Sunday, February 20, 2011


There's no doubt about it. These Ryland kids - Bobbie and Florence standing on the ground and Virginia (my mother) sitting on the horse - were farm kids.

Ultimately there were seven kids in the Ryland family. Two were born in Colorado Springs, where my grandfather often went for short periods of times for his health. The rest were born in Caldwell, Kansas, where "home" really was. Caldwell was a real "cow town" -- a place where in the 1870s and 1880s the cattle drives up from Texas heading toward the railroad in Wichita brought those longhorns right through the area on the old Chisolm Trail. But by the time my mom was born, the cattle were gone and farm life was pretty much what was going on day after day.

The picture above comes from an old family album that finally came into my possession. So many of the formal portraits are unidentified, but my grandma took lots of snapshops, stuck them in every available space, and labeled and dated each one. Lucky me. The Haystack picture says "Grandpa 75, Byrd 43, Bobbie 16. Mulvane farm August 14, 1926. 112 degrees." The grandpa noted above was James A. Ryland, my great-grandfather and "gentleman farmer." Byrd was my grandfather, who died before I was born. Bobbie was my mother's oldest brother.

In 1929 my grandmother Jessie divorced my grandpa Byrd. The family was living in Colorado Springs at that time. In the settlement Jessie was given the Mulvane farm in lieu of alimony. As often happens, some families do not talk about unpleasant affairs, and the Ryland family was certainly this way. In spite of all us cousins asking our parents about the "whys" of the divorce, our parents said they didn't know. Of course they knew, but they weren't talking. The most my mother ever said was, "Oh, well, I was a teenager and I was busy with my friends and I know my dad wasn't easy to live with, but I don't know any details." I have copies of the divorce papers that say he was abusive to his wife, and the judge ruled he wasn't fit to have custody of the children.

After the divorce, Jessie packed up the kids and headed for the farm at Mulvane, and it is here that the picture below was taken. Shown are my aunt Marie and my uncles Bert and Hughie. This was also the place where my grandma had chickens that she always told us grandkids about when my sister and I were little girls. Oh, how she loved her chickens.

Shortly after this picture was taken, the farm burned down.
On July 17, 1930 the Mulvane News reported the following:


Fire destroys farm house of Mrs. Jessie Ryland and family who lived four miles east of Mulvane. It was first noticed about 9 o’clock this morning. The fire had progressed so far when discovered that it was impossible for Mrs. Ryland to put it out with just the aid of her children, and when neighbors came in response to her phone call all that could be saved was the furniture and other articles from the two front rooms where the flames had not made entry impossible.

Mrs. Ryland’s home was a nice, seven-room house and was one of the well-kept, better-appearing homes of the country east of Mulvane. Mrs. Ryland was out caring for her chickens and after having been away from the house for some time she noticed black smoke coming from the kitchen. She ran to the house and attempted to spread the alarm by giving a line call on the rural telephone line. However, the flames and smoke prevented her from staying at the telephone only long enough to say, “My house is afire” after ringing. Neighbors who heard that brief statement had to find out for themselves whose house it was that was burning. W. H. Ferguson who lives a half mile east of the Ryland home first discovered the location of the fire and telephoned to other neighbors to help.

A brisk southwest breeze carried burning embers to the other buildings on the place but these were saved. The many dense cedar trees near the house were thought to be an aid to holding the fire from spreading to the other buildings.

Contents of the living room and a front bedroom were all that were saved of the family’s household goods and all clothing except that worn by the family at the time of the fire were destroyed. The loss was estimated at $3,000. This was of course partially covered by insurance.

The three oldest children (Bob, Florence and Virginia) were out on their own prior to the family moving back to Kansas. My mother, after graduating from high school in 1928, had taken a job with a local portrait studio and was learning how to retouch and color photographs. The picture below was taken of her by the studio so she could practice her skills. It is retouched, and mother always kept it because she was the only one who ever knew what the original looked like! All she told us kids was that she loved her work and did a good job!

After the fire, my grandma decided to come to California, where her son Bob had already moved. This was in 1930 during the depression and he told her jobs were plentiful in Los Angeles. My mother was needed to help grandma with the move, so mother left Colorado for California. There is a possibility that if the family had stayed in Kansas I might have been a farm girl too.

While I am actually pleased that we became California kids instead of farm kids, I have always had it in my heart to have and raise a fat hen. It's obviously not going to happen in my lifetime, Jerry says, but I suspect that desire comes from my grandma and her chicken stories.


marciamayo said...

Bobby, what a great story about your family. I just love old pictures and you have so much information to add to them.

Dee said...

What a blessing your grandma liked to save and date pictures. I truly enjoy your journaling and looking at the photo's of your family. I am glad no one was injured when your grandmas home burned down.