As his family scatters far and wide, sixteen-year-old John Gannon is ready for his next adventure. After he travels to Kansas City to attend high school, he successfully enables his athletically gifted American Indian friends, James Blue Eagle and Mercury Monet, to be accepted at the same school.
Inspired by dreams of attending college in North Carolina and becoming a writer, John immerses himself in his classes and the high school track team. But when his Indian friends are brutally attacked, John advises them to return to their South Dakota reservation for protection. Instead, they choose France at the height of World War I where they become known as "the Moles." Alone, John faces off with a bully and pursues his writing dreams-until the flu pandemic brings Kansas City to its knees. As tragedy strikes the Gannon family and the Great Depression begins, John enters college where he must cope with a fracturing family, financial hardship, and a bold decision that will stun everyone around him.
In this continuing saga, a young man intent on achieving his American dream must learn to survive within tumultuous times as the world deals with war, disease, and financial challenges greater than anyone ever imagined.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.55(d)|
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Kansas City Calling
A Gannon Family Trilogy: Book 2
By Richard W. Ellison
iUniverseCopyright © 2015 Richard W. Ellison
All rights reserved.
Kansas City Ranger
The Kansas City Ranger slowly gained speed, climbing the long slope beyond the Brule River — the river where John Gannon and James Blue Eagle spent their first days of school together, exploring the land and dreaming about their future beyond South Dakota. Gannon expected his plans for Blue Eagle and Mercury to be tested far beyond Chambers. After all, Center High in nineteen seventeen was an all-white school.
John, still standing at his train car window, anxiously looked back at the Brule River for signs of his Indian friend. Moments prior, Blue Eagle had raced alongside John's train car on Crazy Horse's big Appaloosa stallion. Every passenger on the train had erupted with excitement as the great horse stumbled, and stumbled again, almost going under the train's wheels. Blue Eagle had eased his mount off the rails to soft ground just minutes before going over a twenty-foot-high embankment into the Brule River.
Gannon's throat choked with tension until he saw the horse and rider emerge from the river's depths, swimming toward shore. John felt the backs of his legs press firmly against his seat as the din of loud voices discussing the Indian's daring riding swirled about him. The stumbles, the audacious plunge over the cliff ... the boldness of it all!
Gannon shook his head. He just had to risk it all! He could have killed himself, but no, a Mandan Indian chief 's son doesn't back down from danger. It's there; it's a challenge. He's compelled to do it. I don't know if Kansas City is ready for him. Ready for him? What about Mercury as well?
The tension wrapped Gannon in a vacuum, momentarily shutting out the excited crowd in his train car. Gannon slowly pushed back in his seat. He rubbed his eyes with both hands. The anxiety drained him like a limp sack. He had so much time invested in his friend — such an important responsibility in his hands. Friendship was one thing; rescuing James Blue Eagle was quite another — especially after talking to James's chief about the son's future. Tom Gannon had remarked that John's goal was far bigger than James Blue Eagle, perhaps embracing the future of the last band of native Mandan there in Chambers. Questions now surfaced about his latest plans and their workability.
Were his friend's feats an omen — a prelude to the new dangers just moving into Kansas City? John had read the Kansas City Star of the previous week, reporting three deaths by a nasty group of men who had been tracked by police from Saint Louis and other towns. This was not in his plans for a happy life in Kansas City. John mentally filed it away as he squirmed to find comfort in his seat. He exhaled hard. Is that what certain humans do best — kill for power and control? What about my plans to introduce two brown-skinned American Indians to Center High School? Are those people going to come after us too? What the hell have I gotten myself into? Maybe Uncle Will has the answers.
A few passengers began changing train cars for myriad reasons, shifting in and out of Gannon's view. A powerfully built young man in his twenties caught John's attention as he entered the car, and from his side vision John knew that he chose a seat directly across the aisle. As Gannon turned to look at the man, just settling down from arranging his luggage, the man returned his gaze. John turned away quickly from making direct contact so closely, only to whip his head around for a second look at the powerful face.
The man smiled again and nodded. John's mouth fell open in disbelief.
"Are you ... are you he?" Gannon politely asked.
"I am. I'm Jim. Was that someone you knew out there racing us to the river?"
"Sir," John asked, somewhat befuddled, "I mean, yes, he's my best friend. He's James Blue Eagle."
"Oh, I know who he is; I'm just surprised that you know him. I shouldn't be, though; you're likely coming from the same river town of Chambers back there. And you look to be about the same age."
John cupped his hand around one ear, straining to hear Jim's words as the Santa Fe Ranger's big engine powered its way up the long incline that lay before them.
"It's pretty noisy," Jim said. Move over here with me so we can talk. We have several hours before we get to Kansas City. Take the window here, and tell me how you know the Eagles."
As John moved across the aisle, his eyes swept the stature of his new friend — the strong shoulders, the sculptured American Indian face, the six-foot frame, the powerful legs. He looked as though he had been poured into his clothes.
"My family will think I jest when I tell them I sat by our Olympic champion on the train to Kansas City. What an honor, Mr. Thorpe."
"No more than talking to a friend of James Blue Eagle. And please — call me Jim. I'd like that. Tell me — how do you know the Eagles?"
"I met them at a Fourth of July celebration when we first moved to Chambers three years ago. We — James and I — became friends immediately. After some difficult discussions, we got him into our one-room school, and he made a friend of all of us. I organized a track team and found out immediately that he could really run. James and I became very competitive. Finally we got a coach, Coach Tiller, and he whipped us into shape pretty quickly. We won a few races at track meets but had some bad luck at the state meet. Food and the flu wiped us out!"
"What brings you to Kansas City?" Thorpe asked.
"I'm going to high school there. My uncle and aunt live there, but it has always been my destination. I want to be a writer. Kansas City, with its history and growth, has always sounded exotic. Good schools too. Since we moved west, it has always been 'Kansas City calling.' I sometimes hear it in my dreams. Huh ... now I read that some nasty people are moving there from other towns. I worry about my plans."
Thorpe cut in, changing the subject.
"What kind of speed do you boys have? You're what, fifteen?"
"I'm sixteen this year. We were fourteen and fifteen back in Chambers. Speed? Oh, we clocked in at 10.6 seconds, sometimes 10.5 in the hundred. One time the wind pushed us over the finish line at 10.45 seconds. Nothing at all like your speed, sir ... I mean Jim. You are lightning on the ground."
"That's my name, you know. In Sac-Fox, it's Wa-Tho-Huk, which means "bright path." I was born during a powerful storm. The first thing my parents saw was lightning hitting the ground near our house. So they named me 'path lighted by a great flash of lightning.' We just say 'bright path.'"
"That storm sure put fire in your legs. My father and I talked several times about your decathlon and pentathlon that you ran away with in the 1912 Olympics. The entire country was shouting your name. My dad says that you are the best athlete on earth — and a natural-born athlete, at that. We read about your ticker-tape parade in New York. You must have felt seven feet tall riding up Fifth Avenue."
Thorpe smiled but didn't comment. It was silent for a few minutes. Still smiling, he turned to his young seatmate and said, "Sounds like you and Blue Eagle did a lot of things together. I'll bet you both were chasing girls most of the time."
John blushed at the sudden change of topic, recovering in time to say, "Oh, sure. We were regular menaces to the ladies. You know, teasing them. But with our speed, none of them could catch us. More to the point, none of them could fish, so we didn't invite them. I taught my friend Blue Eagle vocabulary and our white customs. He taught me about nature and many of the Mandan ways of life. We took to the wilds like we were born out there. Haggerty Woods, the Bad Lands. I loved it. I couldn't even swim when I first met James, and I'd never heard of a bull boat, let alone rowed one. I'm going to miss our river town and the life there. Miss it a lot. Chambers is an amazing place, Jim. And the Brule must have the biggest fish of any river."
John paused a moment and fiddled with his thumbs and fingers; then he continued. "In my wildest dreams, I would never have thought I would get to know the things that Blue Eagle taught me. By the time I realized it, I was in my last year in Chambers before moving on to high school. I instinctively knew that James belonged there with me — and on to college as well. He's become a project. Chief Grey Eagle agreed when I approached him. He told me, 'Take him with you. Get him educated in the white schools and in the white ways.' Looking at things now, I see that it is very hard on both of them. Kansas City is going to be even more difficult to deal with. We are going to an all-white —"
Thorpe interrupted. "What makes you think you can get an Indian boy in your high school? Indians have their own schools, you know. You've got some job on your hands, young man. How are you going to do that?" In the same breath and in a firmer tone, Thorpe poked his right index finger lightly into Gannon's shoulder, saying, "And while you're at it, little chief, tell me why. Why would you help an Indian boy, capable as he is, make such a leap into the white world?"
Without flinching, John came back with "I'll answer your last question first. It's a mission that has been building inside me for over a year. It's something that has grown into a goal — something that I feel I should do for my friend. Maybe it's because James has become more than a friend ... more like a brother. I have no brothers, and neither does he. I told my father, 'That's the entire equation.' Yet it isn't. My father reminded me that it's much bigger than 'my son and an Indian boy.' It's a small part of the equation ... the good in the whole Indian–white relationship. 'In a way,' he said, 'you are writing new history, amending the old.' I ask you, Mr. Thorpe, wouldn't one help his brother solve a big problem if he could? I think he would, and so does my father. Dad thinks it is a great idea. My father has had some amazing experiences in life, and I value his opinion more than that of anyone else I know. He thought my plans just might work if I thought them through and carried them out carefully, gaining confidence as I went.
"I visited two reservations in Chambers; I talked with James's chief. Some of those kids are bright, and they're sitting in a no-man's land, just crying out for someone to rescue them. They don't even have a school. I can at least try to help Blue Eagle. If I fail, I may lose a close friend, but if I win, then I've helped my friend become educated. That's the trophy. I'm going to high school, college as well. Why not James Blue Eagle? He will wilt away in his own waste on a reservation. And I'll tell you this, Mr. Thorpe — and you know from your own experience and desire to win — just as my father always preached to us kids, 'You don't quit reaching for higher ground in life until you give it all you're capable of, with all the cunning and strength you've got! Otherwise, it wasn't much of idea in the first place.' Now, for the second question." The oratory caused John's face to light up in excitement. "I know —"
Thorpe held up his hand, saying, "Well said, young man. You've learned some valuable lessons for a sixteen-year-old boy. Congratulations!"
"Oh, I have an ace up my sleeve as well," John said with a half-smile, looking Thorpe in the eyes. Then he asked, "Do you think they would admit a Jim Thorpe to Center High School?"
"They might. But Blue Eagle, according to you, doesn't have Jim Thorpe's speed."
"That's true, but I am counting on our being fast enough to make the track team. I think that with some training, changing our techniques a bit, we can run the one hundred in ten point four, maybe even ten three. Then I will play my other ace."
"Which is?" Thorpe asked.
"It goes like this: 'Coach, you say that James Blue Eagle and I can run a bit. What if I told you that I have one other runner back home — a special runner who can take us to state?' Just that little phrase, 'can take us to state,' will capture any high school track coach's attention. Coach Tiller agreed with me. I don't think our Kansas City coach will refuse me."
"If you are going to tell me about a boy who runs like the wind and wears a half mask, let's drop the subject. Keep him a secret. I may see him when he shows up. I just hope you're successful. From what I hear ... well, let's just say that he may have Jim Thorpe speed."
"You know Mercury? That's amazing. He just crawled out of the woods, so to speak."
"We keep track of our people, especially those who are exceptional."
"I may very well be here to see him run — to see all of you, when I finish my business. Actually, Milwaukee has already signed me, but I'll be a Giant pretty soon. I play outfield very well; hit quite well too. But what I really love is tearing up the base paths, especially stealing bases. They are there just for the taking. It's like a big game with me, but many times it can be the difference between winning and losing. I like winning."
John looked at the great American hero in awe. He nodded agreement with Thorpe, saying to himself, Yes, I' d better keep Creature under wraps. I need him to make things work.
Thorpe turned, looking sharply at Gannon, and then he changed the subject.
"Your uncle will likely coach you about taking care of yourself as you move about town. Kansas City is unlike any town you've ever lived in, and a boy your age can be vulnerable around a bad crowd. I'm mentioning this because you were about to bring up the subject earlier. I hear some pretty bad people have started to move into town from Saint Louis. So a word to the wise: just watch your step. Check with your uncle soon after you start to move about on your own." Then they talked at length about the city.
"Thanks for the advice, Jim. I'll remember that. Good Lord! Do you realize we've talked for three hours?" John said loudly.
"So we have. Who's meeting you at Union Station?"
"Uncle Will. He'll be there if he can. Otherwise I'll go out to his house on the paseo." A pause, then John continued. "I'd love for you to meet my uncle if you have a few minutes. He's a fine man, and I know he will want to meet you too."
"Sure," Jim said, "If he comes to pick you up. What address are you?"
"I've got the number right here. Yes, here it is: 3816 Paseo."
"If your uncle doesn't show up, I'll drop you off in my cab."
"Thanks, Jim, but you don't have to go out of your way like that; I can get a cab."
"We'll see. Likely your uncle will be there waiting."
The Ranger's powerful engine that sped the men to Kansas City now had the city's skyline in its sights. The engineer throttled back the speed, sparing steam, eyeing safety. Gannon and Thorpe grew silent, watching the sights. Jim read a paper that he removed from his shirt pocket, and then returned it. He smiled and turned his ruddy, powerful face toward John.
"Well, John, we've had quite a visit, haven't we? I hope one day we can meet again, maybe at your school, when you and your friends are out on the track setting new records."
Thorpe's smile broadened as he looked at Gannon, now almost blushing from the great athlete's remarks. They sat there silently for a while as the Ranger approached town, curling around the Missouri to the Hannibal Bridge — the bridge that some say built Kansas City.
"Look; here's our bridge to paradise," John said.
"Enjoy the view. This is your first time here, right?"
"Yes," John said. "But I know it so well from Uncle Will's and Aunt Martha's letters and postcards. It seems like I know every building going up as well as those being demolished. Knowing Uncle Will, I'll get a great tour of the entire town tomorrow. He has an amazing knowledge of Kansas City history, and he enjoys showing it off at every chance he gets. Ready or not, looks like I'm next for a tour; you too, Jim — if you care to join us tomorrow."
"You know, little warrior, I will likely be smelling the sweet perfume of a lady I met long ago in Oklahoma. She works at the Savoy's front desk. Come by the Savoy Grill and enjoy a great lobster dinner, or whatever you like. I'll get you a special price for you and your family."
"Thanks very much, Jim. I'll let Uncle Will know; maybe we can take you up on that."
Suddenly the Ranger was pulling into massive Union Station. John's heart pounded. His thoughts were rampant. This is it — Eden; a new beginning where writing is an art form on display: home of the Kansas City Star, home of William Rockhill Nelson, home and metropolis of tens of thousands on the great Missouri. A thriving, booming city moving ahead into the twentieth century at unrivaled speed! Who are these people? How did they do it?
Jim Thorpe walked beside his young friend, smiling at John's fascination with the dynamics of the third-most incredible train station in the country, following only New York and Chicago.
Excerpted from Kansas City Calling by Richard W. Ellison. Copyright © 2015 Richard W. Ellison. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Contents1. Kansas City Ranger, 1,
2. The Grand Tour, 12,
3. Timing Is Everything, 25,
4. Life from a Tree House, 33,
5. Creature on Campus, 58,
6. Sounds of War, 64,
7. A Night in Venice, 68,
8. Violence in the City of Fountains, 71,
9. Black Cars Prowling, 79,
10. Deep, Dark, and Hungry, 84,
11. Blue Ribbons and Murder, 88,
12. War and the Gannons, 97,
13. Hill from Hell, 104,
14. Adventure in Venice, 108,
15. Banking on the Brule, 118,
16. Letters from a Dark Tunnel, 129,
17. The Return of the Night Crawlers, 134,
18. Center High School, 142,
19. Race to Main Street, 149,
20. Nights of Armageddon, 152,
21. Pandemic, 156,
22. Old Mrs. Brownn, 167,
23. A Beauty Named Funke, 177,
24. Reunion in Kansas City, 186,
25. Long Road to Chapel Hill, 192,
26. Gannons to the Winds, 196,
27. Degree in Depression, 207,
28. Last Bite on the Plate, 211,
29. Tragedy and Decision, 216,
30. New Horizons, 224,