Jedediah Smith, Doc Brinkley

(Frank) Today Around Kansas starts with a story about explorer Jedediah Smith; and then learn about the goat gland doctor, Doc Brinkley. Next enjoy a poem titled “Barns are Beautiful” from our Poet Lariat, Ron Wilson and we’ll end with Hugh Cameron, The Hermit, who at one time lived in a tree near Lawrence.Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

(Frank) Well, it’s Wednesday again, early in the morning for those of you watching on television. (Deb) In real life. For those of you watching in real life yes, it is quite early in the morning. It is still February. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) Deep into 2016, there was no way to get around it was there? (Frank) Anyway, I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) And this is Around Kansas. (Deb) We’re going to talk about some Kansas characters this morning. And our history has blessed us with a lot of them. And a couple of them that we’re going to start with today are Heather Newell and Karla Jennings from our very own office, who were recognized recently with ADDY Awards and Frank that was a really big deal, wasn’t it? (Frank) Yes, both of them received the Silver Medal Award from the American Advertising Federation in Topeka commonly known as Topeka Ad Club. It really is a big deal because it is an award of lifetime achievement in the advertising industry and in community service. Both of them, of course, have done many, many things to accomplish all of that. (Deb) It’s a tough business , as you and I well know, it’s a tough business and it…people don’t get credit a lot of times for all the hard work that it takes. And I’m out in the field with Heather a lot of times and I know people really appreciate all the hard work she puts in to covering ag events all over the state and they may not see Karla that often, because she’s back in the office putting all that together. But she’s a veteran of a lot of other organizations and a lot of community service projects and we’re just real proud of both of them. (Frank) Yes we are. (Deb) Very proud to be associated with them. (Frank) Yes, yes, Silver Medal Award, AAFT, American Advertising Federation Topeka. (Deb) Silver Medal and they didn’t have to run a marathon to do it. What a great country. (Frank) Yea. (Deb) Well, we’ve got some other characters coming up today. (Frank) Hmm. (Deb) We’re going to talk about the goat gland doctor. (Frank) Doc Brinkley. (Deb) Doc Brinkley. You can’t make this stuff up. And then we’re going to talk about the new movie “Revenant” has got people talking about mountain men. And Kansas has some really fascinating characters and one of them was Jedediah Smith that we’re going to talk about him. And one that you may not have heard of, Hugh Cameron. And Hugh Cameron was called the Kansas Hermit. And I had seen his name mentioned in some Civil War stuff. And then as I was researching the Charles Curtis project I came across more and more articles about him so, that’s another one, you can’t make him up. You won’t believe it. You just won’t believe it. (Frank) Well, you know I worked for Alf Landon for a number of years and he was the 1936 presidential nominee, but before that he was the Governor of Kansas, and he ran against well, Doc Brinkley ran against him. And it was an interesting campaign. And I got to know Alf when I worked with him and we used to sit and talk politics and he told me about that election. And there were things that I just can’t tell you. (Deb) We’ll wheedle it out of him by the time we get back. Stay with us.

(Frank) OK, we’re back. Have you seen the movie “Revenant?” (Deb) No. (Frank) No, I haven’t either. (Deb) I feel so badly because all my history nerd friends have seen it. They’ve argued about it. It’s…Leonardo DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, he is from the mountain man era. So that’s pre-Civil War, pre-territorial period. And what would become Kansas of course is very prominent in that era. My friends have mixed reviews and I can’t wait to see the movie. I just haven’t had time, honestly. But Hugh Glass really met the bear in South Dakota on the high prairie, not in the mountains, and it was the summertime, not the winter and so that got me thinking about Jedediah Smith. And Frank, you and I of course remember very well Jeremiah Johnson. (Frank) Oh ya, one of my favorite movies. (Deb) Well that’s based on the life of Jedediah Smith, who actually, incredibly was a famous mountain man of the time, a contemporary of Hugh Glass. He died probably somewhere in the vicinity of Dodge City, somewhere in southwestern Kansas is where Jedediah Smith died. And so probably not as handsome as Robert Redford, you know. It’s a good plan. Who’s gonna play you in your life story? You get Leonardo DiCaprio or Robert Redford. That’s going to be good for posterity you know, but he probably wasn’t quite that cute. But still a really fascinating figure. (Frank) Yea that was an incredible time. I mean, if you think about it, you’re out in the middle of nowhere and you’re on your own. Even if you’re with a group of other mountain men or whatever. The thing is you don’t go to the 7-Eleven or the Kwik Shop. I mean, you are on your own. And if you read some of these histories and you kind of let your imagination go and you think, this is wide open spaces out here, there isn’t a town every 20 miles, it gets rather overwhelming. (Deb) They take self reliance to a ridiculous degree, don’t they? I mean really. Let’s take a look at the real life of Jedediah Smith. Okay, so maybe Robert Redford’s movie Jeremiah Johnson was NOT based on the life of Jedediah Smith, but on the equally colorful life of John “liver-eating” Johnson who came along a few years later. No, Jedediah Smith may be known to modern moviegoers for Night at the Museum’s character, the cowboy Jedediah. No matter. His real life exploits were beyond any filmmaker’s imagination. And, like our friend Hugh Glass in the new movie the Revenant, Smith did survive a bear attack and grew his hair long to cover the scar. Smith’s blazing of the South Pass through the Rockies would have secured his claim as one of the great explorers of the American West, but during the following decade, Smith also explored the Great Salt Lake, the Colorado Plateau, and led the first expedition to cross the Southwest to California, all before he was 30 years old. Having lived through dozens of narrow escapes on his intrepid journeys, Smith decided to retire from his dangerous trade in 1830 and enter the mercantile business. Ironically, being a trader proved more deadly than exploring: while leading a trading caravan along the Santa Fe Trail in 1831, Smith was killed by Comanche Indians near the Cimarron River in southwestern Kansas. He was 32 years old.

(Deb) Well one of the reasons that we got to thinking about the incredible life of Doc Brinkley, and again another Robert Redford connection, he’s just on my mind today, the recent Sundance Film Festival, which is another really big deal. Robert Redford I guess, started Sundance, didn’t he? So, one of the films that was being screened is the story of Doc Brinkley. And it is fittingly called “Nuts.” And our friend from Topeka, Jim Reardon was involved with that. I think he actually appears in the film. He had written a project, I guess a book manuscript on Brinkley years ago and that didn’t get published, but articles were published from it. And then he was contacted by a film maker in New York City and so that’s how the story just kind of mushroomed. And that’s how the movie “Nuts” got made. (Frank) Yea, Doc Brinkley really was something else. And you know he understood the power of radio early on. And of course he had a radio station in Kansas. And that was what really advertised a lot of what he did. And later on he lost that radio station, but then of course went to Mexico and right across the border and started XERF. And those of you that are Wolfman Jack fans know that’s where Wolfman Jack made his fame. Anyway XERF was like a million watts. Even fences in Texas were broadcasting the radio station. (Deb) You can’t make this up. (Frank) No, no. But the guy got away with it. And he became fabulously wealthy. (Deb) And very well known. Incredibly well known. But yea, he basically transforms media marketing, politics, and I don’t know if I’m giving anything away or not, but he kinda creates that whole… (Frank) Yea. (Deb) I don’t know if people were really thinking about it. Of course, radio was in its infancy then too. (Frank) Yes. In later years it’s one of the reasons Alf Landon decided to start buying radio stations. (Deb) Lasting impact. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) Take a look at the incredible life of Doc Brinkley. (Frank) John Brinkley took the shortcut to becoming a doctor and bought his medical degree from a diploma mill. When his controversial practice of transplanting goat glands into people gained notoriety, he was not allowed to practice medicine in Kansas. Not easily dissuaded, Brinkley launched a bid to become the Governor of Kansas, a political position that would enable him to appoint his own members to the medical board and thus regain his right to practice medicine in the state. He effectively used his radio station, KFKB, to help his campaign. Brinkley promised free textbooks, lower taxes, the usual campaign buzzwords. He appealed to the immigrant vote by putting German and Swedish-speaking people on the air at KFKB. He enlisted a pilot with his own plane to deliver Brinkley in grand style at his campaign rallies. Brinkley proved adept at grabbing publicity and reportedly sent goat to a news writer who challenged his credentials. Running as a write-in Independent, Brinkley lost the governor’s race to Harry Woodring, becoming a colorful footnote in the politics of Kansas.

(Ron) There is a group called the Kansas Barn Alliance, which promotes and preserves barns as a vital part of the rural lifestyle of Kansas. This poem is entitled “Barns are Beautiful”. I think a barn is a beautiful thing, surrounded by grass in the early spring. It’s a place of shade to store some hay, with stanchions for milking cows from bygone day. Or perhaps a tack room or stalls of course, where you can stable a cow or horse. Or maybe its converted to some modern use, which a rural landowner will come to choose. It may have a gable or gambrel roof to maintain, topped off by a cupola or a weather vane. It may be built of stone or old wood, but it brings back memories when times were good. It’s a symbol of our nation’s rural legacy. A part of our landscape for all to see. And when you’ve worked hard on the range and you’re all in, just waitin’ for the work day to come to an end, it’s sweet to hear those words when the boss says, “Oh, darn. I guess it’s quittin’ time. Let’s go to the barn.” Happy Trails.

(Deb) Welcome back. Well that was fascinating Frank. (Frank) Yea, wasn’t it? (Deb) Wasn’t it? It was nuts. Nuts R Us. Maybe that could be the other thing for today. And Hugh Cameron is going to fall into that category too. Had you ever heard of him? (Frank) When you talked about it, then I remembered OK, there was this hermit. A guy known as the Kansas Hermit. (Deb) The guy known as the Kansas Hermit. And that’s about all I knew. But when we were researching for our Charlie, the documentary project that we’ve been working on on Charles Curtis, one of the searches that I did was on Hib Case. Now Hib Case was an attorney in Topeka. He went on to be a federal judge of the territory of Hawaii and it’s one of his descendants that founded AOL. So, Case family, very prominent family. And Hugh Cameron was a friend of the Cases. And this is where I started really getting more details. So, when Hib Case passed away in Topeka, Hugh Cameron walked from…he lived near Lawrence, so he walked everywhere. And he walked to Topeka to see Mrs. Case, to express his condolences. Well, he looks like a hermit, big beard and everything, so he comes to the door and she lets him in and he warms by the fire. And so here’s this poor lady, you know her husband has just died, she’s planning his funeral. And you’ve got this friend or not, you got this old guy sitting there by your fire, and she said, “Do you want to stay?” “No, I’m OK.” Well he falls asleep by the fire and she wakes him up and says, “You know, just go upstairs and go to bed.” So the next day she goes upstairs and he’s dead. So, it ain’t bad enough that your husband has just died. Now, you’ve got this dead hermit in the bedroom upstairs. I mean, can you imagine? Really? So, then that got me looking for the rest of the story on Hugh Cameron. And it’s just another one you cannot make up. (Frank) Do-do-do-do! (Deb) Do-do-do-do! (Frank) And now you’re entering the Twilight Zone. (Deb) Yea, really. Let’s take a look. According to the book, Wonderful Old Lawrence, Hugh Cameron came to Lawrence in July 1854. He was a free-state man and decided to come to Kansas where the action was. He is listed as a farmer in Andreas History of Kansas, 1883. His place was three miles north and west of Lawrence, on the south side of the Kansas River, and was designated as “Cameron Bluff”. He was born in New York state. He did not go to school but was self-educated, and he must have been a good teacher since he became a professor of mathematics at the Rittenhouse Academy in Washington, D. C. He didn’t get to stay there too long as he was fired because he was linked with a close friend who was a radical. From there he came to Kansas. When the Civil War broke out, he enlisted and served two years in the 2nd Kansas Cavalry and came out a captain. He then served four years in the 2nd Arkansas Cavalry and came out a Lt. Colonel. In later years he was brevetted Brig. General of Volunteers for Meritorious services. He was called by many “General Cameron.” The Hermit was a walker. All through the years, he walked to Washington to attend every inaugural ceremony. He had important friends in Washington. Webster and Clay were intimate friends. Politically, he was usually on the side of the minority. He printed a journal called “The Useful Worker” which was devoted to sobriety, equality and equity. Cameron at one time lived in a tree near Lawrence. He counted among his friends many Kansas veterans of the Civil War.

(Frank) Well another fun day here on Around Kansas. So, anyway, we have to go. I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) And we’ll see you somewhere… (Both) Around Kansas.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

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