14 John L.

John L. Bennett, Growing up and Leaving the Farm

My Turn - John Bennett

Now you get to hear my personal story and history. Iím the one responsible for this web site. Iím John Bennett, youngest son of Curtis and Aleen Bennett. I was born on my Great Grandparents farm North of Union Star Missouri, in Dekalb County. I lived there about 2 years, and only recall a tornado that went "over" the house, and a chicken that got my bluff! We then moved to a farm (Gentry county) on the East side of my Grandfather Andrew Bennettís farm (Andrew County) where Dad farmed for over 30 years. Most vivid memories of this, what I call my home place, include bringing a puppy home (Spot), riding our pony (Foxie), or was it Foxy? Spot was a good herding dog, though he was just a Heintz 57 variety, his specialty was herding chickens, and putting them to bed at night. Foxy, as my brother has said, was smarter than the average boy. We were great pals, and I still say we could talk to each other. Certain things he didnít like, and would not do, but most of the time he was as curious as I as to what new ideas we could come up with. My dad had said you canít teach an old horse new tricks, but when Foxy was about 18 years old, I found a set of harness and an old buggy in a shed at my grandfather Bennettís place. Granddad said Iíd never know if I didnít try to train Foxie to the buggy. Starting with a rope pulling a wagon, with me behind, or in the wagon, we progressed to where we (Foxy and I) could get the harness on, hook to the buggy and just go whizziní along! Iím sure Foxy had as much fun as I did with that buggy. Incidentally, Foxie died while I was in college. Dad said he thought old Foxie died from being lonely. He was about 23 years old at the time.

I recall many hours harrowing, then disking, plowing, haying, and doing all those other tractor related things on our A Farmall, and granddads B John Deere. Wilton raised hogs, and I raised sheep. Had a flock of about 80 at one time. We sold the wool and lambs each year. Wilton and I were also provided 10-20 acres of land which we could plant and harvest field crops of our choice, such as corn, wheat, or hay. It was from these ventures that he and I paid for our college degrees.

I went to Prairie Flower grade school. It was about 3 miles, mostly dirt roads. To get there I had my choice of walking, bicycle, or Foxie. Foxie was the best choice, but was recalcitrant (with me) about going over bridges. Heíd balk at most of them. My school teacher, Lorene Standlea told me not too many years ago that all the neighbors and she would watch me trying to get to school on Foxie. She said he never allowed me to be late for school, but neither did we get there with more than 5 minutes to spare either! Sometimes he would untie himself at school and go home, making me walk. I went to High School at King City. Fortunately by then the roads had been graveled and I rode the school bus. I had been very active in 4-H, and then FFA in High School. I had taken piano lessons starting about 9 years old, and think I practiced mostly because my mother had put me "off limits" to Wilton while I was practicing. Some days I practiced 4 hours. Back to high school. The band teacher turned out to be my first piano teacher, Betty Jo Howitt. I played the Baritone horn in the band. Though I was physically probably a pretty good prospect for football, I couldnít do that and do my chores as well. Wilton, 3 years ahead of me was liked quite well by some of the teachers, so I had the opportunity to ride his coat tails, which was fortunate for me, especially in English, which I did not like, did not understand, and refused to learn. I had to take a minimum of 3 years of English. Pearl Yates (we called her Pearly Gates) was the English teacher. She taught my grandfather, so you know about how old she was. She had a countenance of an angry hog, but was a little lady. She was known for generations and miles around as being a strict disciplinarian. Once on her bad side, you could just hope heaven was a lot better than the rest of your high school days were going to be. In addition to English she directed the Junior and Senior plays, which were her favorite activities. Wilton had been in plays, so I volunteered to be in plays, therefore I just knew I could do no wrong in her English classes. One day in English class she finally ask me a question, the answer to which I knew (it had been a long time coming), so I raised my hand, she, finally relieved that I could answer something, called on me. The questions was, "What are the three personal pronouns?" My answer was a resounding and rapid recitation of "He She It"!( Say that out loud rapidly!) The hush in the room lasted for about a minute. I knew Iíd done wrong, though unintentionally, and the rest of the class couldnít help but start to laugh, but felt sorry for me. Suddenly MS Yates broke into a smile, then a laugh slapping round of real laughter. I was off the hook! I was never called upon again in English, but I made straight Aís after that! My last two years of high school must have been one outside activity after another, as did participate in track throwing discuss, judged milk products at the contests in FFA, played in the marching band contests, participated in the annual contests with piano and Baritone horn solos, sang as part of a boys quarter, was in both Junior and Senior plays, and a play that went all the way to "State", and was about the only boy to go to contests for speed typing. Having done well in High School I had a music scholarship, a 4-H scholarship, a scholarship from Sears, and one from the University of Missouri. I was able to use three of them at the University of Missouri. I majored in Agriculture at the University, and following my Sophomore year married my high school sweet heart, Helen Gossett. I worked much of the time while in college, some at a chicken farm, but mostly doing research for the Rural Sociology Department. Rex Campbell, now "Doctor", and I teamed up. Together we published an Agricultural pamphlet, and I ended up teaching a class for him my senior year, though he was listed as the teacher. I thought Iíd become a County Extension Agent, like my brother ahead of me, but here our paths changed.

Apparently I did well in ROTC in college, so graduated as a Distinguished Graduate that led to several years as an Artillery Officer on active duty. During those years I jumped out of airplanes 30 times, served in Korea, Vietnam and Germany. Commanded artillery firing batteries from 105 Milimeter Howitzers to Pershing missiles. I was mostly in operations and training, though I did work as an Inspector General on one assignment. In addition to the countries listed, we lived in Kentucky (2 times), Oklahoma (3 times), Texas (2 times), Colorado and Louisiana. After active duty, I was an Orkin Branch Manager for awhile, sold life insurance in Oklahoma, as well as automotive products in Oklahoma and Arkansas. An opportunity came up for me to get into Combat Developments for the Army as a civilian at Fort Leavenworth, KS in 1982. I finished up a combined army and civilian career of over 30 years in 1997. From there I started a lawn business, which was expanding rapidly, but arthritis was beginning to set in on my back and hips. As a favor to a close friend, became a manager of several apartment complexes for him. What I thought would be just a few weeks or months ended up being about 2 years, so I retired from that and my lawn business in the summer of 1999. Now Iím starting to work with genealogy, and the Lansing Kansas Museum. Helen and I took square dancing lessons about 8 years ago, and weíve been officers in the local club several years. Incidentally since coming to Lansing I have been on the city planning commission, on the city council about 10 years, I was a member of the local barber shop chorus, a member of the Lions club, and was a founder, and now chairman our local PRIDE organization, which is a community betterment program. Iíve had a large garden, and hope to continue that to some degree. I also am the proud owner of a vintage 1954 Ford tractor!

Since sometime around 2002 I have volunteered along with another lady to be an Instructor for a workshop at the Kansas City Community College in Leavenworth for Senior Citizens desiring to learn, or learn more about how to use a computer. I don't claim to be an expert, but this keeps me constantly learning by teaching. In 2005 I joined the ranks of the HAM (Amateur Radio) operators.

(See stories of Wilton and Curtis Bennett for more stories of the farm).


I provided this narrative to my Niece, Melinda Bennett at her request in 1999

One my favorite memories is about my father, J. C. (Joseph Curtis) Bennett.

I owned a 1966 Pontiac in college. Amazingly it would get me over 20 miles per gallon the way I drove it, which was rather fast (enough said). One time my dad drove it for awhile from King City to Columbia, MO., where I was going to school. I was riding with him, and he drove sometimes almost 40 mph! Well he got about 8 miles per gallon. For some reason the faster one drove that car, the better the mileage. I guess that car impressed dad, as when I graduated from college I had enough money to purchase a new Ford station wagon from JC Pettijohn, in King City, and traded the Pontiac in. When I got to my parents dad asked what I did with the Pontiac, which I told him Iíd traded it at Pettijohnís. He immediately phoned Pettijohns and said heíd be there in 30minutes to get and trade in his old(er) Nash (about a 53 model). The story doesnít end there. I came back to visit, maybe a year later, and found the Pontiac in good condition, except for the steering which was horribly loose. I couldnít keep it on the highway, so I took it to Pettijohnís and had them align it. Not very long after that I was driving it again, and it once again drove horribly, so I called Pettijohns and asked "why the front end job didnít hold up"? Their response "Oh, your dad didnít like it aligned, so he had us put it back the way it was. You see he wants that front end loose so itíll follow the ruts in the dirt and gravel roads. He doesnít drive it much on the highway."

Both my mother and father were people who read a lot. We had a great library at home. Our evenings consisted of reading books as we didnít even have a radio until I was 10 years old or so. We got electricity and a gravel road the same year - 1949, when I was 9 years old. Mother passed away in about 1972. My brother Wilton and I thought we should get dad a TV set to help him pass the time. We did, and dad said to put it in the "sitting room" (rather formal front room where couches that were seldom used were kept along with house plants that were cared for, but seldom seen). As far as either Wilton or I could ever tell, dad never turned the TV on himself, though heíd watch it a bit if we were there and turned it on.

My grand parents Smith (Orville and Edna) lived on a farm by the river just South of Rosendale MO. Granddad chewed tobacco, but never admitted it to Grandma. He kept his "chew" in the barn, and only while he was doing the chores. I recall the 102 river overflowing and just about cutting off our access to the milk barn. Granddad broke a leg felling a tree in about 1950, so Wilton went to stay with them to do the chores, etc., and he attended Rosendale school for at least one semester. Grandma and Granddad frequently had the darndest arguments. I donít remember over what, but I do remember it was more to antagonize the other more than anything else. I think it was their form of entertainment. Grandma grew some of the best African violets in the country and took them to the annual flower show in Rosendale. Kind of like us going to the American Royal these days!

I donít recall any of my great grandparents. I recall some Tolles. Thatís on my Grandmother Smithís side. Seems like maybe it was her mother I recall, but surely it was more a sister (???). Anyway this old lady lived with 2 other old maids (maybe her sisters) in Rosendale. I recall visiting them a couple of times, but was too small to understand who they really were. All three were very small individuals, yet my grandmother was probably 5í7" and weighed a good 175 pounds.

On the Bennett side for Grandparents, again I donít remember any Great grandparents of Bennett lineage, and canít say I recall the Inglisí either, though my father rented a farm from them from the time I was born until I was about 2 or 3 years old. They must have passed away about the time we moved to the farm just East of my Grandfather, Andrew Bennett on the Andrew/Gentry county line. I do recall a tornado going by the house, and a rooster that (I thought) attacked me while we were at the Englis farm (that was about 6 miles South of the Bennett homestead, and just North of Union Star).

Grandmother Bennett wore her hair in a "bob", and was always frail when I new her. Though deeply religious, I never knew either of them to attend Star Chapel, yet I know there were significant gifts made to the church from them. In her last years, Grandma Bennett had low blood pressure. The doctor prescribed a glass of red Mogan David wine each evening. We all wondered how sheíd take to that, since they were so against drinking. Well, if it was prescribed it must be good appeared to be her slogan. And if one was good, maybe two would be better! (Donít think she ever got drunk, but she did tone down the anti-alcohol talk!). When Granddad was 92-93 years old I was present when Darrel Guest was putting in a pond West of the Bennett house. This was the only pond Granddad ever allowed on his place, since he had the best water well within 30 miles. Darrel and some of the other younger men were complaining about how difficult it was to set fence posts around that pond, since it was so dry. Granddad looked up, said" "Hmmph" give me that spade, and Iíll show you how to dig a post hole"! Which they did, and he didÖin about 5 minutes! Then sat down without breaking a sweat. The men looked at him in awe, as it was taking them at least 30 minutes to dig a hole! Granddad called my dad one day when he was about 94 or 95 and suggested that maybe he should go to the nursing home in King City, so folks wouldnít worry about him in the winter. Dad agreed, and they both sold their farms to Dean McCrea who has been the King City grocer for years. Shortly after Granddad moved to the nursing home, my dad moved to Kansas City to be nearer a lady heíd met on a tour to Europe a few years before. They later were married, which solved two loneliness problems. Granddad always maintained the King City Manor was the finest place for him. He called bingo for them each week up until a week or so before he died at the age of almost 105 years old. He was born in 1882, before the electric light bulb was invented!

And while I have the last opportunity, thereís the story of Wilton and I having a disagreement about something, which I donít remember, but he "shot" me in the finger with a BB gun! Now I understand thereís other versions of that story that have gone around, but right now Iíve got the last say!

I was always on the short end of fights with Wilton, at least until I was 15, and for reasons that are another story, I engaged in one "golden glove" match in Bethany MO. While I technically lost the fight( according to the rules), my opponent, and I guess the crowd, said I really beat him to a pulp in our 3 three minute rounds. I found out the guy I fought was the "tough guy" of Bethany. Thereafter no one in King City wanted to take me on. Back to Wilton. After that fight one night, Wilton was egging me on at the supper table, so I invited him to go outside to finish it. I told him, that If I could do as well as I did with that "thug" from Bethany, that he shouldnít be too much trouble. Well, the whole family followed Wilton and I to the front lawn, at which time Wilton smiled and said "Iím not going to fight you. Iíve known you could beat me for a long time, but you didnít know it until now!" Dad and mother just laughed, as I guess they knew it too. For the record, by that time I was at least an inch taller, and out weighed him by 30-40 pounds. Iíd grown up and hadnít noticed, and Wilton was smart enough to make me realize it.