Lincoln Days

(Frank) First Deb starts off in Lincoln, Kansas, where we get a history lesson
on General George Armstrong Custer, the Dog Soldiers of Kansas and President Lincoln himself. Next she interviews Chuck Mead as he comes back to his grass roots of Lawrence for a special celebration. Find out what he is doing here and how his Kansas connections have made him such a talented musician.Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission.
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(Deb) Welcome to Around Kansas. I’m Deb Bisel and I couldn’t be more
thrilled to have General George Armstrong Custer with me. After all these
years, you’re looking pretty good. (Male) Well if I knew I was going to live
this long, I would have taken a little bit better care of myself. (Deb)
Isn’t that the truth? Well, General, you had quite the adventures in
Kansas, so why don’t you tell us a little bit about the highlights of those
stories or maybe you should hold that up a little bit. (Male) Well I’ll
tell you that my highlights was the time that I was camped around Hays City
and there was a lot of colorful characters who came to the frontier to
participate in hunts and scouted for me when I was in the Hancock
Expedition. Numerous tall tales were told by some of the scouts that served
under me that got me really interested in the west and my time here in the
prairie of Kansas was some of the happiest times. I even lost a horse, my
wife’s favorite horse was shot from under me during one of my expeditions
here in Kansas and, so, I left my heart in Kansas when we were transferred
down to Kentucky. I spent a year there before being posted to the Dakota’s,
but Kansas still has a soft spot and I’m returning whenever the opportunity
allows. (Deb) Well now you took part, if I’m not mistaken, in the big
buffalo hunt with Grand Duke Alexis. (Male) That’s absolutely correct. That
took place in another state, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Nebraska,
but. (Deb) Well I think there were (Male) Yeah, it was part of Kansas at
one time, but they went in the wrong direction and left this beautiful
sunshine that is part of the Kansas story, you know, and we got up there
and we showed the Grand Duke a hunt that he took back to Russia mounts of
about six buffalo that he brought down, but he didn’t get enough and, so,
we came back down here in Kansas and found a herd and hunted off the top of
a train car as we traveled across the Kansas prairie, so. (Deb) Now was it
true that Bill Cody was actually getting some of those buffalo for him?
(Male) Well Bill will tell you little stories, but you know, most of them,
I had to get for Bill. (Deb) Oh, is that the way it was? Well now Libby
got to spend a lot of time in Kansas as well and followed you out there,
bless her heart. (Male) She was the only woman to ride with the Army of the
Potomac at the end of the war and she followed me down to Texas and then
was out here in Kansas and she called our life living like Bedouins. We
lived in rag houses because some of the poles were not complete and because
I wasn’t the Commanding Officer of the Seventh; we lived in a wall tent for
much of our time here in Kansas and often the winds would pick up the house
and end up in a creek someplace like Big Creek and we’d be sleeping out
under the stars, but that wasn’t too bad because the sky is always filled
with many beautiful stars and constellations and it’s clear weather out
here, you know, it was away from the congested cities back east and you can
ride forever, ride into the sunset when you’re out here in the Kansas
prairie. (Deb) Well she loved you a lot to follow you out here, that’s all
I’ve got to say. (Male) Well I loved her a lot too and I’ll tell you, she
was the prettiest girl in all of Michigan. You know I was very fortunate to
get my accolades during the war and become a Major General, but the
greatest accomplishment was convincing her father to let her marry me. He
was not too keen about her marrying a solider to become an early widow, but
he finally relented and it was probably one of the largest weddings in the
state of Michigan at the time. (Deb) Well you’ve done good. (Male) Thank
you. So good to be here with you, Deb. (Deb) Oh, we’ll have General Custer
back anytime he wants. We’ll be right back with more of Around Kansas.

(Deb) Welcome to Around Kansas and with me is my good friend Jeff Broom
who’s actually from that part of Kansas that we let go a long time ago, I
don’t know what we were thinking, but he lives in the Denver area and, but
his heart and soul is in Kansas with us, isn’t it Jeff? (Male) It is. (Deb)
I appreciate that. Jeff is an author and historian and known especially on
the Indian Wars and Dog Soldier Justice I guess is about to put you on the
Kansas map. (Male) I sort of did, I think so. (Deb) So tell us what the
subject of that is. (Male) Well Dog Soldier Justice is subtitled as the
Ordeal of Susanna Alderdice and the Kansas Indian War and here in Lincoln
County where we are right in Lincoln, Kansas, she was captured by Dog
Soldier Indians in 1869. All of her children were killed except one, which
was found gravely wounded the next day with numerous arrow wounds and she
and another lady were carried into captivity into Colorado and Buffalo Bill
Cody with the Fifth Calvary found her and the other lady six weeks later in
northeastern Colorado and tried to rescue the women and the Indians tried
to kill both women and did succeed in killing Susanna Alderdice, but the
other lady was wounded, recovered and my book is all about all the raids
and I got my information from the National Archives, not in the books and,
so, it’s a very moving story about what the times were then, what the
Indian raids did and just how the settlers suffered in that time. (Deb) Now
you’ve met one Susanna’s descendants? (Male) Oh, yes. In my research, the
little boy that lived, he was four and a half years old. He was found the
next day with five arrows in his back and some accounts also say he was
shot twice and speared in the left hand, but he disappeared in history. The
last anybody ever knew about him, in 1910, he was still alive and I found
all his descendants. He had three children and I’ve had the privilege of
bringing some of them out to Kansas where they’ve never been. They live in
California now, but he died in 1920. (Deb) Wow. (Male) Yeah. (Deb) Her
younger son? (Male) Her younger son. Willis Dailey was his name. Her first
husband had died in the Seventeenth Kansas Infantry trying to keep Sterling
Price out of Kansas. He was the only one that died in that hundred day war
and he got typhoid fever nine days before his enlistment expired and died
in Fort Leavenworth, so she remarried and had two other children by Tom
Alderdice who was one of the Scouts of Vigil Island, one of the famous
fights, as was her, at the time, just eighteen year old little brother Eli
Ziegler. (Deb) Wow. What an incredible story and you tell it so well and
it’s a, oh my God, what a poignant story. Now you’ve got a brand new book
out. Get that in real quick. (Male) Yeah, it’s called Cheyenne War, Indian
Raids on the Roads to Denver, 1864 to 1869. The concluding chapter is
Susanna’s story and I call it Burying my heart at Spellman Creek because
she was captured right near there, but it’s a continuation of the records
that I got in the National Archives where American citizens could file
claims for the losses of Indian raids and there are thousands of those
documents in the National Archives, none on microfilm. You have to go to
Washington D.C. and I’ve concocted about eight feet of those that deal with
the Platte River into Denver, the Smokey Hill Trail into Denver and the
Santa Fe Road into Denver, so a lot of Kansas history in that because it
all starts in Kansas. (Deb) Sure, yeah. Kansas is just the center of it. We
forget that, you know, with the Indian Wars that Kansas is smack dab in the
middle. (Male) Right dab in the middle, yeah. (Deb) Right dab in the
middle. Well we’ll share Jeff’s website and information about the book and
if you ever get out to Lincoln, you’ve got to visit the memorial on the
Courthouse lawn and there’s just so many sites around here. We’ll be right
back with more of Around Kansas.

(Male) Kansas, my connection with Kansas is a question poised. Well my
whole career as a politician past 1854 is based on Kansas. The Kansas-
Nebraska Act ushered in the opportunity for this old goat to enter politics
again. It gave me a platform and shall we say, a reason to get back into
politicking and I did it with a vengeance. It brought me to national
prominence with Stephen Douglas. Judge Douglas thought that squatter
sovereignty had prominence and I thought all men should be free. We had a
campaign and as you well know in 1858 for the Senate. That campaign brought
my name and my thoughts before the general public and through some miracle
of management, I was a candidate and elected President in 1860 and you
pretty much know that Kansas started it all. I came here in 1859. The
thoughts and ideas I had for the Cooper Union Speech that I gave in early
1860 were first tried out here in Kansas, in Leavenworth in particular. I
made several good friends in Kansas and am always happy to be given the
opportunity to come back to Kansas. I said to a good friend of mine upon
returning in 1859 that if I ever went west, I would go to Kansas. Here I
am.

(Deb) Welcome to Around Kansas. I’m Deb Bisel and I am so thrilled to have
Chuck Mead on the show. Welcome home. (Male) I’m bringing your show down.
I’m sorry. (Deb) No, not by a long shot. This is awesome. Now you live in
Nashville and have for a while. (Male) Have lived in Nashville for twenty-
one years. (Deb) Well you’re back home in Lawrence right now. (Male) Well
that’s where the light’s right. (Deb) Isn’t it though? It sure is. You’ve
got a new CD coming out. In fact, by the time we air, it may have already
been released. (Male) March 4th. (Deb) So you’ve got Kansas songs. (Male)
Yeah, it’s kind of a little thing I came up with and I don’t know how I
started it. I just started to write these songs and they all seemed to be
about, I guess I’m to the age where I’m starting to think about my home
state a little bit and it ended up being a whole bunch of little, short
stories in song form about Kansas and it’s called Free State Serenade.
(Deb) Wow. Well I can’t wait. Now you’ve got one on Quantrill’s Raid, which
was the biggest thing that ever happened in Lawrence, until KU won the
National Championship. (Male) I don’t know, Wilt Chamberlin was pretty big.
(Deb) You know that’s true. (Male) And Langston Hughes. (Deb) Yeah. (Male)
But yeah, the Raid on Lawrence, that looms large over everybody and when
you grow up in Lawrence, you learn that, I learned that when you go around
the country, not necessarily everybody knows about Bleeding Kansas, but we
always did because it happened right here. (Deb) Sure, sure. (Male) So
yeah, had to write a song about that if I’m writing a Kansas record. (Deb)
So what other topics in Kansas? (Male) Well it all seems to be a little bit
dark. It’s sort of a Kansas noir piece. There’s a song about the Clutter
Murder in Holcomb, Kansas in 1959 called Evil Wind, made famous by Truman
Capote in Cold Blood and there’s a whole bunch of little fantasy songs and
reality songs, you know, things that happened to me when I was growing up
in Kansas that I put songs that are kind of funny and hopefully poignant,
but there’s a few historical songs like that. There’s one song I wrote
called Little Ivy that was about this girl who’s a year older than me in
school when I was going to school here in fifth and sixth grade, she was
murdered, so it’s another murder ballad. It seems really dark, but you
know, once you listen to all of it, it’s not all bad. It really happened.
(Deb) We’re going to be right back with more with Chuck Mead.

(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas. We’re here at the Bottleneck, famous
for hosting live music, one of those great live music venues in Kansas
right here in the middle of Lawrence with hometown son Chuck Mead and
it’s great to have you. Now, Chuck, when you went off to Nashville to become a
big star, hit it big with BR549 and, of course, I grew up in the Blue Ridge
Mountains and Hee Haw was a staple, of course, so everybody knew what BR549
stood for. (Male) Well Hee Haw was a staple around here too. Every Saturday
night, six o’clock, you’d set your clock by it. What a fantastic show
though. (Deb) It was. (Male) It was like the country version of American Idol,
but they had great music on. I mean, I have all these DVD’s of the whole show
and, you know, Conway and Loretta, Waylon Jennings doing Good Hearted Woman
on the show before it was Good Hearted Women. It was just like his latest
song, you know, fantastic, yeah, BR549’s. We had a lot of fun, I’ll tell
you. (Deb) Well and you made such a great splash with that and, you know,
I’ve heard some of your interviews talk about traditional country, but to
me, it’s like you give a modern twist to Rockabilly. Is there a way to
pigeon hole what you do? (Male) Well I don’t know, I mean, we were just
taking kind of what we knew and then because of all of our five different
personalities, everything that the five individuals came from comes out in
that music and, so we did have a modern spin on it. I mean we were playing
old school type country music. We always played our own songs along with
(?) and stuff, but we always like you say, we had our own way of doing it
that had a little more funk to it, you know, post Beetles and Clash country
music. (Deb) Yeah. So did Dale Reeves get to hear your cover of The Girl on
the Billboard? (Male) No he never did and, you know, I met Dale quite a few
times. We played at the Opry. (Deb) Well see he’s from Sparta, North
Carolina, which is just the next county over from where I grew up, so
hearing you do his song, I got to say, that was a real treat because I love
that song. (Male) Yeah, he was really great. I did go to his memorial
service there in Nashville they had at the Ryman Auditorium. We spent a
little bit of time with him. We shared the dressing room out at the Grand
Ole Opry with him a couple of times. (Deb) What a great memory. (Male) Oh,
he was pretty fun. That guy knew how to have fun. (Deb) Yes. Good mountain
folks. (Male) That’s right. (Deb) Good mountain folks. (Male) Well just
good, real folks. (Deb) Yeah, good, real folks. Yeah, just like Kansas.
That’s why I feel so at home here because, you know, just real people.
(Male) The light’s right. I’m just saying. (Deb) Yeah, like Italy. (Male)
Well not like Italy. I’ve been there too, but that’s pretty beautiful, but
it’s not the prairie. (Deb) But the light’s better here? (Male) No, it’s
Kansas. Of course. (Deb) So talk about your group now, the Grassy Knoll
Boys. (Male) My Grassy Knoll Boys, it’s Mark Andrew Miller and Martin
Lense and Cargo Clavet. I love playing with these guys. I feel like we’ve got a
nice little hillbilly rock ‘n roll quartet, take it around and play all
these songs that I wrote and older songs and just whatever. We do BR songs.
We’ll be out on the road all year this year trying to slog it around and
see as many people as we can. (Deb) That’s fantastic. So is there like a
Kansas tour planned for the CD or what’s the plan? (Male) No. I’m sure I’ll
be back later this year. You know I’m here now just slightly before it
comes out, but I’m sure I’ll be back. I come back a couple of times a year.
You can rely on me, don’t worry. (Deb) Well that’ll be great, that’ll be
great. I love your music. Honestly if they could harness your energy, the
energy problem would be solved. There would be no energy crisis, better
than the windmills and the oil wells. Chuck, thanks for being with us.
(Male) Thank you very much. It was a pleasure. (Deb) Looking forward to
more music.

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