford, and back to Mr. Beggs' Yamaha Cycleland dealership on South 4th St. We were gone all of 20 to 30 minutes.

     Although our ride around Salina's East End was uneventful and certainly not frightening for her, I don't know whether she ever went on another motorcycle ride. Perhaps she will scratch off "go on a motorcycle ride" from her "bucket list". As is always the case for me, it was a memorable time seeing all my friends from the Class of '57 and my brothers, Jerry, "Bones", "Dolfung", and "Sly". (Wish Lee would have been there.)



          Water, Water -- Here and There


     What's wrong with this list?

          Suez Canal, Egypt

          Panama Canal, Panama

          Eureka Irrigation Canal, Kansas

          Erie Canal, New York State


     Not a thing is wrong with this list.  Just because you never heard of the Eureka Canal in western Kansas doesn't mean it can't be in the list.  I never heard of it either until I found an article about it in a 1952 Salina Journal clipping Ginny saved in her Junior High scrapbook.  Surprised and curious, I found other descriptions and photos of it on web sites run by the Kansas Historical Society.

     A few years ago I wondered where and how the Smoky Hill River started.  I learned that the Smoky Hill, a tributary to the Arkansas, and the two Platte branches started on different sides of Colorado's Landsman Hill.  The little water that gets into the Smoky Hill in Colorado rarely makes it into Kansas before sinking into the ground or evaporating.  However, the Arkansas is nearly always wet because its main branch starts in central Colorado with plenty of water supplied by snow on the Rocky Mountains.  Then tributaries add to it, like the one at Landsman's Hill.  It's a rarity in eastern CO and western KS.

     Starting in 1885 some water from the Arkansas river in Western Kansas was diverted into a man-made canal to irrigate farm land north and west of the river.  For a variety of reasons the canal was never a commercial success and today only traces of it remain.

     Ginny's newspaper clipping had this cartoon (below).  I don't even know when it was drawn or for what purpose.  "Soule" was the promoter Asa T. Soule who organized the financing of the canal building starting in 1883.  (The idea for a canal had been around for about a decade.)  Soule's idea for a canal had been ridiculed as requiring water to run uphill east of the city of Cimmaron, although the route had been carefully and correctly surveyed.  So as water fills the canal Soule is rubbing it into a banker that Soule was right.  Doubting Soule might have been justified because earlier he had gotten rich from selling patent medicine.  His salesmanship of the canal raised a million dollars from selling bonds (especially in London!) to built the canal.  The costs of making the canal was only a quarter of a million, so Soule was wealthy even before any bit of the canal had ever been built.



     By the way, the canal was much larger than the little ditch shown in the cartoon.  A diversion dam near Ingalls, KS (halfway between Dodge City and Garden City, extended 2,000 ft. across the river  At this point the canal was 48 ft. wide and 6 ft. deep.  This photo below shows the Arkansas in the background, the dam on the right edge of the photo, and the start of the canal in the foreground.  (I've crossed the Arkansas many times in Dodge City and these days the Arkansas is nowhere near this width, although the river bed is quite wide (and mostly dry).  Has the river been channalized or is there less water running through it these days?




     During each mile of its winding 96 mile length the water level fell 2 ft.  While moving eastward, it came close to Cimarron, KS and Dodge City.  It then turned northeast.  Near Kinsley, KS (50 mi. NW of Dodge City) the canal emptied into the Little Coon Creek which went on to soon join the Arkansas River at a point about 50 miles from Great Bend.

     The canal was finished in 1885 (dug mostly by off-season farmers for $1.50 a day) and water flowed the full 96 miles.  Then the real problems arose.

     The water in the Arkansas River would fluctuate widely, even leaving the canal dry at times.  And Colorado began to take more water from the Arkansas, further reducing the flow to Ingalls.  To avoid this, a reservoir was dug adjacent to the canal to store water that could be pumped into the canal when needed.



This barge is in the reservoir and water could be pumped to the canal through the long pipe reaching to the right in this photo at a rate of about 30,000 gallons a minute.









     Another major problem was the seepage of canal water into the loose ground.  In one 1.5 mile stretch 35% of the canal water was lost to the ground. 

     In a few years Soule sold out (to English investors), a pattern repeated many times in the future.  The dream of luring new homesteaders onto 50,000 acres of land along the canal never became reality and the canal never became a money-maker for anyone.  (How were the early investors ever paid?  They probably weren't.  Many investors in those years lost money to grand schemes and had to live with their losses.  The Suez canal was an exception but the next French dig, a poorly conceived Panama canal, was a total failure and a huge scandel in France.  This Eureka canal fell after the success and before the failure, probably helping get Englishmen to invest in it.)

     Many of the old and new farmers in the region preferred to practice dry-land farming based on free but scare natural rain rather than pay for water.  (A friend who grew up in Scott City said that dry-land farming out there gives about one good year out of three.  But you can't control when that good year comes along.)

     Windmills of the day couldn't pump enough water from the ground for large-scale irrigation.  Serious ground water is more than 100 ft. below the surface, a depth those old windmills could not reach.  Powerful pumps came alive after WWII and modern irrigation became possible.  Look at satellite photos for places near Dodge City that show massive numbers of circle irrigators using water from deep underground (and getting deeper every year).  So irrigation has been very popular, but not in the way Soule (and others) expected or could achieve.

     I couldn't find the date the canal was disbanded.  The last year it was sold that I could find was 1908.  If you know where to look you can still find sections of the canal, so I read. 


     (Ginny's interest about this canal in 1952 doesn't mean I have to be obsessed with it in 2014, does it?  But next time I drive through Dodge City, there'd be no harm in a little detour to Ingalls, would there?  If you know anything about this canal, please send it in.)









        Just for Fun


     What could be more fun than put together on the same page stories of motorcycles and water?  Probably lots of things, like riding through Salina's flooded streets in 1951, but that the combination is not the subject for this month.  It's just motorcycles and water separately.