John Linville

Topeka Daily Capital
March 28, 1962

We sat under a big tree in a back yard in Burlingame, sipping drinks and watching the storm fade away in soft flashes of lighting. My father-in-law, Mike Linville, talked about bigger, better storms.

Once, he said, he had saddled a horse and ridden 14 miles from the family farm to check stories he’d heard that a storm had drive wheat straws into trees.

“I actually found some,” he said, “driven about a half-inch into trees.”

Another time, he rode out a storm in a ditch with his younger brother and mother. He told of silence and the vacuum that made it difficult to breathe, and then of the “roar of about 400 freight trains” that snapped trees like matchsticks…

I remembered the storm that leveled Bethany, Okla. We watched it from our backyard on Britton. What I remember best is reading that papers from the Bethany bank were found in Kansas.

After this strenuous talk, there was the kind of meal you just about can’t buy. There was meat from the locker, and roasting ears, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, onions and potatoes from the garden.

My brother-in-law, John Linville, said he’d give me a ride into Topeka the next morning. He said he’d get me up when it was time. He did, a little before 6 a.m.

We had a cup of coffee while he finished packing his lunch and filling the big thermos with iced tea. Then we stopped in downtown Burlingame at the ice dock where he filled a water barrel. I commented that he didn’t pay for the ice.

“We settle up once a week, or once a month,” he said, “or whenever we think about it.”

John Linville is 29 and a young giant. He looks like a Marine or a bouncer, and he has been both. He also has built Boeing 707’s in Seattle and worked in a logging camp in Idaho. Right now, he’s a cement finisher, and a good one.

He took a back road into Topeka, one that I’d never seen. At one point, he slowed his pickup truck. “Last night,” he said, “right about here, I saw one of the most beautiful sights I’ll ever see. There were a doe and a fawn in the road. When I came along, they jumped that fence and went off through that timber.”

We ate on the edge of Topeka. He had three eggs, bacon and potatoes. I paid. The night before, I had lost $1.65 to him plating gin rummy, and he said he’d settle for breakfast.

He needs a big breakfast. He’s a big man, and often his workday runs 14 hours, or more. On short days, and on weekends, he also does cement jobs in and around Burlingame.

In his spare time, he has fixed up “the home place.” He has refinished the basement, painted and papered the whole place, and carpeted it. He’s also this kind of man: When heard our family was coming to visit, he installed an air conditioner on the top floor.

On Sunday, he catches for an assortment of semi-pro baseball teams, hunts and fishes, and shoots skeet. Last Sunday, he hit 24 of 25 in competition.

Occasionally, he might be inclined, as most of us small-town boys are, to raise a little hell on Saturday night. I ask you, who has a better right?

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