Brothers Siegfried and Glen Salinger left home on foot two hours before daybreak on Saturday, March 28, 1936. Taking a few items they could carry in nap sacks and the clothes they were wearing, the brothers starting walking east. They didn’t know where or what they were walking toward, but both understood they could no longer stay at home.
The land in Liberal, Kansas was capable of growing wheat and corn, but with little rain since planting the fields, three feet of dust covering hundreds of acres, the wheat and corn stalks withered to nothing - and a note at the bank coming due in the fall - it held little promise of providing more than a few bushels.
Looking for miles in all four directions, there was nothing to see. No cities. No houses. No people. Availability of affordable land lured the boys' German grandfather to Southwest Kansas forty years earlier. It was cheap land, but in the middle of nowhere - the Heartland. Through sheer will and determination, the Salinger's had scratched out a nice living on their 907 acre parcel. Malcolm Salinger, their father, worked briefly in the Panhandle-Hugoton Gas Field west of town, but eventually returned home to raise his young family.
At noon the boys had covered nearly 10 miles. The sun was high and its' rays burned down upon the Kansas wasteland. The heat was tough to the point of being unbearable, but the dust made it worse.
“My feet are on fire,” Sig said.
“Try not to think about it,” Glen said.
“Think about it? I can feel it, I don’t have to think about it,” Sig said.
“Well, try to ignore it then,” Glen said.
“Let’s see you try it. You think it's so easy.”
“My shoes are fine.”
“Then give yours to me.”
“Well, you’re obviously better at ignoring the pain than I am. And, if I don’t do something soon, we’re going to have to stop for today,” Sig said.
Providing little protection from the searing heat rising up from the gravel road, packed tight like asphalt, the soles of Sig’s shoes had worn holes through their bottoms exposing his feet to the dirt road they walked on.
Glen took a seat on a log that lay near the road’s edge. The boys traded shoes and continued walking. They’d been walking again for a few minutes when Sig started up again.
“You mad at daddy?”
“No,” Glen said. “It ain’t his fault.”
“I guess not, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I’m going to miss momma – and daddy.”
Two days later, the following article appeared in the Liberal News:
Malcolm and Elizabeth Sallinger were discovered dead in their rural home outside Liberal Sunday evening. Seward County Sheriff's Deputies were called to the home by neighbors who arrived at the home to check on the elderly couple when they failed to attend church services Sunday morning. At press-time, the Sherriff's office released few details about the deaths, but did say that the couples’ children Sigfreid (Sig), age 16, and Glen Sallinger, age 18, were not at the home when deputies arrived. Neighbors said the family had been struggling to earn a living from farming for the past several years. No charges in the case have been filed.