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So many questions . . .

By Allen Edmonds

You’ll be hearing so much more in the coming weeks about the historical coup de grace that is the Sloan-Tribby Cabin project, like how the original structure was discovered wrapped in the shell of a semi-modern home that was just days from demolition; how it was painstakingly taken apart, pieces marked, catalogued and stored for future reconstruction; how its life was tracked from the 1850s forward, including the suggestion of its possible involvement with Civil War events that even today stir emotions; and what the plans are for its future – in Belton’s Memorial Park.

The project, a dream of local historian Don Peters that has grown in the few years since his early involvment with the cabin, has been launched in earnest by Peters, Belton Parks Director Brian Welborn and Assistant Park Director Vanda Meehan, along with a board of community volunteers that are actively meeting and planning the first major fundraising event, “Raise the Roof,” a dinner/auction event scheduled for Memorial Station on Feb. 29.

Tickets for the event are $50, sponsorship packages are available and the evening promises to be a fascinating celebration of the project, which will serve as a point of pride for a city surrounded by historical significance.

To me, the most fascinating part of the project is not acknowledging what we know about the cabin, but wondering what we don’t. And in my case, wondering what more I could have know if only . . .

Those that know me well, know my given name is Robert Allen Edmonds – I’ve always gone by Allen. I was named for a great-great uncle named Robert Leslie McGill, who always went by Les.

Uncle Les, I’ve heard, was pretty fascinated by me. Never having had children of his own, he got a charge out of me whenever my parents brought me around to visit. I have to rely on hearsay for that, because he passed away before I turned 2.

But Aunt Lulu, that was a different story. She lived until I had graduated high school, and my childhood is dotted by pleasant history of the jovial and witty woman with the loud laugh.

It was Aunt Lulu that first taught me not to be afraid of death, at a time when death was still a foreboding mystery. Though I always had a clear understanding of the Christian belief in what happens after death, she personalized it.

“Of course I’ll miss you,” she would say. “But I’ll be able to keep up with you. Mostly, I’ll be able to do it with Leslie. I can’t wait to see him again.”

I believe with all my heart she is keeping up with me. Forty years after her passing, Lulu Tribby McGill is watching as the home she was born into, one of six children of Mark and Katie Tribby, is nearing reconstruction in Memorial Park.

The cabin was originally built by her maternal grandfather, Alfred Sloan. Near the turn of the century, after the structure was passed on to the Sloan daughter and her husband, Aunt Lulu’s father took on the project of expanding the structure to accommodate the growing brood – while leaving the original structure intact.

What was the thought process there? What I wouldn’t give to be 18 again, and be able to ask that of Aunt Lulu. She would know. And the stories she would be able to tell that supplement those facts would be beyond fascinating.

Uncle Les and Aunt Lulu

Of course, in those days, there would have been no way for me to know the significance questions about her childhood home would hold for me – and us, as a community – today.

The son of a school administrator, in those days I lived in southern Kansas. Our visits to “home,” Cass County, were limited to holidays and other special occasions. That made the last half-hour or so from Louisburg on a hilly and narrow 2 Highway, past the old family farm north of Midway High School and into Harrisonville where the great aunts now lived, a particularly exciting time.

When the yellow flashing light of the service station at Wall and Commercial became visible, I knew we were almost there.

It was a particularly productive visit if I had the opportunity to watch hay bales ride the conveyor to the loft at the farm, or maybe I’d get the chance to ride my bike around Harrisonville – if there had been space to load it in the station wagon.

Though I’d have listened with fascination (because she was a great storyteller), it never crossed my mind as a boy to quiz her about what I considered “horse and buggy days.”

What if I had?

There would’ve been some awesome stories to tell.


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