Rod Beemer

(Frank) Today we’re honored and well, we have the great pleasure to have 
with us a Kansas author, historian and speaker named Rod Beemer and today, 
we’re going to be talking about several really great things, one about the 
weather in Kansas, everybody talks about the weather and about George 
Armstrong Custer. Come on back. 
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(Frank) As you know, around Kansas is about people, places and things in 
Kansas and today we have people. We are pleased to have with us 
a Kansas author, Rod Beemer. Rod, welcome to the show. (Male) 
Thank you. (Frank) Now I’m gonna throw a real curve at you. 
Beemer is a name that I’m familiar with; I think you are too, Brace 
Beemer was the actor in the play The Lone Ranger. Are you related in 
anyway? (Male) No, but I wish I was. He was one of my heroes growing up.     
(Frank) And the reason I ask that silly question is because Mr. Beemer 
writes about the west and today, we’re going to talk about a book that he 
wrote some years ago, but it’s about the, what do we say here? The 
deadliest woman in the west. Tell us about this book. (Male) Well it’s not 
about my wife or your wife and I’ve had women get really upset about that. 
They thought it was, you know, derogatory, but it came about at the coffee 
group that I attended for years and years and still do. We’ve lost some 
members, but how many whites were killed by Indians in the settlement in 
the west and it varied greatly in their estimation and I went on my merry 
way and got to thinking, You know that wasn’t the biggest threat to the 
settlers coming into settle the prairies and plains. It was actually Mother 
Nature, so I began to collect information and do research on that and then 
they ended up in the book. (Frank) Great. Well it says it’s the weather and 
the prairie between 1800 and 1900. (Male) Yes. (Frank) Okay, so I mean, are 
there particular stories or in other words, what is the breakdown of that, 
Rod? (Male) Well the reason, of course, the settlement, the primary 
settlement of the west happened in the 19th century, but it was kind of 
back in 1811 and twelve was the New Madrid Earthquake. That’s the 
strongest earthquake we’ve had in North America and it happened over on the 
Mississippi River, and it woke up President Madison and Dolly in the 
White House. It was strong enough to be felt in the Rocky Mountains. 
It was felt in Canada. It was felt in the Gulf of Mexico. We didn’t have 
seismographs at that time, but they have studied that and with the possible 
exception of the earthquake in Alaska in the 80’s, it’s the strongest earthquake 
we’ve had in the United States that we know of, that we’ve kept records of. 
(Frank) Now you alluded to deaths during the 1800’s during the settlement 
of the west, so tell us a little bit more then about the weather and how 
many people it killed. (Male) Well if you’re taking about our deadliest, 
if you’re talking body counts, the Galveston Hurricane that occurred in 1900  
was the deadliest natural disaster that we have record of. Now what 
happened, you know, 2000 years ago, we don’t know, but the Governor of 
Texas estimated that there were probably around fifteen thousand deaths 
from the Galveston Hurricane. (Frank) Wow. When we come back, we’re gonna 
talk about his favorite character, General George Armstrong Custer.
(Frank) Today, we’re speaking with Rod Beemer, who is an author, lecturer, 
historian and you’re a native of Bennington, Kansas, is that correct? 
(Male) Not really. I’m a native of Abilene. I grew up about nine miles 
south of Abilene on a grain and livestock farm there. (Frank) Okay, but now 
you live in Bennington. (Male) I live in Bennington now. (Frank) Okay, I 
stand corrected. Okay, before we went to break, we talked about General 
George Armstrong Custer and he spent a lot of time in Kansas and you know a 
bit about that. Now we all know about the Little Big Horn, but let’s hear 
some other things about General George when he was in Kansas. (Male) Yeah. 
He spent quite a bit of time in Kansas. He owned property here in Topeka, 
had a house in Topeka here and he had a house or some property down around 
Council Grove. We don’t think he spent very much time at either location, 
but he did own those properties. He spent, of course, time at Fort Riley 
and Forth Leavenworth and then campaigned in the west during the 1860’s. 
The Seventh Calvary was brought online, so to speak, in 1868 and it’s 
stationed at Fort Riley and because of the Indian troubles west of Fort 
Riley, the Seventh was pressed into service almost immediately and then he 
went on the Hancock campaign. Was his first introduction to Plains Indian 
warfare, which didn’t work out too well for him and I did an article that 
was published in the Chronicles of Oklahoma, but it was December last year 
on what I thought was his finest hour when we went down into the Texas 
Panhandle and rescued two women that were captured here in Kansas. One of 
them around Delphos and one of them up around Concordia and they were 
captured, traded amongst the tribes, ended up down on  the Texas
Panhandle and Custer rescued them without firing a shot and I think 
that was Custer’s finest hour. He was kind of like Willie Nelson. Willie 
Nelson, one of his quotes was he said, I go from brilliant to stupid rather 
quickly and nothing in between, and that’s kind of where Custer was. You 
know he was not the idiot that a lot of people portray him as. He was not 
as great as a lot of people portray him. He was a human being with a lot of 
faults and a lot of good qualities. (Frank) And a lot of good press 
coverage. (Male) A tremendous amount of press coverage and he was a genuine 
hero in the Civil War. You can’t take that away from him. He did quite 
well. He didn’t do as good on the western campaigns. Actually he was only 
involved in four Indian campaigns where he actually met Indians and 
exchanged any kind of hostilities with them. I have a book finished. If 
anybody wants to publish a book on Custer, I have one finished. I haven’t 
found a home for it yet, but I have accounted for every almost day of his 
life out here in the west and I can tell you where he was and when he was 
there and how much time he spent in the west. He actually didn’t spend a 
lot of time here. He loved New York City. He loved to be anywhere but out 
here it seemed like, although he said many times how much he loved the west 
and his wife Libby, they just loved the west, but as soon as he was gone, 
she moved to New York City and never came west again, so I’m not down on 
the Custer’s, I’m just trying here are the facts. (Frank) When we come 
back, I’m gonna ask you a question about Custer’s wife, so we’ll be back.
(Frank) We’re back with Rod Beemer, historian, author and speaker and, of 
course, today, we’re talking about, well a couple of things, the weather on 
the plains and the 1800’s through 1900 and about George Armstrong Custer. 
Now before we went to the break, you had mentioned something and that is 
that he wasn’t at home much and most of the western heroes as we know them 
weren’t home much and it was an interesting thing. I may be planning another 
book with you. Oh, what did their wives do while they were gone?      
(Male) Well they basically tried some of the army wives tried to follow 
their husbands. Some of them did not. There were not accommodations when 
they were in the Seventh and he was sent to the southern states to help after the 
Civil War to maintain peace down there. They were basically part of a peace 
force and, of course, Libby, George’s wife, went with him down there and 
from there, they were sent to Fort Abraham Lincoln,  which actually was 
Fort Rice and then Abraham Lincoln, but she followed him all the way, rode 
horseback, rode those steamboats. She was a very devoted wife, but when 
they got to Fort Rice, there were not any accommodations for any of the 
wives and, so, they had to go back home and home for Libby was Monroe,  
Michigan. That’s where she had grown up. Her parents were gone and she got 
the family home there and that was kind of a home for them, but of course, 
when they were on campaigns, she would spend time out around Fort  
Hays, lived in tents out there and she would follow him wherever she could. 
(Frank) Sounds like an interesting life. (Male) And a little note that 
maybe all Custer people would know this, but when he was on campaign in 
Indian country, he had ordered his staff that if they should be attacked by 
Indians and it was going badly, that they were to shoot his wife.     
(Frank) Okay. (Male) Well, and save the last bullet for yourself and, you 
know, you can take either side of the Indian-soldier controversy, Indian-
white and there were atrocities on both sides, but for a white woman to get 
captured by the Indians during that warfare time, it really wasn’t a good 
picture in a lot of cases, so just go ahead and shoot them and that was an 
order he had given his officers. (Frank) Now another question too, did 
Custer really have a band follow him into each of the campaigns?      
(Male) Yes. He did have a band with him. When he went down on a winter 
campaign of 1868, he had a band go with him and when they went to attack 
Black Kettle’s Village, it was probably subzero if I remember right, and 
they were to strike up the band. Well the instruments froze up, so they got 
a few notes out and then the instruments froze up, but yes, he loved that 
band. Carry On was his favorite song that they played, his marching battle 
song, but he did have a band that walked with him almost every place. 
(Frank) We’ll be back. 
(Frank) We’re back and again, we are speaking with author, historian, 
speaker and all around, interesting guy, Rod Beemer, who is a Kansan and 
has a great deal of interest in, of course, General George Armstrong 
Custer, weather on the plains and also you’ve done a lot of stories, 
articles and I believe books about farm equipment.   (Male) Well it’s 
kind of a little subculture that people may not be aware of yet, although 
it’s worldwide actually. I grew up on a farm south of Abilene and when 
my photographer friend had a chance to do some books on tractor collecting 
but he didn’t like to do the research, I like to research and do the writing, 
so we teamed up, but I thought, Okay, I grew up on a farm and I drove, a 
John Deere tractor, Case tractors and I know about tractors. Well I didn’t know 
about tractor collecting, that’s for sure and these people have collected the old 
tractors and some of them have collections that are in excess of a million 
dollars and they haul them all over the world. They’ve gone to Russia to 
buy them and bring them back. A friend that I interviewed was buying 
tractors in France, bringing them back because they had some very rare 
tractors over there, so when you get to talking tractor collecting, the 
best thing you can do, unless you’re an expert, is just sit and listen, I 
mean, because you’ll get over your head in a big hurry and, so, I did a lot 
of sitting and listening to these people who had, well there was a 
gentleman here in Topeka that had one of the finest John Deere collections 
that I ever saw and I’ve seen we were from the Dakotas down to a lot of 
collections and he had a fine collection and he could tell you about 
everyone. They were all restored, every decal was exactly where it should 
be and they’d take them apart and put them back together. (Frank) Well now 
if somebody wanted to obtain, wanted to buy some of your books and stories, 
how might they do that? (Male) Well you could go to a website, or you could go to Amazon and I think most of the books 
are still available on Amazon. Some of them have kind of gotten to where 
they’re a little pricey for used because there’s just not too much you can 
find new about these tractors. They have just been researched. They go back 
to the archives and here is a high crop that only six of them were made, 
where were they shipped? And that’s the way the collectors do it and then 
they will rundown and try to find them because they’re valuable.      
(Frank) Okay. Now another question too is you’re working on a book at the 
current time, is it gonna be a novel, non-fiction? (Male) Well you 
mentioned the novel, that’s an e-book on Amazon. I have another novel 
that’s ready to go as soon as we can get it up as an e-book and right now, 
I’m researching a book on Kansas bank robberies and hopefully will get that 
done and get it out there. (Frank) Great, all right. Well again, thank you, Mr. 
Beemer, and it’s been an honor and a pleasure and we’ll have you back on 
again when your next book comes out. (Male) I hope that’s a promise.  
(Frank) Okay, all right and that’s it for today on Around Kansas. 
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