By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
Walker Mountain, an abrupt rise among the mesas and cattle-ranch plains of the Quay Valley, still looks much as it did when it was the destination for Lawrence Walker and his family, who journeyed by covered wagon from Kansas to what they hoped would be better prospects in New Mexico.
Today, Walker Mountain remains protected behind barbed wire, and despite some erosion and a collapsed cave, it retains its isolation under cover of grasses and brush. The Walkers, however, have scattered, but they still consider this steep hill a focal point for the family’s history.
Perhaps no one is prouder of the Walkers’ record of service and achievement than Daisyann Walker Palmer, herself a Ph.D, and since she has been the family’s designated story-teller since she was a child, she wrote the book.
It is called “A Walker Trilogy, Three to Read on Walker Mountain.” It consists of two short-story length vignettes of life among the Walkers in times past and an update of the family’s achievements since Lawrence Walker and his trail-weary family met his oldest boy in the shadow of the mountain about five miles south of Tucumcari in 1906.
Palmer conducted book signings Friday and Monday in Tucumcari. The Friday signing was held at the Tucumcari Historical Museum. On Monday, Palmer signed books at the Circa Coffee Shop in the Tucumcari Inn motel.
The book contains about 120 pages, making two stops about 33 years apart, then fills in much of the rest of the family in between those years and afterward.
The family record speaks of sacrifice—men killed and wounded in action in World War II and Korea—as well as of poets, musicians, story-tellers, physicians and inventors.
That inventive streak is what made Rosa Klopfenstien Walker, Lawrence’s wife, observe,
“All Walkers have wheels turning their heads instead of brains. Every Walker I have met was born knowing how to fix machines, make music, write poetry, tell stories, make cookies, send a circle letter, or be a soldier.”
Emory Walker, Jr., Palmer’s cousin, visited the book signing. He served in the Korean War as a platoon leader in the Third Infantry, U.S. Army, at the heavily embattled Outpost Harry. He was wounded and treated at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, which, he said, was an inspiration for the 4077th MASH from movies and television. He still remembers awaking from anaesthesia, singing, “The Eyes of Texas.” He thought he was going to lose his “Walker arm,” he said, but surgery and good medical care saved the arm. His memoirs of Korea are posted on a “Korean War Educator” website at www.koreanwar-educator.org/memoirs/walker_emory/index.htm.
Palmer also pays homage to “the original WWW, before the World Wide Web,” the “Wild Walker Women.” She includes herself, with the nickname her family bestowed on her, the “Texas Tornado.” This group of adventurers and achievers, she said, is “too numerous to mention.”
Palmer is still looking for family history. While she signed books at the Tucumcari Historical Society, music from guitars and violin played in the background. One of the musicians on this recording made in 1958 is her late uncle Emory Walker, she said, and she’s trying to find out who the other musicians were. The music included country favorites like the “Tennessee Waltz.”
On a table-top display board were some photos from the time when the family centered on the hill that bears the family name outside of Tucumcari.
One she has named “Watermelon Day.” It depicts more than 20 family members, most of whom are munching wide strips of watermelon, representing ages from infancy to elderly, on the Walker Mountain property in 1906.
Another shows the teacher and students of the one-room Bonita School, when it was located on Walker Mountain. The teacher is Eveline Walker, 16. One of the students is her 10-year-old brother Emory, who was Daisy Palmer’s uncle.
The schoolhouse was built on Walker Mountain, Palmer explained. Later it was moved to Bonita, a few miles away. And then one year, she said, “it blew away” in a windstorm.
Lawrence Walker’s family moved back to Kansas after a disastrous year of drought, Palmer said, but other Walkers stayed in the Tucumcari area.
Among them was Fairy Pamelia Walker, later Fairy Walker Lane, who found time to become a published poet while running Fairy’s Hat and Gift Emporium in Tucumcari.
Her poetry included lines like these:
“We sit midst in a great torn world, the land in fear is trod
Who has failed along the way—think you—‘tis man—or God?”
A poem called “Winter’s Hush” ends with these lines:
“All is hushed and quiet here
O’er hill and wood and lake
As if they fear with bated breath
The sleeping Spring to wake.”
The first of the trilogy’s stories describes the Lawrence Walker family’s hard, summer journey over the dry lands of Oklahoma and Texas to Walker Mountain. Several times along the way, Lawrence Walker’s second-oldest son, Roy, is the hero.
In one incident, Roy’s resourcefulness allows the family a rare sweet treat along the long, hot road.
In Texas, Roy’s brother Glee discovers what he thinks is a watermelon patch. As he runs for it in bare feet, he discovers instead a scourge of west Texas and eastern New Mexico, goathead thorns. Roy grabs a hoe and runs to the rescue, clearing a path for both of them.
Roy then identifies the fruit as Texas citron melon, which is flavorful, but far from sweet. In a dead cactus nearby, however, is a beehive. Roy reaches out with the hoe and finds honey. Between the melon and the honey, their mother, Rosa Walker, makes a pudding that lifts the family’s spirits for the trip across the state line into Quay County.
The second story jumps ahead to about 1949 and tells of a memorable summer day for the family in a Kansas town. Entitled “Under the Firefly Moon,” the tale involves Daisy’s precocious story-telling skills, grandpa Lawrence Walker’s ability to walk on his hands, and combines joy, despair, relief, ice cream and fireflies.
The book also includes photos and extensive documentation about Walkers past and present.
“A Walker Trilogy, Three to Read on Wlaker Mountain,” is published by Inspiring Voices, a service of Guideposts, and is available through bookstores or by contacting Inspiring Voices at 1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, Ind., 47403, or by calling (866) 697-5313. Price: $8.99.