Ford County Lake - Old Lead Pencil the Catfish

Old Lead Pencil The Catfish of Ford County Lake



My grandfather Glenn Hoofnagle was one of the greatest fishermen I have ever known. He would catch fish when no one else did and Ford County Lake near Dodge City was no exception. It was a muddy sort of affair NE of Dodge and being surrounded by farmland tended to be muddy in color.


The lake was built in a small depression in the land and there were rocky outcroppings in this area and it must have been a small canyon looking spot before the lake was there. The dam is small but holds water back and has been enjoyed for many many years by people of the area.


There is an old 4-H camp there and the Boy Scouts use that location for activities.


The lake went through some dry spells much like all of Western Kansas and would get extremely low during these periods revealing the rocky overhangs that surround the lake shore. My grandfather had fished through these times and would memorize the rocky overhangs and then utilize that information when the lake refilled.


On these overhangs the constant wave action against the bluffs had eroded caves back under the edges and when the lake returned to normal levels, big catfish would live back in those areas.


My grandfather was one of the first people I ever heard of to use plastic worms and his technique was not like any I have ever seen since either. He would throw it out and slowly reel it in. Now slow to him was one reel crank maybe a minute. That would creep the worm along the bottom so slowly and it was impossible for me to do it as I was a kid and had no patience for that. I have used this technique since and it works unbelievably well.


So he often went out to the lake after work to ply his skills and at one particular spot would get a bite from a huge fish just as the worm would get to the edge of the overhanging cliff. A tough fight would ensue and the fish would go back under the overhanging rock and saw off the line. He used bait casting equipment with braided line so this was no small fish.


Each week my grandmother would write us about grandpa losing the fish once again and they began to call him “Old Lead Pencil” as they figured out that his whiskers were probably about the size of the old lead pencils that people used in the old days. These were solid lead and no wood around them and about as big around as a standard wooden pencil. So this was a big fish.


This weekly battle went on all summer and finally grandpa decided he had to try something different so the next time he got the fish to bite, he hauled back and pulled as hard as he could before the fish could get under the rocky cliff. The fish came up and eventually came to net and it was over 40 pounds.


The fish had been hooked so many times and broken off that his mouth was a total mass of fishing line and hooks and they were amazed that the fish could even eat in that condition. I would like to say that he released the fish but those were the days of using what you caught to supplement your diet and Old Lead Pencil was dipped in corn meal and provided excellent table fare for many meals to come.  

Brick Streets In Dodge City

Just a short story here. My grandfather, Fred Kirkpatrick, Sr. was the City Engineer in Dodge for many years serving as assistant engineer in the early 1900's also. 

I am not sure why concrete was not used on the streets but Dodge, just like the other Kansas towns of the time, began using bricks for paving. These were laid on a sand base over a harder substrate like concrete and took a huge amount of labor to install. The best part about them was repairs could be made to water lines or other buried infrastructure and the street repaired to like new condition. 

I assume that the heavier vehicles today have as much to do with the demise of these streets as anything as their design load probably wasn't intended to support bigger trucks etc. They do last a long time and even though they get rough ,many are still in use today 100 years later. 

My grandfather loved the brick streets of Dodge and was so proud to have been instrumental in the construction of so many. So when you drive down those cobblestone avenues, you will now know who to blame.

The Cement Pond-Dodge City, Kansas, Park Street

This is a story bout the Cement Pond down on Park Street in Dodge City, Kansas. Another family remembrance for you all. The farm on Park Street had some acreage next to it that my great grandfather helped my grandfather to farm. It wasn't large but due to the close proximity to the Arkansas River and shallow water table, they were able to utilize irrigation at a very early time.

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Fishing on Duck Creek, North of Dodge.

Below, you will find a story my dad sent about fishing on Duck Creek which is North of Dodge City, Kansas. I find it interesting to note that since that time, farming practices have pretty much depleted the water found in those creeks and streams just 50 years ago. With the advent of the tractor, terracing of the land and building of small dams on the draws, there is virtually no runoff to the streams. Enjoy a look to the past.

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LAND CLAIM 2 Near Ulysses, Kansas

Last story brought us to the point where my grandfather, his brother and a friend had almost driven off a cliff in the darkness out on the prairies of Western Kansas. They did finally spend the night out in the open and the next day drove on into Ulysses Kansas and on to the land claim.

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LAND CLAIM Near Ulysses Kansas

This is a story about my Grandfather Fred Kirkpatrick, Sr. and his older brother. It happened sometime around the turn of the century and that's 1900 not 2000, hah.,

His brother had filed on a land claim down near Ulysses Kansas. This was free land to anyone who wanted it and you could get 160 acres per person just for living on it for a period of time and making improvements to it over time. After awhile you could then own the land and sell it or keep it. He had a shack on it with one room and so every so often would go down there and repair the shack from the wind damage and stay there a week or so to keep the claim active.

His brother had one of the first automobiles in Ford County so not sure when cars came out. His brother and a friend started for the claim and grand dad went along. The car developed engine problems and granddad had to lay on the running board and hold the cam in to keep the engine running. This meant being down in the tall grass and in those days there were tons of rattlesnakes.

He said at the edge of Dodge City there was a fence. West of that was open range and no roads. So to go to a town west of there, you just pointed in the general direction and hoped for the best, stopping along the way and asking if you found someone.

The claim was near Ulysess, Kansas about 60 miles SW of Dodge. They were late due to the engine trouble and it got dark and they kept driving along. Finally, someone decided to stop and try and see where they were. They had seen the lights of town ahead and were using those for a guide.

The friend with them walked ahead and fell off a 60 foot cliff down into the Cimarron River. He wasn't hurt but saved them from driving the car off the cliff. They stopped and spent the night on the cliff and continued the next day....

More tomorrow on their journey.....

Moving Boot Hill Cemetary

My grandfather Fred Kirkpatrick Sr. was born in Dodge City in 1889. He saw a lot of history there over the 95 years he lived in the area. He was also the City and County Engineer for probably over 40 years and maybe longer so he was involved with all of the street, water and sewer projects as Dodge grew from a Western Kansas cattle town to a booming stockyard and beef processing and farming community.

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