Remembering Ralph Cowell: Solid as a Rock

Topeka Capital-Journal
August 1999

In the parking lot, before we went into the Penwell-Gabel chapel in Highland Park for Ralph Cowell’s funeral, Tommy Tompkins was saying, “Ralph has a good tee time today, 11 o’clock on a Saturday morning in nice weather.” That was another way of saying he already was on that great golf course in the sky.

Inside, the Rev. Jerry Vaughn, of Berryton, told a story that linked Ralph’s lifelong occupation, professional window cleaning, with his lifelong passion, amateur golf.

There is artistry in using the squeegee, the main tool in window cleaning, just as there is with a golf club, and Ralph once explained the use of them by saying, “The object with both is to finish with the fewest possible strokes.” Not bad for funeral parlor humor.

Ralph was better than just pretty good with both. If he wasn’t the best window cleaner in town, he was close, and it’s a fact I never have heard anyone argue that he wasn’t. It’s also a fact I never have heard anyone argue that, in his day, he wasn’t one of the best golfers in town, too. Or one of the best on the AT&SF main line, for that matter.

When he could play, he really could play. He won some tournaments, and came close to winning some more. At the peak of his career, in the 1950s and 1960s, it was rare that someone hit the ball farther than he did. It was of his competitive faults that he often forgot the match to make the point he could hit the ball farther than you could. Continue reading

On Not Becoming a Gas Magnate

Dick Snider
May 2001

We were rolling along on a Texas highway, when Wendy Herman of Wichita, at the wheel, suddenly shouted, “Wyatt.” I had to think only a few seconds before I realized what brought on this outburst.  “You’re right,” I said.  “It’s Wyatt — Oscar Wyatt.”

The day before, we had been pursuing our favorite subject, the gasoline marketing business and the people in it we knew.  We were trying to think of the name of the creator of the Coastal Corp., and we couldn’t get past “Oscar.”

Herman obviously had been churning the question long after I had given up on it, and when he remembered he gave me a smug look that said he still had all his marbles, and I obviously didn’t. Continue reading