Rural Missouri - October 2013 - (Page 40)
N E I G H B O R S
Linn’S HISTORY Connection
Retired electric co-op manager Walt Ryan brings history to life as a writer
piqued Walt’s interest.
“Hollywood makes it seem all the
history happened out West, but there’s a
lot of history that began here,” says Walt.
or a man so enamored with the
“Missouri was the beginning for the Lewpast, Walt Ryan is quite comfortis and Clark Expedition, the beginning of
able with modern methods of
the Santa Fe Trail, the start of the Oregon
communication. He’s editing his
Trail, the origin of the Pony Express.
latest historical ﬁction book via Skype
“Sedalia was the terminus of the ﬁrst
with his daughter, Marti, who lives
cattle trail drives. Wyatt Earp was the city
in Nashville, Tenn. He’s savvy on the
marshal of Lamar, probably before he’d
cell phone, doesn’t hesitate to email,
ever heard of Tombstone, Ariz. William F.
is active on Facebook and Twitter, and
“Buffalo Bill” Cody ﬁrst joined the Union
writes a blog called Sundown Trail.
Army at Jefferson City,” adds the history
“Yeah, I think we’re probably going
the e-book route,” the 74-year-old says,
Another source of history Walt enjoys
referring to his latest yet-to-be titled
writing about comes from his own life.
work. “Seems the way things are going
His career in the cooperative world
and, well, it’s more affordable, too.”
began with a local farm co-op in El DoraFor all his modern methods, the Linn
do Springs after graduating high school.
man is someone who lives in the past
He did everything from working the feed
and loves it — something he attributes
counter to serving on a combining crew.
to his maternal grandfather, John W.
Walt wanted to serve his country as
Cole, and an old buffalo riﬂe.
well as see the world, so he signed up for
“My grandfather found this 1864
the Army, but a deaf ear held him back.
Tower riﬂe near his New Mexico homeHe joined the National Guard instead
stead around 1910,” says Walt, running
and over the years worked his way up to
his hand down the smooth, pear-wood
sergeant, meeting his wife along the way.
gunstock. “He discovered it under a large
“That turned out perfectly because
rock overhang along with the skeletons
I’d met Denny and didn’t want to leave
of a man and a horse.”
for several years right then,” recalls Walt,
The name “Joseph Wilson” is
with a twinkle in his eye. The couple celstamped in faint, but neat, block letters
ebrated 50 years of marriage in July.
behind the riﬂe’s trigger guard. The gun
In 1967, he went to work for Sac
has slight traces of red paint on the barOsage Electric Cooperative and the rest,
rel, too, and both the man’s name and
as they say, is history.
the paint intrigue Walt to this day.
For nearly the next four decades,
“Grandfather believed he had found a
Walt’s electric co-op career traversed Misprospector who perished in a storm,” he
souri. He worked for Sac Osage Electric
says. “But is it a possibility he stumbled
in El Dorado Springs, Black River Electric
onto an Indian burial site? If so, did
Former Missouri electric cooperative employee and manager Walt Ryan poses
in Fredericktown, Howard Electric in
Joseph Wilson give up his riﬂe willingly?
here with an 1864 Tower buffalo riﬂe that once belonged to his grandfather,
Fayette and Three Rivers Electric in Linn,
Was it taken from him in one of the
John W. Cole. The riﬂe’s origin helped spark Walt’s interest in frontier history.
where he retired in 2005. His signiﬁcant
many tribal wars that occurred in the
contributions to Missouri’s cooperatives
area? Indians used red paint . . .
earned Walt induction into the prestigious MisWe’ll probably never know.”
shares them online in his blog, Sundown Trail.
souri Institute of Cooperatives Hall of Fame earWalt, former manager of Three
For Walt, blogging is about memories from
lier this year.
Rivers Electric Cooperative, says
the good ol’ days and sharing moments
“Technology has been the biggest change I’ve
that make up history. “I write about what
he’s had the riﬂe since childhood,
seen in my life,” he says. “But you see, cooperaand the mystery of its origin sparked
I know,” he says, “And that’s history and
tives were on the cutting edge of technology from
his lifelong interest in history.
things I’ve experienced.”
the very beginning. They brought us from the
Those reading Walt’s blog will learn
“I’m really just a student of the
lantern to electric lights, from blocks of ice to
about the days he played mumblety
past,” he says. “For me, I reckon it’s
refrigeration in the home. They’ve always been
peg with boys outside a one-room
just interesting to learn about the hisa leader when it came to helping rural members
tory we’re part of, where we came from.”
schoolhouse he attended on the western
better their lives and continue to do so today.”
plains of Kansas and the importance of always
His paternal grandfather, John Ryan, headed
Since retirement, Walt has wrapped up one
carrying a sharp pocketknife for this and other
west from Kentucky to seek his fortune around
book, “Tales From Clear Creek” and has another
purposes. In another tale, Walt recalls a memo1900, stopping to break horses and mules for a
historical ﬁction work about done. A prequel to
rable encounter with a diamondback rattlesnake
Kansas farmer and staying to marry the farmer’s
his latest book was lost in a computer crash, but
when he was about 6 years old and the rogue cow
daughter, Walt’s Quaker grandmother.
Walt’s sure he can “reconstitute it” in time.
that led him there. Another account recalls a blizHis grandfather John Cole always came back
“I’ve met some amazing people on my jourzard and the special Christmas memories enjoyed
east to stay on the farm with Walt’s family every
ney,” says Walt. “And I’ve got more stories to tell.”
with the ranch neighbors who invited young Walt
summer, so he heard history from a source who’d
and his family in from the storm.
lived much of it himself.
You may contact Walt via email at waltryan@
Other tales, such as “The Burning of Osceola,
Eventually, with his older relatives gone, Walt
osagenet.com or follow his blog at sundowntrail.wordMissouri and The Battle of Clear Creek” dig deep
started recounting bits and pieces of those stopress.com.
into segments of state history that have always
ries, as well as tales from his own experiences. He
by Heather Berry
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - October 2013
Rural Missouri - October 2013
Schooled on sailing
A deer dilemma
Therapy for the heart & soul
Out of the Way Eats
Charge of the Iron Brigade
Hearth and Home
Rural Missouri - October 2013