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, of course, 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 now, 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’s 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 a way and got to thinking, You know that wasn’t the biggest threat to the settlers coming into settle the prairies and pines. 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 book end in 1811 and twelve was the Nomad Earthquake weight. That’s the strongest earthquake we’ve had in North America and it happened over on the Mississippi River, kind down by the boot hill 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 and, of course, we didn’t have seismographs at that time, but they have studied that and with the possible exception of the earthquake in Alaska, what was that, was that the 80’s? I’ve forgotten now, but it’s the strongest earthquake we’ve had in the United States that we know of, that we’ve kept records of. (Frank) Okay. 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 took with him. (Male) Well if you’re taking about our deadliest, if you’re talking body counts, which that’s kind of hard, but the Galveston Hurricane that occurred in 1900, it 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 a sweep water in 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 engine 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 be 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 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, well 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 where 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 be they spent 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, so kind of go with that because this farm equipment that’s used every year or it started in Kansas or what? (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 and 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, you know, 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 access 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 get that done and get it out there. (Frank) Great, alright. 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, alright and that’s it for today on Around Kansas.

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