Woody, Ernie and Cindy. 1998.
Woody, Mrs. Carl, 227 W. Elm, Lincoln, Kansas 67455
This was a newspaper article copied by Mrs. Carl Woody. None of the spelling
or wording has been changed.
Revised: January 13, 2001.
A dramatic incident in the history of Lincoln county was graphically described by the late Alfred H. Waite, when a prayer for rain was answered.
Mr. Waite, publisher of the famed Lincoln Beacon, came to Kansas in the 1870's. Shortly afterward he wrote an article for the Kansas City Star, giving some impressions of the country at that time. The date of the original publication has been lost but it was reprinted in 1945 and a copy was preserved by Mrs. CV Peacock.
Waite explained to his readers that some of the names in the article are "made up" but the names of WOODY and JENKINS are true. Many old timers will remember Mr. Waite and may recall some of the families mentioned in this unusual story.
The article follows:
Fresh from the East, I had come out to Kansas in the late 1870's to hold a job in the land office at Kirwin. And there was drought upon the land and it was August. From Solomon, at the junction of Smokey Hill and Solomon rivers, I set out to drive 150 miles to Kirwin with Kirwin's postmaster, Billy Jenkins. Because Billy had business with "Old Man" Woody, postmaster at Spring creek that bore his name, we detoured into the edge of Lincoln county.
It was sorrowful country that August: parched, barren fields and hot eternal wind, and the rivers shrunk to dust-scummed pools.
And to add to our pleasure, we had broke a wheel so that it was 11 o'clock of a Saturday night before we reached the Woody ranch, and we wanted to be there by noon. "Means we'll have to stay over another day", grumbled Billy Jinkins, "The old man won't talk business of a Sunday". But he made us welcome right royally.
"Elder Woody" had been a Confederate chaplain in a Georgia regiment. He was an ordained minister and perhaps the first man to preach a Baptist sermon on the Saline and Solomon rivers. He was known far and wide as an exhorter
Among the first thing that Elder Woody told us after showing us where we would stable our horses was that the next day a meeting would be held in the school house to pray for rain. The morrow came and at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, the Woody's, Jenkins and I were at the schoolhouse a mile away. The building was on a ridge, a watershed between two creeks, now as dray as powder horns.
The soul-wearing qualities of the drought were reflected in the faces of the people who gathered there. The house was only comfortably filled, "because" as one of the men present told me, "lots of folks don't take no stock in praying against Nature". The one door and all the windows were wide open and the stifling, heated wind from the southwest crept through and fanned a lot of mighty uncomfortable and sad faces.
Worried they looked, pathetically patient, all poor, oppressed by the heat, wind, dust and drought. One man I especially remember, Phil Bennett, who came with an umbrella, a 'slicker' and a pair of rubber overshoes. Bennett, they said, was the greatest joker in the settlement. "Nuth'n mean about Phil Bennett at all, just will have his fun and there ain't the least bit of religion about him". Always goes to church, but there ain't anywhere else for him to go. Can't go fishing very well unless he goes over on the Solomon, and that is 20 miles. Can't hunt buffalo, because they're a hundred miles out and no good this time of year anyhow. Now he thinks it is funny, bringing that umbrella and slicker and them over shoes, just to get a joke on Elder Woody for praying for rain. The Elder is a little miffed about it but he can't make any open objection because Bennett always behaves himself and he is a blamed good fellow. He is just a born joker. If it wasn't for him there wouldn't been a smile cracked in this settlement the past six months.
The service alternated prayer with reading of the scripture, and congregational singing with organ accompaniment. The instrument was a cottage organ that might emitted good music had its lungs not been full of dust. A mouse's nest was cleared out of it after we arrived. The organist was a thin young woman who laid her baby down every time about been evaporated out of him by the effort of brining the umbrella, the slicker and the overshoes to prayer meeting.
I sat near the door, which was in the east end of the building and looking down the road toward the scant fringe of withering hackberry, cottonwood and boxelder trees along the little 'branch' that intersected the 'crick' perhaps a mile below when when a grey wolf, gaunt and nearly naked, sure sign of mange added to semi-starvation, coming from the direction of the divide and going toward the ranch. He was a symbol of hunger and despair and I remember hoping none of the women would see the ominous animal when the voice of Elder Woody filled the room as he began his imploration. He poured out his very soul in supplication for rain.
I suppose that Elder Woody had been upon his knees for ten minutes and seemed to be getting fairly under way, when my face, along with everybody else's was parched and sunburned, experienced a queer sensation. I was actually so habituated to the hot breath of the southwest wind that had blown almost incessantly for weeks, relaxing only for short time at sunset, that when the pressure of it suddenly ceased in the middle of the day, I felt a distinct bewilderment. The atmosphere was at rest beneath the beating sun. Within thirty seconds the heat was stifling. Hot though the wind was, it was infinitely preferable to the oven like heat that made our very souls ooze out in grimy globules.
They were looking from one to another. Abruptly the prayer stopped, and every eye in the room was turned in the direction of Elder Woody. He was kneeling facing north, and directly in front of a window. He was a tall man and as he opened his eyes he could easily look over the window sill and to the top of the ridge, half mile away. Then his voice rang out clear and dominating. "The Lord will answer. He is only holding his breath in this glorious moment. Lift up your souls, my brethren, for within a mighty short time we shall feel and hear His presence in the tempest".
A gust of cool wind blew abruptly in at the north windows, and every person in the house sprang to his feet. Down came Elder Woody's iron fist upon the desk in front of him with a thump that was compelling as a command of a captain of hosts. "Cast up your eyes, my brethren, and behold the arm of the Great God stretching out a ladder with shadow and drink for the thirsty land and His troubled people. Look and see the glories of His day come at last". Elder Woody rose from his knees and reached for his hat.
"Phil Bennett" he roared, "hand that umbrella to Grandma Good, and that slicker to Mrs. Pease to put over her twins. Help Grandpa Parks get his feet into them rubbers, Phil Bennett. The old man has rheumatism and mustn't go home barefooted in the mud".
The blackest clouds I ever saw in my life were rising rapidly over the ridge north of the school house, driven before a furious north wind, the first cool breath of which had reached a few moments before, following the sweltering moment of inertia after the hot wind ceased. Threads of lightning were chasing across the face of the storm. The interval of confusion which fell upon the people was followed by the sudden stampede of most of them, for all realized what was coming, as the torrents of rain already in sight, meant that all the "draws, branches and runs" that must be crossed would be bankfull in half an hour, and there were cattle, horses and chickens to look after.
Among those who tarried were Elder Woody and his family, Jenkins and myself. The Elder explained that he was not in a hurry because three of his eight boys were at home and would look after things and we had no streams to cross anyhow. Bennett, the joker, carried only to distribute his umbrella and wearing apparel according to Elder Woody's command. He had little to say but laughed uproariously. "Well Elder, I knew that between you and me rain had to come. Oh no, it wasn't all faith either, nor prayer added to faith! The umbrella and slicker had a lot to do with it. You know it! Haw, haw, haw, whoopee"! And Bennett flew down the road, barefooted and bareheaded, having left his sombrero to put over the month old baby of the Lauderbaughs. The woman organist departed in his boots. We all went home finally in one of the most tremendous downpours of rain I ever saw, even in that country of strange climatic contrasts. As Elder Woody explained it, "The very bottom seems to have fallen out of the River Jordan and the Sea of Galilee".