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Welcome to the Rotary Club of Homer-Kachemak Bay - Celebrating Over 30 Years Serving Homer and the World

Homer-Kachemak Bay

Four Way Test: True, Fair, Goodwill & Beneficial to All

We meet Thursdays at 12:00 PM
Best Western Bidarka Inn
575 Sterling Hwy
PO Box 377
Homer, AK  99603
United States
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For those of you who didn't have fun Sunday night, sorry--you must not have been at the 2017 Holiday Party!  Once again the Holiday Elves (aka. Sunshine Committee) outdid themselves and transformed the basement at the Elk's Lodge into a Winter Wonderland and Smorgasbord!  Here are some pictures to show you what I mean!
The Elves

Column: A grieving daughter finds comfort in an unexpected source: customer service 

By Barbara Brotman

Death comes with paperwork. There are credit cards to be canceled, bank accounts to be closed, mutual funds to be transferred. When my mother died recently, I set myself to my tasks. Hers was not a tragic or unexpected death; she was 103. Still, we were soul-close. This, I thought as I began, was not going to be pleasant.

But I was wrong. In a way, it was.

I was continually amazed as every single customer service person I spoke with began by expressing condolences. It happened so many times that I started taking notes:

“First, let me say that I am sorry for your loss.” “Before we go on, I am very sorry for your loss.”   “I can help you with that, but first, my condolences for your loss.” And in a particularly heartfelt moment on the phone with Franklin Templeton Investments: “Oh, Barbara, I’m so sorry.”

I was touched. But I was surprised that I was touched. After all, these condolences were surely company-mandated. Financial firms get calls all the time from people settling their late loved ones’ affairs. They would be foolish not to train employees in how to handle them.

No matter; I was still grateful. This wasn’t a conventional financial transaction; this was the closing-down of my mother’s life.

And there, on the other end of the line, someone understood and was sorry. With a single phrase of condolence, whether they were required to say it or simply responding with reflexive kindness, they had established a human connection.

Suddenly I wasn’t speaking to an anonymous voice, but to someone who might have suffered his or her own loss. There on the phone, we were not customer and customer service rep; we were simply two fellow souls on earth.

My friend Suzy Sachs encountered similar thoughtfulness when she went to her brother’s bank after he died last year.

“The poor guy at the bank showed me unbelievable patience and kindness,” she says. “I talked way too much and gave him details he never needed. When we finally finished, he said again how sorry he was for my loss.

“Every time I’ve been in the branch since, he comes up to me, shakes my hand, calls me by my name, and asks how everything is going,” she continues. “In this painful journey, I am often stunned by the kindness of people – strangers and friends. It gives me faith in humanity.”

Mimi Weyrick found that every financial institution, with one notable exception, dealt tenderly with her after her father, former California Lt. Gov. Ed Reinecke, died. 

“Even little things like canceling his subscription to the Orange County Register – people were just so nice and gentle with me,” she says. “It kind of renewed my faith in people. It’s not like his death was unexpected; he was 92. But it was just nice to have somebody say, ‘Hey, I’m really sorry.’”

Such expressions are profoundly important, says Jane Bissler, a grief counselor in Kent, Ohio, and a past president of the Association for Death Education and Counseling. “We want people to acknowledge where we are in life,” she says. “When we’re grieving, we want people to understand that you need to treat us a little bit differently. We don’t have 100 percent of our brain power; we are living a little bit in our heart, and we’re sad or we’re stressed or we’re anxious.”

When someone is kind in that moment, she notes, “We say, ‘OK, this person is going to get it. They’re trying to understand. They’re trying to meet me where I am.’ ”

Early on – before my mother’s death, but well into her dementia – I called the New York Times and the New Yorker to cancel her subscriptions.

Those were my hardest calls. The Times and the New Yorker defined her; they represented her in her full liberal New York Jewish glory. I had kept her subscriptions going for two years after she had lost the ability to read. 

I didn’t want to simply cancel her subscriptions. I wanted to tell someone who she was. 

“I think she’s probably one of your longest-running subscribers,” I told the woman taking my call at the Times. “She’s been reading the Times since the 1930s. She did the crossword puzzle every day, in pen. Including a half-hour after she came out of anesthesia for open-heart surgery at age 94.”

The customer service rep murmured kindly as I cried.

And the New Yorker: “She not only subscribed for decades, but she once had a short humor piece published,” I told the phone staffer. “Oh, that’s wonderful,” the woman said in tones that made me certain she meant it. I smiled proudly through the tears.

Mine were good experiences. But not everyone’s are. That notable exception Mimi Weyrick encountered?

Her father’s private bank ducked her calls so determinedly when she was trying to find out the value of his account that she had to drive there and waylay a banker in person.

“I could not get them on the phone. Nobody would return my call. We literally had to track them down,” she says. “It wasn’t until my brother threatened legal action that they started to work with us.”

And this report from a friend: “Shortly after my dad died, the pain clinic called my mom to ask when she would be returning his pump. This is the morphine pump that was surgically implanted in his stomach to deliver a steady stream of medicine to try to limit his pain. She was taken aback, and she told them it was buried inside of him. The woman paused for a second or two, then wondered, ‘What about the remote device that went with the pump?’” 

My friend Mike Precker, a writer in Dallas, will never forget the aftermath of his father’s death, though it happened in 1974.

“We had literally just gotten back from my dad’s funeral when a fellow from the local bank called to inquire when we would be paying his credit card bills,” he recalls. “Apparently some poor guy’s job was to read the obits and then call the families.”

Mike cut up the credit card and mailed it to the bank with a letter reading, “Dear Sir, I hope that from the tone of this letter you can infer just what you can do with the enclosed card.”

At Franklin Templeton Investments, the firm that was notably kind to me, Bethany Hendricks is vice president of customer service for the subsidiary whose wealth transfer team handles calls after a death. After her own father died, she called a credit card company to close his account.

“I probably got transferred three different times, and each time I had to say my dad died,” she says. “There was no acknowledgment of what that meant. And at one point there was a language barrier, to the point where I had to keep saying, ‘He’s dead.’ ‘He’s dead.’ It was awful.”

Franklin Templeton tells its people to acknowledge a loss and express condolences. But beyond that, the firm deliberately provides no script.

“We want them to be real people,” Hendricks says. “This is probably the time when you have the biggest opportunity to really be good to a person. Our folks fortunately are in the position to be compassionate in that moment and take a little extra time to be human.

“I don’t want to overstate what we do; we’re just a financial services company,” she says. “But I think people are hungry for finding people who are really people, and connecting with them on a very human level.”

The way companies handle those moments can be crucial, says Rima Toure-Tillery, assistant professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. “Any company, anyone that becomes aware of someone else’s loss has to say, ‘I’m sorry for your loss,’” she says. “To most people it wouldn’t seem like they’re doing something extra.”

From a marketing point of view, there are advantages, Toure-Tillery says. All banks offer similar services; warm personal exchanges can be what keeps a customer loyal. But the real impact comes if a company treats a grieving relative poorly. That’s when you get “the nightmare stories,” she says – the ones that make people so angry that they tell them, over and over, for years.

And a bank could lose more than goodwill. Weyrick suspects that her father’s bank was ducking her to keep her from moving his assets elsewhere. In fact, “we would have been happy to leave everything there,” she says. “But it was because of how they treated us in those first few months that we decided to move everything.”

As time passed after my mother’s death, the financial transactions became less fraught. I wasn’t grieving; I was just taking care of business. 

But I never stopped appreciating it when a customer service rep said she was sorry for my loss. Each time, those words turned a transaction into an acknowledgment of our fundamental bond. We are all human, we are all walking the same mortal path, and we can all use a little kindness, even and maybe especially from an unexpected place, to light the way.

• Barbara Brotman is a freelancer and a former writer for the Chicago Tribune. Read more stories from The Rotarian

Habitat for Humanity and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness join with Rotary to improve lives 
By Sallyann Price
Rotary has added two service partners that offer clubs new ways to collaborate with other organizations and strengthen their projects: Habitat for Humanity and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).
Habitat for Humanity, one of Rotary’s newest service partners, builds homes for families in need, and provides opportunities for hands-on community service.
Photo by Alyce Henson
Rotary members assemble in an Atlanta suburb to receive their work assignments for a home building project with Habitat for Humanity, one of Rotary’s newest service partners.
Photo by Alyce Henson
Randy Schiltz (right) helps put up siding during a Habitat for Humanity home building project. Schiltz owns a construction firm and is a member of the Rotary Club of Alpharetta, Georgia, USA.
Photo by Alyce Henson
Alpharetta Rotarian Glennette Haynes (middle) works alongside a friend of the new homeowner.
Photo by Alyce Henson
Local secondary school students join Rotary members, including Katie Rocco from the Alpharetta club (center), and other volunteers to lend a hand.
Photo by Alyce Henson
Habitat for Humanity has a long history of working with Rotarians and Rotaractors to build the types of low-cost shelters that now qualify for global grant funding, under a recent Board decision. It’s also a natural fit for Rotary’s approach to vocational service, which encourages members to use their professional skills to help others.
When the Rotary Club of Alpharetta, Georgia, USA, participated in a Habitat home building project in the Atlanta area earlier this year, members showed up ready to work and lend their professional expertise. Randy Schiltz, who owns a construction firm, helped the new homeowners pre-drill holes to prepare for installing siding. Interior decorator Glennette Haynes, who works with people in transitional housing, was there to offer advice on furnishing and decorating their homes.
Habitat for Humanity International Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Reckford is a member of the Rotary Club of Atlanta. During the 2017 Rotary International Convention there, volunteers gathered on-site to help construct the wood framing for a home.
Our values are so closely aligned, and the desire to help others runs deep in both organizations.
Jonathan Reckford 
Habitat for Humanity International Chief Executive Officer and Rotary Club of Atlanta member
“Often when I speak to Rotary groups and ask how many people have worked on a Habitat project, it’s not uncommon for more than three-quarters of the audience to raise their hands,” Reckford says. “Our values are so closely aligned, and the desire to help others runs deep in both organizations.”
Rotary’s values are also closely aligned with IAPB, a membership organization that brings together government and nongovernmental agencies, academics, and private providers to plan and implement sustainable eye care programs. 
“We seek to encourage both organizations [Rotary and IAPB] to promote greater awareness of the need for eye clinics and blindness prevention activities, to develop projects together, to consult, and to work together with their constituents,” says Peter Kyle, a member of the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill (Washington, D.C.), and Rotary’s Joint Committee on Partnerships.
Rotary is a global organization with members in nearly every community around the world, and the cause of eye health is just as universal. 
Victoria Sheffield 
President and CEO of the International Eye Foundation and vice president of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness
A global grant project in India, one of three pilot projects with IAPB, aims to improve access to eye care in Karol Bagh, a neighborhood in New Delhi, where private eye doctors and facilities are available but unaffordable for many.
Local Rotary clubs worked with the International Eye Foundation, an IAPB member, to raise funds and supply medical equipment for vision screenings and treatment at an eye hospital’s new facility. They also worked to design a social enterprise to sustain the hospital’s charitable outreach programs.
“There is a wonderful opportunity for our networks,” says Victoria Sheffield, president and CEO of the International Eye Foundation and vice president of IAPB. “Rotary is a global organization with members in nearly every community around the world, and the cause of eye health is just as universal. Everyone is affected by eye conditions at some point, whether it’s needing glasses or cataract surgery, or addressing a congenital issue or complications from diabetes. Everyone has two eyes.”
·        Read our press releases about Habitat for Humanity and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness
This is some very important information, and very timely. Recently one of the subject fire extinguishers discharged itself, and spread a white powder into the owner's house.  The powder MUST be vacuumed up, as it can be quite corrosive, and definitely shortens the life of moving parts as it is also very abrasive.  The extinguishers can self-discharge or not discharge at all!  Please check. Please note that there are several different brand names included in this recall.
Kidde Recalls Fire Extinguishers with Plastic Handles Due to Failure to Discharge and Nozzle Detachment: One Death Reported
Name of product:
Kidde fire extinguishers with plastic handles
The fire extinguishers can become clogged or require excessive force to discharge and can fail to activate during a fire emergency. In addition, the nozzle can detach with enough force to pose an impact hazard.
Recall date:
November 2, 2017
Recall number:
Consumer Contact:
Kidde toll-free at 855-271-0773 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET Saturday and Sunday, or online at and click on “Product Safety Recall” for more information.
Recall Details
In Conjunction With:
This recall involves two styles of Kidde fire extinguishers: plastic handle fire extinguishers and push-button Pindicator fire extinguishers.
Plastic handle fire extinguishers: The recall involves 134 models of Kidde fire extinguishers manufactured between January 1, 1973 and August 15, 2017, including models that were previously recalled in March 2009 and February 2015. The extinguishers were sold in red, white and silver, and are either ABC- or BC-rated. The model number is printed on the fire extinguisher label. For units produced in 2007 and beyond, the date of manufacture is a 10-digit date code printed on the side of the cylinder, near the bottom.  Digits five through nine represent the day and year of manufacture in DDDYY format. Date codes for recalled models manufactured from January 2, 2012 through August 15, 2017 are 00212 through 22717.  For units produced before 2007, a date code is not printed on the fire extinguisher.
Plastic-handle models produced between January 1, 1973 and October 25, 2015
Gillette TPS-1 1A10BC
Sams SM 340
Home 10BC
Sanford 1A10BC
Home 1A10BC
Sanford 2A40BC
Ademco 720 1A10BC
Home 2A40BC
Sanford TPS-1 1A10BC
Ademco 722 2A40BC
Home H-10 10BC
Sanford TPS-1 2A40BC
Home H-110 1A10BC
Sears 2RPS   5BC
All Purpose 2A40BC
Home H-240 2A-40BC
Sears 58033 10BC
Bicentenial RPS-2  10BC
Honeywell 1A10BC
Sears 58043 1A10BC
Bicentenial TPS-2  1A-10BC
Honeywell TPS-1 1A10BC
Sears 5805  2A40BC
Costco 340
J.L. 2A40BC
Sears 958034
FA 340HD
J.L. TPS-1 2A40BC
Sears 958044
Kadet 2RPS-1   5BC
Sears 958054
FC 340Z
Kidde 10BC
Sears 958075
FC Super
Kidde 1A10BC
Sears RPS-1 10BC
Kidde 2A40BC
Sears TPS-1  1A10BC
Fire Away 10BC Spanish
Kidde 40BC
Sears TPS-1 2A40BC
Fire Away 1A10BC Spanish
Kidde RPS-1 10BC
Traveler 10BC
Fire Away 2A40BC Spanish
Kidde RPS-1 40BC
Traveler 1A10BC
Fireaway 10 (F-10)
Kidde TPS-1 1A10BC
Traveler 2A40BC
Fireaway 10BC
Kidde TPS-1 2A40BC
Traveler T-10 10BC
Fireaway 110 (F-110)
KX 2-1/2 TCZ
Traveler T-110 1A10BC
Fireaway 1A10BC
Mariner 10BC
Traveler T-240 2A40BC
Fireaway 240 (F-240)
Mariner 1A10BC
Volunteer 1A10BC
Fireaway 2A40BC
Mariner 2A40BC
Volunteer TPS-V 1A10BC
Force 9 2A40BC
Mariner M-10  10BC
XL 2.5 TCZ
FS 340Z
Mariner M-110 1A10BC
XL 2.5 TCZ-3
Fuller 420  1A10BC
Mariner M-240 2A40BC
XL 2.5 TCZ-4
Fuller Brush 420 1A10BC
Master Protection 2A40BC
XL 2.75 RZ
Montgomery Ward 10BC
XL 2.75 RZ-3
Montgomery Ward 1A-10BC
XL 2-3/4 RZ
Montgomery Ward 8627 1A10BC
XL 340HD
Montgomery Ward 8637  10BC
Quell 10BC
Quell 1A10BC
Quell RPS-1 10BC
XL 5 TCZ-1
Quell TPS-1 1A10BC
Gillette 1A10BC
Quell ZRPS  5BC
Plastic-handle models with date codes between January 2, 2012 and August 15, 2017
Push-button Pindicator fire extinguishers: The recall involves eight models of Kidde Pindicator fire extinguishers manufactured between August 11, 1995 and September 22, 2017. The no-gauge push-button extinguishers were sold in red and white, and with a red or black nozzle. These models were sold primarily for kitchen and personal watercraft applications.
Push Button Pindicator Models manufactured between  August 11, 1995 and September 22, 2017
FF 210D-1
Consumers should immediately contact Kidde to request a free replacement fire extinguisher and for instructions on returning the recalled unit, as it may not work properly in a fire emergency.
Note: This recall includes fire extinguisher models that were previously recalled in March 2009 and February 2015. Kidde branded fire extinguishers included in these previously announced recalls should also be replaced. All affected model numbers are listed in the charts above.
Recall information for fire extinguishers used in RVs and motor vehicles can be found on NHTSA’s website.
The firm is aware of a 2014 death involving a car fire following a crash. Emergency responders could not get the recalled Kidde fire extinguishers to work. There have been approximately 391 reports of failed or limited activation or nozzle detachment, including the fatality, approximately 16 injuries, including smoke inhalation and minor burns, and approximately 91 reports of property damage.
Sold At:
Menards, Montgomery Ward, Sears, The Home Depot, Walmart and other department, home and hardware stores nationwide, and online at, and other online retailers for between $12 and $50 and for about $200 for model XL 5MR. These fire extinguishers were also sold with commercial trucks, recreational vehicles, personal watercraft and boats.
Walter Kidde Portable Equipment Company Inc., of Mebane, N.C.
Manufactured In:
United States and Mexico
About 37.8 million (in addition, 2.7 million in Canada and 6,730 in Mexico)
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC is committed to protecting consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical or mechanical hazard. CPSC's work to help ensure the safety of consumer products - such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters and household chemicals -– contributed to a decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 40 years.
Federal law bars any person from selling products subject to a publicly-announced voluntary recall by a manufacturer or a mandatory recall ordered by the Commission.
To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury go online to or call CPSC's Hotline at 800-638-2772 or teletypewriter at 301-595-7054 for the hearing impaired. Consumers can obtain news release and recall information at, on Twitter @USCPSC or by subscribing to CPSC's free e-mail newsletters.

Until the 1950s, cervical cancer killed more American women than any other type of cancer. Widespread screening has drastically decreased the number of those deaths in the United States, but in the West African country of Senegal, the disease remains prevalent. Every year, more than 1,400 Senegalese women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and hundreds of them die from it.

To Andrew Dykens, a professor of family medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), the situation is especially galling given how easy this form of cancer is to catch.

“Cervical cancer develops very, very slowly,” Dykens says. “There are five to 15 years from the first cellular changes to the actual cancer development. So you’ve got time during that phase to do something about it.”



Training for health care workers in Kedougou.

Courtesy of Andrew Dykens


Training for health care workers in Kedougou.

Courtesy of Andrew Dykens



Training for health care workers in Kedougou.

Courtesy of Andrew Dykens



Andrew Dykens, lower left, worked closely with local health care workers and Peace Care volunteers to bring a simple testing and treatment protocol for cervical cancer to Senegal.

Courtesy of Andrew Dykens


That’s exactly what he’s doing, with the help of the Peace Corps, Rotarians, and UIC. 

Dykens – who is a member of the Rotary Club of Chicago, the director of the Global Community Health Track at UIC’s Center for Global Health, and a former Peace Corps volunteer – is bringing together those organizations and Senegal’s Ministry of Health and Social Action to reduce the number of women who die from this highly treatable disease.


A bit of background: In 2010, Dykens launched Peace Care, a nonprofit that helps communities and organizations work together to bring resources where they are needed. “It dawned on me that the Peace Corps should be working more closely with, for example, academic centers, because these centers have technical expertise but don’t have a footprint in local settings,” he says. “Meanwhile, the Peace Corps has people who are extraordinarily knowledgeable about the local context.” 


And Rotary? “Rotary loves to build capacity,” he says. “If we can build the capacity to implement evidence-based solutions that already exist, we don’t need fancy tools like MRIs or robotic surgery. Not that those tools aren’t good, but there’s a basic level of access to primary health care that doesn’t exist.”


After hearing from Peace Corps staff in Senegal about the need for cervical cancer screenings there, Dykens and Peace Care started training health workers in the Kedougou region of the country to detect abnormal cervical cells via a simple but effective method. A vinegar solution, dabbed onto the cervix, reveals abnormal cells that can be killed immediately with a cryotherapy gun and CO2 tank – no electricity required. This is far easier and less expensive than the standard Pap test, which requires looking at cell samples under a microscope to identify abnormalities. 


“Cool, right?” Dykens says. “This technique has been around for decades, and it costs so little and saves women’s lives. So how is it that in this day and age, in Senegal, there are 10 rural regions that have no access to cervical cancer screening?”


Part of the answer is local influence. “In some cases, the local opinion leaders are very conservative on women’s issues, and they are reluctant to help the women go for consultation,” says Manuel Pina, an obstetrician/gynecologist and member of the Rotary Club of Dakar-Soleil who is working with Peace Care. “But Rotarians are also opinion leaders. We have already done local talks on the importance of this project, to help end all of the rumors and bad information linked to cervical cancer.” Pina notes that they also encourage families to have their daughters vaccinated against human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer.


Rotarians and Peace Corps volunteers have a long history of working together on projects, and in 2014 the two organizations began a more formalized partnership. The cervical cancer screening project demonstrates how a grassroots effort can benefit from the combined strengths of the two organizations.


The Rotary clubs plan to apply for a Rotary Foundation global grant to help expand cervical cancer screening services to the Tambacounda region. “Not just for the purpose of building capacity, but also to build a training center for cervical cancer screening,” Dykens says. Eventually, that center could also train health workers to screen for and treat other diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, and other types of cancers, he adds.


Dykens says support of Rotarians in the United States and in Senegal will continue to be key.


“Rotarians do things right,” he says. “They work systematically and always engage local voices and perspectives, and that is what ultimately creates success. Rotary has worked a long time on polio and done an amazing job. And in my mind, access to primary care is the next polio.”


–Anne Ford


• Read more stories from The Rotarian

Rotarians from three countries resurrect the forgotten Great Western Trail
By Frank Bures Photos by Scott Slusher
At Doan’s Crossing, in a remote corner of Texas near the southeastern tip of the Panhandle, the local folks hold a picnic every May. It has all the things you would expect from a small-town picnic: A few hundred people from the nearby town of Vernon and the surrounding area gather to eat barbecue and socialize. Riders on horseback cross the river from Oklahoma to attend. A Picnic King and Queen are crowned. 
But the event, which claims to be the “oldest pioneer festival” in Texas, also marks a piece of American history that was nearly lost: Doan’s Crossing was a key point along the Great Western Trail, a major cattle trail that, during its 20 years of existence, was more heavily used than the better-remembered Chisholm Trail. While it was in use, some 6 million to 7 million cattle and a million horses made their way up various parts of the route.
At Doan’s Crossing, near the historic Doan house, five trail-saving Rotarians gather around the first marker erected in Texas: Rick Jouett, left, Paul Hawkins, Jeff Bearden, Sylvia Mahoney, and Phil McCuistion.
But unlike the Oregon Trail, along which pioneer wagons left ruts that are still visible, cattle trails could be a mile wide and left few traces – except in people’s memories.
The Great Western Trail traversed the Red River at Doan’s Crossing. It’s the spot where Jonathan Doan and his family set up a trading post in 1878. It was the last place where the cattle drovers – the cowboys – could stock up on supplies before they headed north across the Texas border into Indian Territory, as Oklahoma was then known. Doan’s Picnic was started by the wives of the drovers who had gone up the trail in 1884. It has been held every year since.
Today, Doan’s store is gone, but the small adobe house where his nephew lived still sits in a field, much as it did when the first picnic took place. On an August day, the site is quiet but for the crickets’ song. A few stone historical markers keep vigil in the tall grass. 
Not far from the house stands a tall white concrete post with “GREAT WESTERN TR” in red letters, and next to it stand Rotarians Sylvia Mahoney and Jeff Bearden, who are largely responsible for that marker being there. They’re chatting with John Yudell Barton from across the Red River in Oklahoma, who made this post and helped launch the Great Western Trail project, one of the biggest and most complex Rotary projects in the state – if not the country – which has involved hundreds of Rotarians across three countries.
“There used to be a town here with the streets all platted out,” Bearden says on an unusually cool summer day. “There were about 300 people living here, with a school and a post office. This is all that’s left. The rest just dried up and blew away.”
A map of the trail as it might have appeared more than 130 years ago, when Oklahoma was still known as Indian Territory.
The memory of the Great Western Trail almost blew away too, the only traces being the stories handed down through families and the yellowed documents and maps in small-town archives along the 2,000-mile route that stretches from Matamoros, Mexico, all the way to Val Marie, Sask. That’s when Rotary rode to the rescue.
In the fall of 2002, Mahoney attended the National Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock, Texas, where she met Barton and Rotarian Dennis Vernon (no relation to the town). A college rodeo coach and a member of the Rotary Club of Vernon, Mahoney was intrigued by this almost forgotten slice of history. She knew about the Chisholm Trail and the Shawnee Trail. And she knew about the Goodnight-Loving Trail from her favorite TV miniseries, Lonesome Dove. But the Great Western was a mystery, which was strange since she lived right on its path. In fact, it was just a stone’s throw from her office at Vernon College, where she was an administrator and taught English.
Back home, she invited Barton and Vernon to speak to her Rotary club. “They came back in a few months and challenged us to participate in marking the Great Western Trail,” says Bearden, who’s also a member of the Rotary Club of Vernon. “They were marking it in Oklahoma and wanted to extend it to other states.”
Dennis Vernon, a member of the Rotary Club of Altus, Okla., was working with the Museum of the Western Prairie in Altus to mark the trail, but he realized that Rotary could take the project further than he and Barton ever could. “I told them, ‘This would be great not just for your community, but for those south of you too, to help mark this historic trail,’” recalls Vernon. “And we said, ‘We’ll make the first marker for you.’”
Posts mark the trail including in Altus, Okla., USA, near the Museum of the Western Prairie, left, and the rodeo grounds in Throckmorton, Texas, USA.
Mahoney grasped the importance immediately. “It would be a history-making project, because the Great Western Trail was the last Texas cattle trail, ” she says. “It was the largest Texas cattle trail. It was the longest Texas cattle trail. And it was almost forgotten.”
After discussing it with their club, Mahoney looked over at Bearden, who owned a chuck wagon and appeared at re-enactments as Davy Crockett. Not quite knowing the magnitude of the undertaking, they accepted the challenge, agreeing to co-chair the project and try to mark the trail every six of its 620 miles across Texas.
“When our friends from Vernon Rotary Club joined in,” Dennis Vernon says, “that’s when it really took off. ”
As time went on, scores of other Rotarians joined the project – including Ray Klinginsmith, who, as president of Rotary International in 2010-11, became one of the trail’s most prominent champions.
Cattle trails occupy a key place in American history and culture. The Civil War devastated the economies of the former Confederate states. In the summer of 1865, Texas had little industry, and many of its young men had been killed in the war.
Cowboys would often eat beans, bacon, and other things that could be preserved on long cattle drives. See some common recipes here.
One thing the state did have was cattle: millions of feral longhorns roaming the high plains. They were a strange and hardy breed that resulted from half-wild Spanish cattle mixing with English stock. They had few birthing problems, were easy to raise, and were immune to tick fever. And they were so tough they often gained weight on the long journey north.
Before the war, some cattle had been sent north (mainly on the Shawnee Trail), but back then, people in the United States consumed more pork than beef, partly because pork was easier to preserve. The cattle drives helped change the American diet. In the 1860s, ranchers and cowboys in Texas and northern Mexico started rounding up loose herds and driving them north en masse to Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri. From the railheads there, the cattle traveled to Chicago and other points east, where people were developing a taste for beef – and where a steer worth $4 in Texas might sell for as much as 10 times that amount.
But first the cattle had to travel across hundreds of miles of open range – in some instances going beyond the railheads as far north as Montana and even into Canada, where they could feed the growing population and still earn a pretty profit. The journey required months of inching along day by day as the trail hands tried to keep thousands of cattle moving together in the same direction.
Overseeing this task was the trail boss, who was aided by about 10 drovers, who herded the cows, rounded up strays, cut out interlopers, and got the longhorns where they were going. Some of the trail hands worked as wranglers, overseeing the remuda – the herd of spare saddle horses.
These were the cowboys, young men (and a few women) at loose ends because of the war or the economy or their own deeds. Most were white, but some were freed slaves, others were Native American, and many came from Mexico. (Cowboy culture first evolved in Spanish California in the late 1700s and early 1800s, as seen in words such as “buckaroo” (vaquero), “lasso,” “chaps,” and others; see “How to Talk Cowboy,” page 36.) Some were criminals, and others were adventurers, but on the trail, they were all equals.
A ranch hand uses his lariat to lasso a cow. Cowboy terms with Spanish roots reveal the origins of many Old West traditions.
In time, the cowboys came to embody America’s most prized character traits – independence, toughness, fairness, self-reliance. They had an informal ethical code, with a number of tenets: “When you make a promise, keep it.” “Live each day with courage.” “Always finish what you start.” (You will find these and other maxims in James P. Owen’s Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West.) It was a simple, hard-bitten wisdom that was the foundation of the culture of the West.
Mahoney, who was raised in southeastern New Mexico and Texas, sees those values reflected in Rotary’s Four-Way Test: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned? “The cowboy code has so much in common with The Four-Way Test,” Mahoney says as we drive across the high plains of Texas. “And I think The Four-Way Test is the best ethical statement. If everyone lived like that, the world would be a much better place.”
We are on our way to Vernon, where those first markers set out by the Great Western Trail project now stand. One is outside the Red River Valley Museum on the outskirts of town.
When Mahoney and I arrive, we meet some of the Vernon Rotarians who spent years bringing the trail back to life: Phil McCuistion, who poured the concrete for 121 of the markers with Rick Jouett, and Paul Hawkins, who hand-painted the markers white with red letters. They’re each wearing Great Western Trail shirts, Rotary pins embellished with longhorns, and large belt buckles.
Marking the Great Western Trail’s route through Texas was a massive project: It stretches 620 miles across that state alone. The Vernon Rotarians were rescuing history, and in the process they were putting some small towns back on the map. Marking historic routes such as the Oregon Trail, the Lewis and Clark Trail, and the Natchez Trace has proven a good way to draw history buffs and infuse small towns along the way with tourist dollars.
As promised, Barton and Vernon donated the first marker. This handoff was scheduled for Doan’s Picnic in 2004. On that day, the Vernon Rotarians gathered at Doan’s Crossing. As the dedication ceremony began, Oklahoma State Sen. Robert M. Kerr rode in on horseback from the north, followed by a wagon carrying the marker. From the south came Texas State Rep. Rick Hardcastle on his own horse. When the groups met, they rode to the marker location, planted the post in the ground, and cemented it in place. Then the Texans and Oklahomans took turns pouring water from the Red River out of a Mason jar onto the marker. “Everyone got a chance to pour some Red River water if they wanted to,” says Mahoney. That ritual became a key part of marking the trail.
“All of the dedications gave people this feeling that their community was part of this big trail and part of history,” says Dave Mason, a past governor of Rotary District 5790 in north-central Texas, who got involved with the project in Abilene and has attended several dedications from one end of the trail to the other. “They really cemented the whole thing. There was some coordination by email and phone calls, but until you meet face to face, you don’t really know each other. Now we’re all tied in with 2,000 miles of communities, all the way from Mexico to Canada.”
Rick Jouett, right, and Paul Hawkins at the courthouse in Vernon, Texas
After it had the marker, the Vernon club got two metal molds from Barton so it could make its own concrete posts. Then the members got to work. They looked at the map and figured out which towns along the trail in Texas had Rotary clubs. 
“We contacted the Rotarians in these towns,” says Mahoney. “And everyone I talked to was excited to be included and eager to do something in their towns with their history. Some of the Rotary clubs had never even heard of the Great Western Trail.”
Ted Paup, a ranch owner and a member of the Rotary Club of Abilene at the time (he’s currently with the Rotary Club of Fort Worth), remembers getting that call. “I said, ‘You’re going to mark it for 2,000 miles north and south? That’s the craziest idea I’ve ever heard. You-all are out of your minds!’” 

In fact, they hadn’t planned to mark the entire trail quite yet. But that would change soon. And before long, there was a trail marker at Frontier Texas, a history museum in Abilene, and another in Moran, Texas, near Paup’s ranch. (Paup funded that marker and another about 45 miles north in Throckmorton.)


In Texas, the markers began to accumulate. But getting from expressing interest in the project to actually installing a post took a lot of work. First the club or town had to produce documentation that the trail did in fact pass through the location. This could usually be found in the family histories compiled in small-town museums and historical societies. (An invaluable resource for marking the trail was “The Great Western Cattle Trail to Dodge City, Kansas,” which Jimmy M. Skaggs wrote as his 1965 master’s thesis at what is today Texas Tech University.)


Once that was established, the club had to choose a location and secure any needed permissions. Then the Vernon club would pour the concrete into the marker mold, let it cure for a month, paint it, and work out the logistics of either a formal dedication – complete with Red River water – or a quieter ceremony. (As work on the trail expanded to other towns, states, and countries, volunteers from other clubs along the trail eventually took on the making of the markers.)


Sometimes, the hardest part was getting the 225-pound markers to their destinations. But little by little, the trail in Texas began to come back to life.


“It seemed like a pretty insurmountable thing, going from one end of Texas to the other,” says Bearden. “But people got involved, and it worked out well.”


Marking the trail across Texas was a huge job, but the Great Western Trail project was about to get even bigger. Jim Aneff, District 5790 governor at the time, got excited about the project, and in 2005, while the planting of the Texas posts was ongoing, he invited Mahoney to set up a display at the Rotary institute in Corpus Christi. She packed up her maps and photos and installed herself in the hallway of the hotel where the district governors had gathered. Many of those governors were from states that the Great Western Trail passed through.


Homer High School Swing Choir
Dec 14, 2017
Holiday Program
Dec 21, 2017
No Meeting
Dec 28, 2017
Bjorn Olson
Jan 04, 2018 12:00 PM
Arctic Bike Adventures & Climate Change
John Morton, USFW
Feb 08, 2018 12:00 PM
Why does the moose cross the road? Sterling Highway MP 58-79 Rehabilitation Jim’s Landing to Sterlin
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