Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 10, 2019

It's what's between that counts

For a youngster growing up on a farm on the Kansas prairie, Los Angeles was as exciting to me as Oz was to Dorothy. So while my siblings and I wished our three Freeland cousins were closer, having them live in the place that was home to Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm and Pacific coast beaches definitely had its advantages.

Uncle Bob and Aunt Hazel had three boys: Bob Jr. ("Bobby"), Jeff and Peter. Uncle Bob and Aunt Hazel would sometimes talk about places they might go on vacation, but Grandpa Freeland, whose farm was near ours, would have none of it.

"Until we're dead, you come here on vacation," he said.

And for our cousins, the two Freeland farms seemed as exotic as California did to us.

Bob Jr. and Jeff spent most of their time with older brother Dave, while sister Gaila and I hung out with Peter. The "big" boys plotted outdoor adventures and we younger ones sometimes tagged along.

In 2000, I asked Bobby, who was 12 years older than I, to write memories of his life:

The "Freeland Farms" were my home away from home ... my grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins within the farm environment insured I had a second home ... I had some good times with my brothers and cousins. Probably foremost was swimming in the slimy livestock tank. We always entered with considerable apprehension, concerned about what we would step on ...

Among his favorite memories when he was older was watching �The Tonight Show� on TV with Dad. At that time, the show's host was Johnny Carson, whom Dad particularly enjoyed.

But childhood inevitably turns to adulthood. Bobby received his undergraduate degree at California State Polytechnic in Pomona. He met Kate, also a child of the city. They were married in September 1964.

Bobby attended Kansas State University for his master's degree. His description of the sequence of events made me smile.

... Though we did not consider our consummation a fantasy, we honeymooned at Disneyland. The second night, we spent at Mom and Dad�s, the third on the train to Kansas, the fourth at Grandpa [Freeland�s Kansas farm], and the fifth at our final basement apartment residence on Ratone Street in Manhattan, Kansas ... Our priority was cheap transportation so we bought a cute 1956 naturally air-conditioned red Beetle Volkswagen ...

Uncle Bob was known to pinch a penny and the apple hadn't fallen far from the tree. Bob obviously inherited that trait.

I was always so excited when their �Beetle� drove into our lane during their K-State years. Bob played Santa Claus when his parents and brothers visited in December 1964. I was 11 and long past the age when I believed, but I was thrilled to have Santa in our home.

Although a city girl, Kate enjoyed the farm as much as Bobby did. She wrote:

My memories of the farm are wonderful ... I have never been to a home where I felt so relaxed.

When Bob and I were married, we traveled by train to Kansas. You greeted us at night with smiles and hugs and also with your truck to haul everything we owned. The next morning, Grandpa Freeland fixed Cream �o� Wheat for us ... I jumped out of bed to see what Kansas looked like - it was like gazing over the ocean, but instead of water there was land.

But those were also the Vietnam War years, and from December 1968 through December 1969, Bob was stationed at Tuy Hoa, Vietnam.

... Tuy Hoa was located along the picturesque white and wide sand beaches of the South China Sea ... Fortunately, we were seldom attacked because of an army helicopter base, Phu Hiep, six miles south that was favored by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong ...

While he was in Vietnam, Kate and Aunt Hazel sent him a cake, an air mattress for surfing, and a small tree with red and gold balls for Christmas. They probably never suspected he would keep the tree and take it with him whereever he lived.

Mom sent Bob and Kate some iris tubers from the farm. Kate wrote, "The iris you sent will go with us whenever we move. A ray of sunshine will always be with us when they bloom ..."

Kate had a loud and hearty laugh, while Bob had a very deliberate and quiet way about him. When the Koch brothers left the grain business in Salina, Kansas, the Evans brothers took over. Of Bob, John Evans said:

I learned so much working with you. Your steady hand and not letting emotion get in the way of your trading was so admirable. I know no one who could handle and get out of a bad position the traders would get us into than Bob ...

Bob's military service and work in commodities kept the couple moving. We visited them in Wichita Falls, Texas; Aurora, Colorado and North Ogden, Utah, where we got to know their adopted daughter Kim. On one visit, Kate prepared pork chops by placing them in a baking dish, topping them with onion slices, adding dollops of catsup, brown sugar and a bit of water, covering them, and baking them for about 45 minutes. Mom and I added the recipe to our repertoire and have used it many times over the years.

Bob died three years ago in April. The last time I saw him was in California in February 2013, when he, Jeff, Jeff's daughter Jackie, Dave, husband Art and I surprised Uncle Stan for his 90th birthday. It was a memorable time with lots of reminiscing and laughing.

Then, last week, Jeff emailed me. Kate had died. Since then, I have been reading through Bob's memoirs and looking at photos. Like every good family historian, I'll add Kate's death date to my files. But birth and death dates are like the covers of a book - it is what's between them that counts.

Left: The Freeland cousins in Kansas. From left to right, Dave behind Gaila, Bob Jr. holding Pete and Jeff behind Gloria. Center photo: Kate's and Bob Jr.'s wedding. Right-top: Kate and Bob Jr. with Kim. Right-bottom: Bob Jr. at the 2007 Freeland family reunion.

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