- By Pauline Shunn
A-O Staff Writer
- VALE "I'm going to retire one of these days, said John
Hinkle, with a hint of a smile beginning under his ample mustache
and a decided twinkle in his eyes.
But John Hinkle isn't ready to settle down to a rocking chair
yet. Even if he did celebrate his 99th or 100th birthday. Sunday,
Jan. 18, 1970. There seems to be some discrepancy about Hinkle's
Some records indicate he turned 100 years old last Sunday, and
others indicate he's really 99. But at that age, what difference
does a year make?
One not knowing this amazing man would never guess he has seen
a full century of life with all its Buck Rogers changes as he
walks down a street, unaided, alone, and without wearing glasses,
taking care of the business he has set out to do.
- Life came to John Hinkle 100 years ago in the frontier Midwest
where he grew to manhood, rather precariously. But then, life
was precarious in those days of freighter wagons and families
headed for the mystical and alluring pot of gold at the end of
the trail - the Far West.
As a boy growing up and a young man, John went on many cattle
drives and as he talks about them with memory mirrored in his
eyes, one can see that he loved the excitement, the dangers,
and hardships of these drives
- It was during this time that he worked for John Shaver, a
well-known cattle buyer. Shaver would have his men take his cattle
west to "buffalo grass country,'' trade them for steers
and bring them back to Kansas to feed.
LOTS OF INDIANS
- "There were lots of Indians and buffalo,'' John Hinkle
said "We didn't have to be afraid of the Indians except
for the Apache and those devils were always hunting scalps,''
he said, turning back the leaves of the I century past "You
never. saw one Apache alone - there were always three
- when they run together in small groups When an Apache approached
the white men, he would make the sign of peace and Friendship
while the other two would slip up behind the unsuspecting victims
and tomahawk them.''
There were other dangers in cattle drives - but exciting
dangers! Such as stampeding cattle frightened by terrific lightning,
hail and thunderstorms that Kansans are so well aware of.
- Often It would be necessary to shoot and kill the leader
of the animals in order to stop the frightened cattle. At other
times, it would be necessary to wail a week to swim cattle across
the deep and swift river waters.
- And at other times it became necessary to send men ahead
to make the cattle follow or they would start milling and drown.
- Occasionally, the men would run out of provisions and the
lights of a lamp twinkling miles away across the flat Kansas
prairies were a very welcome sight, for that usually meant food,
at least temporarily. Cornbread and buffalo meat tasted wonderful
at times like those.
- DAD LIKED HORSES
- Hinkle, speaking about his father, recalled, "my dad
liked horse racing and he was a good gambler. After a game in
which one of the other players lost $700 and killed himself because
of his losses, I never knew dad to play a card game again".
- Remembrance of his his father brought to Hinkle's mind "the
Terrible Benders". The Benders were an outlaw team composed
of two brothers and sisters who had the habit of making friends
with unsuspecting west-ward families or those who lived on the
skirts of the frontier. After gaining their confidence and staying
a night with them, as was the hospitable custom of that time,
the Benders did away with the people, took their property, and
would sell it in various places such as Atchison and Topeka,
- Hinkle's father helped track down the Bender gang. Those
were the times, too, when a good horse was worth as much as a
man's life. It was the tracks of a doctor's horse, which had
recently been shod, that finally proved the undoing of the Benders.
- When the doctor turned up missing, his horse was tracked
to a roadhouse operated by the Benders, who had already left
for parts unknown. They were traced and run down in a box canyon
and it was here the Benders shot it out with their pursuers.
Hinkle said the girl was offered safety, but preferred to stand
alongside of her brothers until all were killed.
- 70 BODIES
It was near this site that some 70 bodies, victims of the Benders,
were found buried in shallow graves. "No money was ever
found, and I still believe it to be buried somewhere," the
old gentleman said.
John Hinkle knows his Indian lore and can talk about them for
hours at a time and his experiences as a young man.
But as most men do at one time or another, he succumbed to the
charms of a young lady by the name of Madge Foster who made a
tiny bride just under five feet tall. The two were married May
4, 1887, at Osage City, Kansas, and will observe their 74th wedding
anniversary this May. Madge will be 94 on May 12.
To John and Madge Hinkle were born three daughters, Mildred Hinkle
Roethler and Elsie Hinkle Eberly, both now deceased, and Jennie
Hinkle Perry of Harper. It is Jennie and her husband Jasper who
look after her parents, even though John still lives alone
- With a wife to support, John Hinkle served as a steam engineer
for an ice plant at Burlingame, Topeka and Great Bend, Kansas
for several year. He went to Burlingame Iron, Osage City where
he worked for three years in the Ice plant in the summer months
and in the flour mill in the winter months Then it was to Great
Bend, where Jennie was born and where he worked at the same type
- GOLD MINING
- From there the Hinkle family moved to Colorado Springs where
he operated large pumps out of the Arkansas River for the Golden
Cycle Mill in a gold mining operation. He well remembers the
guards with rifles that watched over the gold constantly. The
mill is still In operation and in those early days worked large
quantities or low grade ore.
- The next move was to Pocatello, Idaho, where he worked at
odd jobs. "I was good at repair work of all kinds, and jobs
were few and far between in those times,'' he reminisced
- Next it was Mountain Home, Idaho, where he went to work for
1.5 years for the railroad company and stayed with them 34 years.
There he pumped water for the engines. Madge helped with the
living too, in several ways She took in big washing and Ironings
for 75 cents - washing on scrub boards and tubs, and drawing
water from the well. She was a wonderful cook and cooked at the
exclusive Mountain Home Hotel and the Mellon Hotel.
75 CENTS A DAY
- John worked for 75 cents a day at the same time Madge took
in washings and sold cosmetics.
- "We saw many years of hard times," John Hinkle
said. " I can remember spreading lard on bread sprinkled
with salt or butter."
- It was in Mountain Home that Hinkle became a member or the
Masonic Lodge, and he still belongs to that chapter. He treasures
his association with that "wonderful organization."
- Electric power came to Mountain Home, and Hinkle was sent
to Harper by the railroad company where he watched the tunnel
for 15 years to keep it clear of rocks, weeds, etc. He had a
narrow escape once while re-timbering the tunnel, and "I
saw many things happen while on the railroad but I don't like
to mention them - all were caused by carelessness.'' he recalled
without expanding on these experiences,
- "The railroad treated me pretty nice; I have a long
string of merit badges,'' he said with pride. John Hinkle retired
from the railroad at the age of 73.
- During these years he had purchased a ranch of over 240 acres
from J. Fairman about 14 miles west of Harper and it is here
he still makes his home. During this time too, Madge operated
the hotel at Harper for many years.
ONE SHOULDER HURT
Hinkle had a bad fall from a horse about 25 years ago and he
damaged one shoulder badly, However, he still rides and likes
to go out occasionally rabbit hunting with his six shooter "to
keep in practice." He keeps busy in the summer months taking
care or his acre or two of fruit trees, and irrigating, His livestock
are now looked after by his daughter and son-in-law who also
keep a watchful eye on him, despite his independence, Madge is
a patient at the Malheur Nursing Home now,
- John Hinkle said, with just a hint of wistfulness, "I
wouldn't be a very good engineer anymore - I can't hear so good,
I see fairly well and only wear glasses
- when I read''
- He has been blessed with good health and has never been sick
except with the mumps and whooping cough, "In those times
they didn't have the things for a young man to dissipate with
like there is now'' He explained.
- "Most men my age are in a wheelchair, but I'm a pretty
good old man yet," He chuckled, with that wonderful twinkle
still in his eyes at the end of one century of very full living
and the beginning of another just ahead of him.