The recent Broadway production play “War Horse” in Kansas City drew standing ovation in every performance of a week’s run, and applauding acclaim was spread by all media, with nearly 2,000 seats filled to almost capacity each day, verifying appeal to all ages.
Sadly, one long reserved seat in the Municipal Auditorium’s Music Hall remained unoccupied for the final matinee performance of “War Horse,” highly successful, award winning theatrical production based on a real life situation, and the book about it, with highly praised follow-up movie.
Lois Webb, widely known and highly respected Kansas City-area retired chiropractor and pastor, had much anticipated attendance. But, increasing infirmity prevented it, although she still communicated enthusiastically prior to and after the play with her son, Col. David Webb of Stilwell, who was there with numerous friends, including this writer and spouse, as his guests.
Storyline of “War Horse” brought vivid memories to Lois Webb of stories repeated by family members to her, while still a child, of relatives supplying horses to serve during World War I, and their essential, but often overlooked attribute to early day conflicts.
While still anticipating being at the “War Horse” production, Lois Webb had vivid memories of bygone day war horse reflections.
“I asked Mom if she would assemble a bit of history about her great uncle Harrison Mace, and his stories of buying and getting horses ready for World War I. The following writing is what she came up with,” Col. Webb said.
“I carry a vivid memory of Uncle Harrison Mace, his person/presence when he returned to Brumley to see his brother, George, our grandfather. It had to have been in about 1937 or so, making me less than ten-years-old.
“We lived in the house south of Brumley (now Lake of the Ozarks). He stayed with us, likely having to do with bed occupancy at my grandparents’ home in Brumley. I do not recall how he arrived, perhaps by train to Eldon, but there was no public transportation to Brumley.
“He looked much like Grandpa, though taller, maybe even taller than Dad, making him more than 6-feet, I’d say more stately than his brother, and his hair was graying; whereas Grandpa’s had only slightly graying as long as he lived, as I recall.
“Uncle Harrison was groomed well, suit, probably not a tie, but I fancied him to be a little more uptown than either Dad or Granddad. I remember sitting on the arm of a big chair admiring his presence. I didn’t know the word ‘distinguished’ then, but can use it now.
“The 40 or so acres Grandpa owned was between Brumley and Osage Beach on Highway 42, a few miles out of Brumley, on the south side of road.
“Anyway, at about 15-years-old, Harrison had taken the horse out, ridden him hard, and, like the saying goes: ‘put him away wet.’ His dad, Jackson Mace, threshed him hard for not properly attending the horse, which I interpreted as a Mace kind of raising hell, and to my memory, that ain’t slight. Regardless, the result was that Uncle Harrison ran away from home.
“To my knowledge, no one heard from him for many years. My first memory was his return, though word was that Uncle Harrison owned land in Kansas with producing oil wells; that he had become ‘fairly well off,’ as we said then.
“Evidently, after he left home, Uncle Harrison got a job with the government buying horses for World War I. And, that is how he earned money to buy land.
“It makes me also remember how Grandpa maintained about his teams of horses. His last team, I remember, were white, and named Abraham and Isaac, though I had thought they were mares. Evidently geldings. Their era knew horses,” Mrs. Webb contended.
“Uncle Harrison remained in correspondence with the family after his initial visit. We understood he lived in Stafford, and later in St. John, Kansas, near the land holdings. As years progressed, his health declined, and as a bachelor with long absence from other kinfolk, Uncle Harrison did not want to bring himself as a burden to them, so he chose to rent a room at the hospital in St. John.
“I have vivid, early 1950s, memories of our family, calling on him in St. John. The hospital staff welcomed us as if in the living room. I recall the staff emphasizing that we were guests in his home, that just happened to be the hospital, which we learned Uncle Harrison had funded and be quested to the city,” Mrs. Webb remembered.