Make many footprints, the wind blows hard. One day you will get it right and be dust.
-Paula Graves Adams, December 5, 2010.
At the peak, the Dust Bowl covered a hundred million acres and more than a quarter-million people fled in the 30s.
The picture on the cover of this book was taken on the Cimarron River during roundup on the XIT (Former XI) Ranch.
The effects of the dust bowl were not so severe on the XI and XIT Ranches along the Cimarron River as they were for farmers. The rolling land was untillable and unplowed. It was meant for cattle, not crops.
But still, Mary Anschutz Finney, granddaughter of Carrie Schmoker Anschutz, told me of putting wet towels around the windows to prepare for Black Sunday. Mary Finney was the wife of Tom Finney, the foreman of the XIT for Raymond Adams, Sr., Jr., and John Adams’ manager from 1982-1996. Tom Finney’s father had cattle around Paxico, Kansas. His father lost everything after the market crashes of the 30s. It was after that when Tom came to work for Raymond Adams, Sr.
H.G. Adams (Raymond Adams, Sr.’s father and Raymond was the youngest child of six with two older brothers) bought out William Robert’s interests in the southwest Kansas landholdings in 1923, but died 10 years later in 1933. After this time, his three sons operated lands in Maple Hill, and the two ranches in Southwest Kansas. The youngest brother and his father before his death had formed the Adams Cattle Co. They prospered in being the earliest cornfeeders in Kansas and there is a picture on my website of their concrete silos which were the first to be built in Kansas.
Being the youngest brother, Raymond Adams (Sr.) was given the least desirable land of the holdings of the land in the West upon the death of the father when the brothers divvied up. This was thought to be the east ranch in Oklahoma. But, though he did not live there, Raymond Adams (Sr.) ventured into some early wildcatting for oil on this ranch in Oklahoma. The specific proven field which is still producing is the South Woltz. I lived on this ranch when I was married from 1982-1996.
A tangent for runner. Provides ranch scale concept vis-a-vis suburbia. And illustrates the value of training on dirt roads against high winds without water with a dog that runs very fast.
At the time, one of my rural coping skills was training for a marathon. When I would need to do a 12 mile run, I would loop through the south Woltz so that I would not have to backtrack. The other loop required running 28 miles. So my first actual “marathon” (26.2) was actually padded a bit in distance. It was on the ranch on a day when the wind changed, with no water. But I did run with our faithful German Short Hair pointer, Lapsley. He was given to us by the now Kansas Sec’y of Commerce Pat George. His name is George Lapsley Waugh, taking in two special people as his namesake.
But, my point is that because the pre-marathon training was so grueling, the actual race was a piece of cake. The “first” was that usual deplorable time, maybe like 3:52. In my first real marathon with Kathy Kindred (Avon in KC), my time was 3:36:12. In fact, it was so good that after the following entire summer of training, my second KC Marathon in the fall only beat this time by 14 seconds. I was a little depressed. But my Dean-the-Machine-and-Marine-Father-runner-of-51-marathons told me that shaving off even the least little bit from here on was very difficult. His advice was that speedwork and lengthening my stride were key.
So, this is when I hung up my running shoes to put this time into things that were not quite as isolating and meditative. There was always plenty of time for that regardless.
Raymond Adams, Sr. re-located Tom Finney from where he was working for him in Maple Hill to western Kansas to be his foreman. Tom lived on this ranch and managed many cowboys. It is here where he met the girl up the crick, Mary Anschutz.
The point is, he and his wife, Mary operated the XIT Ranch in western Kansas for more than four decades for the Adams (as if it were their own) in many many ways. They moved from the Oklahoma Ranch upstream to the Kansas Ranch where I later lived in 1968. This was after this west ranch (XI Headquarters) was purchased back from the widow of older brother Alec by Raymond Adams, Sr. and his son Raymond, Jr.
From then on, this west ranch would be known as the XIT Headquarters. XIT was the Adams Cattle Co. brand and that which Raymond Sr. adopted when the original cattle of his father, H.G. Adams, were divided between the brothers and he had to easily change the existing hide brand. Brands are registered by state, and there was not an XIT in Kansas. A single bar creates each letter of the brand to keep it from being muddied, so this only required the additional two strokes.
This was taken when restoring the 1934 adobe home for John Adams and Paula Adams’ home.
John’s Grandfather, Raymond Adams Sr. had these three adobe structures built on the east ranch in Oklahoma in 1934. He secured skilled workers from New Mexico familiar with adobe techniques. They were were brought to this ranch on the Cimarron and used soil and hay from the ranch to mix and bake the adobe bricks on site.
Our home had a stamped “1934” in a rectangle at the gable of the south leg of the L-shaped structure. It was formerly a three-bedroom house, but not organized as one would think. There was a bedroom, living room, later added bathroom, dining room and kitchen for a married couple on the east end. But a solid adobe wall ran along the west side of the kitchen dividing this part of the house from the other two west rooms. These two west rooms shared a later added tiny bathrooms, but each room had it’s own door on the south side which opened off into the covered porch.
You can imagine the context. That is, the open range had closed and ranches had formed with outside capital to provide fencing (invention of barbed wire 1874) and windmills for water in the latter part of the 1800s. Trail drives over, the lifestyle of the transient Cowboy had changed and he had settled down. So, a couple provided some stability as well as services in cooking and possibly cleaning (?) for the two single men. The discussion of historical “Cowboy” as single man and women in this landscape is for another day.
You can envision the time period and the context of blistering heat that so beautifully incorporated the open southern porches in ranch homes. And, the teeny later bathrooms as Rural Electric had only just made it to Wabaunsee County in the Flint Hills in 1946.
An Indoor Plumbing and Rural Electric Tangent.
In fact, the folklore is that John’s Grandmother Jessie was responsible for getting electricity down to the XIT employees in exclaiming something like, “You CANNOT let them live like this! You WILL pay to run these lines in!” The Adams men tend to be conservative in keeping their costs low. And with no immediate or ever return in a ranch domestic structure, these things tend to get tabled until absolutely required (translation: demanded by wife). Don’t get me started on yellow shag carpeting…
So back to this first house, Paula’s dream house and anyone’s at age 23 and actually at any age. XIT East Ranch, Beaver County, Oklahoma.
Dean Graves, architect.
Henry Rempel, contractor.
Tom Finney, project manager until he started picking finishes and was demoted by Raymond Adams who appointed
Paula, project manager and interior designer, pre-architecture school.
It is one of the first of many successful renovation-restoration projects using the Adams-Graves merging of education and design with a sense of place and history that had been associated with the Adams family for over a hundred years.
There is a wonderfully restored adobe bunkhouse for which Dean Graves did plans on this end of the ranch for John’s Grandmother, Jessie Stewart Adams for her use when she would visit. It was beautifully executed and was done right. This small building had to be trenched below to re-pour footings for stabilization. The re-built bunkhouse and concrete pour for the floor incorporated radiant heating so the tile floors were always warm. These were always great experiences for me, because on all of these projects there was not a general contractor. Owner (and his asst. moi) would act to coordinate subs and work.
The house had Pella windows, brick floors set in sand, Wood-mode contemporary oak cabinets for which we chose the horizontal strip “pull” band at top to be Maple, corian counters with integrated bowls, Talavera tile. The walls were textured sheetrock in the one part where the stucco had crumbled beyond repair, but in other areas, there were beautiful soft cracks that would have to be periodically patched. I loved this, it gave it character.
The ceiling was original. It consisted of built up beams to resemble heavy timber, stained a very dark brown that was almost black. Tongue and groove spanned these beams. I left them dark on the recommendation of a decorator who wisely told me to not follow the current trend at that time of making all wood light or painting them white. He explained that the dark would cause the 8’6″ ceilings to recede to give the illusion of greater height.
I really cannot believe that this was my first house, for it was a dream and I was a Princess.
And back to wind, it has been a very dry year. Ranchers in Kansas experienced this in all corners. Many weathered it, continuing to endure, but it was a devastating year for many people.
This is how it works when one is in business with God and it is a part of that wonderful spiritual relationship that some say is trying to “control” the land. Any steward knows much more than the rest of us that the only thing one controls is oneself, one’s work, and one’s management of whatever resources are at hand and gained with whatever hand one is dealt. But that everything is really just under the employ of Him. Agriculturalists do an excellent job that is very hard, that many would not choose to do. But we all get to look and see these landscapes as we drive across beautiful America. I feel gratitude for this.
Here is a picture of the house pens by the XIT Headquarters on the west ranch in Meade County. This was on a windy day about a year and a half ago. Pray for rain.