Baca County History

by the Plainsman Herald

Growing up in Baca County, Episode #1 John Havens.


A couple years ago, Kathy pushed out a series in the Plainsman Herald by John Havens. We are going to replay that on this blog over the next few weeks. Kathy’s intro is as follows:

A Little Bit of History, By Kathy Nutt.

A while back we received a letter and several pages of history from John Havens of Pratt, KS.  He grew up in Vilas area and would like to share his personal stories about growing up in Baca County with us.  So we will have several episodes of his story and many of us can relate to happenings throughout his life story.  Thank you Mr. Havens for sharing your life with us.

Growing up in Baca County, Episode #1, John Havens.

     Having just celebrate my 90th birthday in February 2016, I find myself being overtaken by that old age affliction called REMINISCING.   While my life has been made up of many experiences I enjoy recalling my growing up years in Baca County and in the Vilas Community.

     When I was born my parents, Homer and Easter Havens, lived on a farm five miles South of Vilas.  It was known then as the Harrison place.  However, my Dad was not a farmer even though we lived on a farm.  He and my Uncle Jack Havens, built and operated the HB (Havens’ Brothers) service station in Vilas.  Dad would take the car most days and leave Mother and me on the farm without transportation.  But there were some days when he would ride on of the horses and leave the car for us.  On one occasion Mother took me and we drove out into the pasture to check on the cattle.  She failed to see a buffalo wallow and got stuck in it.  We had to walk back to the house and Dad had to go get the car out with horses that evening.  Even as a small child I can remember there were green pastures, lots of wild flowers, and buffalo wallows.  I wonder how long it has been since these have been seen in Baca County?

     In those early days of growing up we had no electricity, no running water or indoor plumbing.  No telephone or radios.  It’s hard to imagine life now without all of these.  A comedian once said:  “We weren’t poor, we just didn’t have any money.”  But my parents were not alone in being without these conveniences, none of our neighbors had them either.

     One experience I had as a small child has been indelibly etched into my mind.  It was wash day and Mother had two large tubs of water in front of the iron, wood burning cook stove in the kitchen.  Of course we only had four rooms, so our kitchen/dining room was one room.

    The big old wood burning cook stove had a small door on the side by which pieces of wood or coal could be poked into it to keep the fire burning. So on this particular day I thought I would be helpful and stoke the fire.  I would put a stick in then pull it out to watch it burn.  Mother had gone outside to hang clothes on the line.  She stepped back in the door just as I happened to let the burning stick touch the wall paper and a flame started up the wall.  Since the tubs of water were already there she had a bucket handy and doused that flame in a hurry.  But I soon discovered the fire was no longer on the wall but in the seat of my pants.  I got a paddling that day that I have never forgotten.  My mother curbed any inclination I might have had to be an arsonist.  She shut me in the bedroom, and I have a feeling she went off someplace to have a good cry.

     I recall that we had kerosene lamps for light, but I cannot recall how we spent our evenings.  Surely must have been boring without radio or television, but then we had never heard of such things. 

     There are just a few of the things I remember about early life on the farm South of Vilas in the late twenties and early thirties.  

    Another Episode in the life of John Havens in coming weeks.


2 responses to “Growing up in Baca County, Episode #1 John Havens.”

  1. Hi John, I have been reading your posts and enjoying them immensely. In 1960 I worked for Turk Rutherford and lived for a while near where you grew up. The place had a small home with a windmill for water. I think… they called it the old Wallace place. Does that ring a bell? George Eller

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