TWO MARY ANNS
by Diane Rogler Lord
Those of you from Chase County might know of the first Mary Ann Rogler but there was (actually still is) a second Mary Ann Rogler. Chronologically their lives did not overlap but some of their story certainly seems like history (nearly) repeating itself. Their stories are similar but, as you will see, their endings sadly were different.
Here is a bit of related background about my Rogler family and me. We lived in Ohio when I was a kid. It was a long way from Kansas, but I recall Mom and Dad discussing Mary Ann at the dinner table. I was only about ten. Mary Ann was almost two decades older. She was a young woman looking forward to a full life from all the accounts. My parents clearly were worried about Mary Ann’s illness. Mom was a physician, so the discussion was clinical and on point.
They wanted to help Mary Ann but sometimes there is nothing one can do to change the course of things. I won’t try to go into any details here. After all, I was a child and some of you native to the Flint Hills will recognize the analogy as you read on. Some folks even know it first-hand.
But first a detour… to share three additional Kansas stories intervening between the lives of the two Mary Anns:
When I was 12, Mom took us, her four girls, on a road trip that ended in Matfield Green before turning around and driving back to Ohio. That was 1965, a fateful year, the year Mary Ann died. Some things about our visit I remember very well and other things have faded from my memory. I met Uncle Wayne (that’s what Dad called him, and we all did too) and Elizabeth, and spent time with both of them. We all slept in the bunkhouse behind the house and enjoyed hearing the trains at night. We had a small crisis when I discovered a few ticks crawling across the bedsheets. Uncle Wayne appeared to me as a quiet, serious man. I do not recall him smiling. Maybe now as I think about all this I can guess why. I do remember that Elizabeth sprinkled pepper all over my eggs at breakfast. Mom’s gesture to me was clear, “Be polite, eat them anyway.” I believe I met Maud and seem to recall her being ill in bed. I don’t remember Henry from that visit.
Dad took me with him to Matfield as a present for my 21st birthday in summer of 1974. That was a couple of years after Henry and Maude passed away. Dad loved Kansas, the land, the openness, its people, the way of life, its heritage. He went to Kansas during hunting season whenever he could. It’s too bad Uncle Wayne didn’t leave his land to Dad or put him in charge of a trust – he would have been a good steward for the land and the history they both cherished. Much of that visit with Dad is seared into my memory like it was yesterday. Here are a few vignettes:
• Driving with Uncle Wayne in his big American sedan with a metal plate covering the underside, so the guts of the car wouldn’t get ripped off as he cruised across the across the pastures – He told me about the grass and that he had studied it at Kansas State. I believe he said that it takes five acres to support one head of cattle. Ranchers from Texas shipped their cattle by rail, so they could fatten all summer on the lush Flint Hills grass.
• With some effort, I talked Uncle Wayne into letting me get one of the plump horses from the field near his house, tack it up, and go for a ride.
• We saw a telephone pole – significantly outsized by Ohio standards – which had been twisted and torn in half by a tornado that had passed through a few days earlier. The spiraled fragments reminded me of a huge, shredded toothpick. We also saw big V- shaped drag marks in the dirt where a poor cow had struggled against the wind to stay on the ground until the tornado finally lifted it and sent it flying to it death a long way away.
• I remember Tom Burton, a dear friend of my father’s and Uncle Wayne’s foreman for many years. We had lunch together with him at the café in Matfield.
• Bird hunting with Dad – I walked the designated distance behind him, helping when I could; which was a lot easier as an adult than it had been as a child. He had lost some of his hearing from all his shooting practice, despite the earmuffs Mom made him wear, so I helped him by hearing things he missed. He was an amazing shot with all sorts of guns, won numerous pistol events, and set several national pistol records.
• Having dinner with the ranch hands – This was a special event for me and I listened carefully to the conversation. At the end of the meal, Dad indicated that the custom was to help the women clear the table and I was delighted to be part of it.
• We went on a small round up with Uncle Wayne and Tom. Uncle Wayne could tell he had a menace on his hands and was very clear with me that I absolutely must not make the cattle stress or trot as it caused them to drop weight. He was right, I would have loved to play (my version of) cowboy but I moved slowly and followed orders.
• The next day, Dad and I went for a ride with Billy Burton, Tom’s brother. We had a mission to fix a fence and take a look at something. In those days horses still played an important role and hadn’t yet been replaced by four-wheelers. When we came to a rise overlooking a small pond, I asked Billy if it would be safe for me to swim my horse across it. He responded that it was the pond where they threw in the old barbed wire. When we came to the next pond, he said it was safe to swim across, but he expressed doubt that I would do any such thing. Well, that was a challenge, so I dared him to swim across with me. He said if I’d do it then he would too. When I got off my horse and started taking off the saddle, Billy asked me what I was doing, and I told him I didn’t want to get the saddle wet. I think Dad saw concern on Billy’s face and assured him that he did not need to swim across the pond with me regardless of our bet. I went on my own.
• Walking with Dad through the cedars in the Cemetery and seeing relatives’ names on the headstones. He seemed subdued and eventually said, “Someday I’ll be buried here, probably over there…” as he gestured towards a more remote area with no trees. When he saw the pain in my face he said, “I know you don’t like to think about that.”
• Before we left, we said goodbye to Uncle Wayne and walked in the plowed field across the road from his house. Dad said that Indians had been known to camp in the vicinity and the rain overnight made it a perfect time to fine arrowheads. We hunted along the furrows and turned over clods of damp dirt. Dad had eagle eyes. After a few rows, we found a large spearhead and an arrowhead. Both were perfect. Unfortunately, in the mid-1990s, I had a bad car fire while moving to a new job and the spearhead disappeared in the charred wreckage.
I remember Mom talking with Dad on the phone about Rose, who was married to Tom. Rose was seriously ill and losing weight. I think that might have been 1977. My parents had long since been divorced and I was home from school with Mom. Mom, as always, wanted to help. She arranged for a dietary supplement to be sent to Rose. Years later, in 2012 or 2013, while sitting in the restaurant at The Grand Hotel with Tom and his second wife, Linda, Tom relayed this story to me and expressed his appreciation for her efforts. I was so proud of Mom! I had to pinch my lip between my teeth to keep back the tears.
Now… back to the two Mary Anns. The second Mary Ann was the youngest of my five my sisters. We had the same father but a different mother. Much of this information was told to me by my father or was just common knowledge in the family. Mary Ann was born in 1970 and named after Uncle Wayne’s daughter. When she was eight years old, she started having unusual symptoms and behaviors. Dad took her to a pediatric neurosurgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, who later shared with him that he was pretty sure of her diagnosis as he watched her walk into his office that first day. His suspicions were confirmed with subsequent testing – a brain tumor. It was benign, but still deadly as it was a type of tumor that sends fingers through the brain eventually destroying it just by taking over the space. Mary Ann’s only chance for survival was surgery. The surgeon told Dad that he could not guarantee Mary Ann would retain all her mental faculties after the operation and possibly might not even recognize him. Just before Mary Ann’s surgery, Dad had a big party for her at a nearby hotel. I was in graduate school and not able to come but Dad kept me informed as events unfolded.
The morning of the surgery, both parents were waiting in the room with Mary Ann waiting for her to be wheeled off. Dad stepped away for a few moments and when he returned the surgeon and his wife were standing in the hallway. “I have to cancel the surgery” stated the surgeon flatly. “Why?” was my father’s horrified response instantly sensing that he was seeing his daughter’s only chance for survival vanishing. “Jehovah’s Witnesses do not allow blood transfusions and I cannot risk this surgery without the parents’ consent for a possible transfusion.” I can imagine the expression on my Dad’s face at that moment! No, this is not going to happen! Certainly not again! He was angry, which was rare for him. He could barely speak in civil tone. He later told me that he told the surgeon, “Do not move from that spot. We are going around the corner to have a brief, very brief, discussion about this and will be right back. I know what my father said in those few fatal moments around that corner but will not quote him here. Mary Ann’s life was at stake and he could be very, very convincing. The necessary consent was promptly given. Mary Ann fared the surgery well and she was herself the next morning. Dad told her she could pick any gift she wanted. To his chagrin after she had just survived a near miss with tragedy, she immediately asked for a dirt bike. He did, however, honor his promise. The post script is that she is alive and well as of this writing.
Mary Ann Rogler
January 13, 1935-June 30, 1965
…as we knew and loved her in high school and beyond…
The Class of 1954 of Chase County Community High School
This contains our memories of Mary Ann (excerpted) … Here Mary Ann’s classmates want to tell YOU who come to Pioneer Bluffs who Mary Ann was, how she related to all of us, how she inspired us with her very presence.
We thought she would one day manage the Rogler Ranch and she would have done a fantastic job! That didn’t happen and yet she would be proud to be an integral part of Pioneer Bluffs! As you read about her in these pages, perhaps you can feel her presence and appreciate her role in the development of her beloved ranch in the heart of the Flint Hills, in Chase County.
My favorite memory of MaryAnn happened the night I stayed overnight with her. We took one of the grain trucks out to one of the pastures and spent the night under the stars. I don’t remember many details—-only that Wayne came by to check on us and made sure we hadn’t changed our minds.
In the heart of the Flint Hills, under that canopy of stars in those wide open spaces, it was easy to dream big dreams about our respective futures. I don’t recall mine but I remember hers. She knew that she would someday be the owner/operator of the land we were on and she was looking forward to the challenge of managing it wisely.
Mary Ann was a deep thinker, wise beyond her years, and the dreams that she shared were beautiful. She had a bright future.
I was sad when her dreams were shattered by her untimely illness and death.
By Elin K. McCandless Colglazier
Mary Ann was a good friend in High School. In Biology, we had to collect bugs. Mary Ann invited myself and Nancy Keller out to the ranch at Matfield for the afternoon and to spend the night so we could get bugs. We had a very nice time, the bugs didn’t though.
Every time I go by her home at Matfield my thoughts are of her. She would have accomplished a lot in this world.
By Doris Bray Archer
As I remember, the school bus was unable to pick up Mary Ann at her home because she lived out of the district. Her father, Wayne Rogler, and my father, Frank Gaddie were good friends and had been for many years. The two decided that Mary Ann would drive to our home in Bazaar and together we would travel in Mary Ann’s red pick-up to and from high school in Cottonwood Falls. As a result of this arrangement, we spent much time together.
After high school Mary Ann and I both attended Kansas State University. Mary Ann pledged Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority as a freshman and I pledged as a sophomore. During Mary Ann’s junior year she changed schools. Her mother had her attend Principia College, a school for Christian Scientists in Elsah, Illinois, near St. Louis… Mary Ann returned to K-State in the fall of 1958 and graduated from Kansas State in the summer of 1959 with a B.A. in Humanities. After graduation she ended up back on the Rogler ranch in Matfield. I’m sure she was happy there as she loved to do the ranch chores. I do remember that she wanted to raise some pigs and her father, being a cattleman, wanted them away from the farmstead, so he built her a pig facility quite some distance from the other buildings so as not to smell them.
During our high school years, her family included me on several trips to Kansas State activities and to Topeka for state government events. Mary Ann’s father was a wonderful, jolly, caring man. Her mother was a strong Christian Scientist. She was very proper and lady-like in her demeanor. I always felt that Mary Ann was more like her father.
Mary Ann was happiest when she was outside. I can still see her riding her horse with her pigtails bouncing in the wind. She was small and quick witted—a real joy to have known.
by Sylvia (Gaddie) Brethour
I was always made a happier person for having seen her wonderful smile and hearing her infectious laugh! She was a “mighty mite” – short, sweet and sassy. She knew how to make everyone comfortable. The world is a better place for having her in it.
by Blanche Dunshee Martin
MaryAnn chose to come to Cottonwood for high school – probably because she was college-bound – and her parents wanted her to have the wider range of classes offered by a larger high school. With the addition of MaryAnn and students from other parts of Chase County, we became a class of twenty-seven: 18 girls and 9 boys.
My first impression of MaryAnn was her physical self: short and stocky-not fat, just firmly in place. She was very fair-skinned-blonde hair, sometimes almost a bleached white and worn in a sort of Dutch boy haircut.
I knew by the way she talked that she was book-smart. And she was quiet until you got to know her. She didn’t come into a room and proceed to take over. But she did have class. MaryAnn may well have been born to one of the wealthiest of Chase County couples, but she never flaunted her riches; she always seemed to blend in with whomever she was around.
In short, I liked her and she seemed to like me. Not only did we find ourselves in identical classes, but even in an elective simply called “BAND.” Because the ratio of girls to boys within our class was replicated throughout the total enrollment of Chase County High, it took all the guys to form our competitive sports teams.
Thus, our marching band became an all-girl group.
Who knew MaryAnn would want to be a drummer? Memory tells me that she went at her drumming like everything else: she was quietly determined to get it right. While the drum may not be classified as “melodious,” it is a means of expression. It is as close to the heartbeat and pulse as you can get-its output pleases the body in ways that aren’t directly based on pleasing the ear…it can please the feet and the innate desire to move in rhythm to something primal, yet external.
By the end of our freshman year, MaryAnn and I were friends and on the path to becoming class valedictorian. We acknowledged this fact but did not experience it as a competitive game. We agreed to collaborate and study together; what might be “hard” for one seemed to be “easy” for the other, so we helped each other grasp the challenges of whatever subject was before us.
My first visit to MaryAnn’s home in Matfield Green was a weekend sleepover early in our sophomore year. After a cook’s tour of the house and barns, we sat down to supper; it was in a much more formal setting than I was used to, but both Wayne and Mary Rogler made conversation easy and light as Wayne served each of us from the dishes that Mary and MaryAnn had brought to the table.
I liked Wayne immediately. He asked a lot of questions which were intended to put me at ease. MaryAnn looked so much like him, although his complexion was ruddy and sun/wind burned while hers was pale. Wayne’s forehead was whiter than his face and you could see where his Stetson shaded his sandy hair as well as his face. His eyelashes were pale which made his twinkling dark eyes more prominent. And his smile was warm and welcoming.
Mary was very reserved and proper. She, too, was short and pleasingly plump. She was blondish, attractive, and what we called “nice”—not pushy, not demanding, not hovering, but not disinterested in what was going on either.
MaryAnn and I had a great time that weekend. We talked about our favorite books and we gossiped about our schoolmates: who was experimenting with makeup beyond a touch of lipstick, who was smoking cigarettes with or without permission, and most importantly, which boys liked which girls and vice versa.
And our tradition of sharing words began that weekend. Each of us loved finding new words and thinking about what that word would look like if it came into the room. We shared many giggles about “vicissitude” during that visit. The sound alone was automatically amusing to us and the meaning of the word seemed so appropriate to what we were enjoying.
We also talked about what we wanted to do after high school. I hadn’t decided whether to be a teacher or a nurse. She hadn’t decided what subjects would be her specialty as she learned how to manage the Rogler ranch.
Sometime during that first weekend Wayne drove MaryAnn and me around the ranch in an old battered, but beloved pickup—dropping bales of hay at the biggest watering holes in the pastures. This activity was one that just added to my own developing attachment to the land: this prairie of Kansas, these Flint Hills of south central Kansas.
Another weekend at the Rogler ranch gave me yet additional memories. One such memory was a golden moment in time: an outdoor breakfast—cooked on a hilltop in the midst of the rolling green pastureland—on a cloudless Spring morning. At dawn Wayne had roused MaryAnn and me to help load his pickup for a short ride to a choice spot where he would prepare breakfast for us. . .bacon, biscuits, eggs, and even orange juice. We drank coffee from tin cups. Just how authentic was that? A true cowboy breakfast complete with the blue metal pot of coffee brewed on the campfire. Such fun, and such immersion in the culture of the land.
Later that morning, the horses were saddled and we rode off to round up some stray cattle. “We” included MaryAnn and me, Wayne and three or four of his hired wranglers. As usual, I was boosted up into the saddle on an older, more sedate horse—one, from where I sat, already had quite a “hay belly” to straddle and likely more interested in getting back to the stable to eat than in where we were going.
The ride to the nearby pasture to collect the strays was more of a walk. Once through the pasture gate, however, the wranglers took off at a trot and were quickly into a gallop. Wayne and MaryAnn both told me I would be fine as they rode off to help the wranglers.
Well, my noble steed decided to follow suit. Suddenly I was bouncing up and down in the saddle and my feet were not staying in the stirrups and, with my short legs, I couldn’t “squeeze” the horse’s belly. I didn’t like it; I pulled back on the reins, and noticing no difference in the horse’s behavior, I made a decision that I was better off!
I fell on my butt to the soft grassy earth. Of course, it was quite a jarring experience, but by the time Wayne and MaryAnn rode up to see about me, I had already made sure that nothing was broken. Wayne sent one of the cowboys back to the house to get the pickup so I could ride back to the house with him and MaryAnn.
I was fine, but my pride was hurt. And I had bruises and sore muscles for several days. No one blamed my inexperience or my horse, and, to my relief, neither Wayne nor MaryAnn blamed themselves. Everyone was just glad I wasn’t hurt. This event like so many others of the time, were absorbed into a mix of people and perplexities, old and new relationships, new dislikes and likes. There wasn’t a lot of time for reflection. . .just lots and lots of experience.
MaryAnn also enjoyed being with our classmates as a group. Mike Stout, Sylvia Gaddie, and Blanche Dunshee from the Bazaar area were always busy getting us together for unique parties. . .like ice-skating on a nearby creek during the winter. A few of us already had ice skates, even shoe skates, but most of us had to find a pair that clamped onto our shoes. The ones I borrowed had rust on the blades, and even with my attentions to get them in shape, they were totally useless when the time came to skate.
There was a wiener roast to begin the fun and hot chocolate anytime—and a roaring bonfire throughout the late afternoon and early evening. We “skated” by the light of the fire, and most of us were gliding on the ice with only our shoes. MaryAnn had a ball. She absolutely loved it; she was one of the few who wore skates which permitted her to glide around amongst the rest of us.
The other group activity she enjoyed so much was the square dancing lessons held in a barn at Mike’s home in Bazaar. The caller for the dances was also a friend of many of the local families including MaryAnn’s folks.
Every weekend for a late Spring and into early Summer we gathered for a fun evening to practice square dancing—complete with appropriate outfits. After the dance there was cider and cookies. We all loved it. MaryAnn’s smile would be dazzling and her enjoyment infectious.
By this time, MaryAnn had her burgundy red pickup. She could stay after school to practice with our marching band and to help set up concession stands for the football games, but if we had other non-school related activities to enjoy, she wasn’t a frequent participant. On a few occasions when we had school events on Saturdays, e.g., out-of-town competitions for band, MaryAnn would stay overnight with me on Friday. My parents liked those visits for they, too, enjoyed MaryAnn’s company.
This is what I know. MaryAnn read a lot. She studied. And she worked the ranch with her dad. She came to town to attend school and she enjoyed being there. She brought a sense of propriety with her. She grumped about things with us; she listened to our frustrations and she shared hers. We accepted her and she accepted us. She enjoyed talking to anybody and everybody; no one excluded her; it seemed she didn’t need or want to be included in any additional activities. And so it was.
And then, so seemingly sudden! It was graduation time. MaryAnn and I were “co-valedictorians.” Neither of us had regrets that the honor did not belong to just one of us; because of our interactive study with each other, it seemed somehow fitting.
By Nancy S. Keller