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Alumnus strikes authentic chord in blending skills, interests

Author, musician, historian, barber

Story image 1_0
Story image 1_1

Derrick Doty, an alumnus of Marais des Cygnes Valley High School, has donated two books that he has authored -- Images of America: Morris County, and Barber’s Rant: Fiddle Tunes from the Flint Hills of Kansas -- to the students of MdCV.

After graduating from Marais des Cygnes Valley High School in 2002, Derrick attended Old Town Barber and Beauty College in Wichita. In October 2003, at the age of 19 years of age, he opened the Council Grove Barber Shop, the only barber shop in Morris County.

The two books showcase his knack for storytelling and flair for music and history.  

About the music book …..
Published in 2011, Barber’s Rant is 88 pages of music, pictures, and tales, reminiscing past and present influences of Derrick’s life. It represents a documentation of his growth as a musician and as an individual, with special attention to the people, places, stories and travels that have inspired him along life’s path.

All together, this book features 44 songs.  Each is presented with musical notation, and some of the musical content has lyrics.  These tunes, which according to Derrick “are simply intended for dancing,” may be classified under the genre of old-time, traditional music.

Derrick’s musical interest was fostered by surrounding family members: a grandmother, whom he says made him take piano lessons against his will, and his parents who bought him his first fiddle and mandolin. Derrick notes, however, that it may actually have been his grandfather who got him “started on the path to music,” because he used to play the guitar and the harmonica.

Derrick later performed with a group called “Derrick Doty and the Threshing Crew,” who used to play at barn dances and various events in the Lawrence and Kansas City area. They even performed at Melvern Sunflower Days.  When he moved to Council Grove, Derrick learned about the Friday night jam sessions held at Emma Chase Café in Cottonwood Falls. From there he performed with musical groups called the Tallgrass Express String Band, The Flint Hills Medicine Show, and Instant Grits. Instant Grits played regularly for barn dances in Lawrence, Kansas City, Newton, Wichita and Salina.

Several of the selections in the book are tributes to particular people, such as the first song, “A Lament on the Death of Lance Holloway,” who was a student at Marais des Cygnes High School.  Other personal songs include “A Lament on the Death of Ryan Smith,” “A Waltz for Amy,” “Dance for Neva,” “Grandad’s Farewell,” “Farewell to Cigarettes,” dedicated to a friend who quit smoking, and “The Fiddler,” composed in memory of a fellow musician.

Two particularly personal compositions in the book are “Kelsie’s Waltz” and “Prelude in D for String Quartet,” which represent original arrangements played by friends as a string quartet -- two violins, viola, and cello -- at Derrick’s wedding. 

Some of the songs in the book are about places. “Sittin’ on the Front Pew,” for instance, recalls the times when Derrick attended Mt. Pleasant Community Church near Lyndon. He remembers sitting on the front pew with his cornet and playing with the church ensemble: “We had two trombones, two trumpets, and two clarinets that played with the piano and organ during the hymns. This song reflects on all those events we go to church and witness.”

Most of the songs are accompanied by a brief explanation or personal anecdote from Derrick himself, and some stories are contributions from fellow musicians and friends who share Derrick’s love of music.

About the history book ….
Harnessed to Derrick’s interest in old-time music is an interest in history.  He serves as director of the Chase County Historical Museum and is a member of the Historic Preservation Corporation board of directors.  In addition, he used to belong to a reenactment group called CHAPS, which is an acronym for Cowboy, Hombre, and Pioneer Society.  He writes: “This group would travel around the state, put on living history demonstrations, and invite people into their camp, acquainting them with crafts and practices of the mountain men, Civil War soldiers, and cowboy life.”

Published in 2014, the historical book Images of America: Morris County contains an introduction, acknowledgments, bibliography, county map, and approximately 200 black-and-white photographs and plat drawings of towns in Morris County.

On the acknowledgments page, Derrick notes that one of the difficulties in completing the project was being overwhelmed with the number of pictures, and having to whittle down his choices for final inclusion in the 129-page book. His goal however, was to make a book that represented each corner of Morris County, for which he devoted five chapters.

In the introduction, Derrick provides a brief history of Morris County, making reference to the importance of the railroad, particularly the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad, which was often called the Katy Line. He also notes the importance of the Santa Fe Trail, the Kaw Indians, and several famous people, sometimes notorious, such as “Bloody Bill,” but also statesmen like Charles Curtis, who served as congressman, senator and later vice president of the United States under President Herbert Hoover.

Derrick introduces each of the five chapters with a historical perspective of that section of the county, its cities and people, which is then followed by pages of pictures and descriptive captions to provide a visual memory tour.

Chapter 1 is about Wise County, which was the original name of Morris County. It was named after Henry Alexander Wise, who was the governor of Virginia. It was he who signed the death warrant of John Brown for his involvement in leading the raid at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, in 1859. The chapter includes a picture of Wah-Shun-Gah, an Indian chief, for whom the annual Council Grove celebration in June is named after, as well as photographs of early settlers and structures, such as the Last Chance Store, the historic Hays House, and the Kaw Mission for orphaned boys.

Chapter 2 surveys Northeast Morris County, with images to bring proof of what once existed, and in a few cases what still remains after many years, as far as churches, schoolhouses, homesteads, businesses, and bridges in the early settlements of Dwight, Agnes City, Biglin, Beman, and Kelso.

Chapter 3 explores the towns of Northwest Morris County: Latimer, Parkerville, White City, and Skiddy.  Photos convey the existence of churches, depots, schoolhouses, hotels, banks, and specialty businesses, such as a creamery, or harness and saddle shop.  Residents gathered to conduct a wolf hunt, form baseball teams and perform in the city band. Another photo shows soldiers camping along the Old Military Trail that connected Fort Riley with Fort Scott.

In Chapter 4, Southwest Morris County spotlights the town of Burdick, which was first known as the Swedish settlement of Linsdale; it was later moved to be closer to the tracks owned by the Chicago, Kansas & Western Railroad when it came to the county in 1886. There are also pictures of a corn-picking bee and Burdick’s Field Day, or what later became as the Burdick Labor Day celebration.  Burdick was also famous for its rodeos, cowboys, and stockyards. Another town, Diamond Springs, was where thousands of head of cattle were shipped from Texas to be fattened on the Flint Hills prairie. Derrick also mentions the towns of Wilsey, formerly known as Mildred, and the town of Delavan.

Chapter 5 discusses Southeast Morris County, which includes the county seat of Council Grove. It is situated on the Santa Fe Trail at the Neosho River crossing, which made it a rendezvous point for wagon trains heading west. One mile east of town was Camp Freemont, which was constructed in 1935 near the famous Freemont Spring, which later became the Civilian Conservation Corps, and in 1943, a prisoner-of-war camp. Reference is also made to the settlements of Helmick and Singleton Colony, as well as the floods and fires that plagued the town of Dunlap.

The author @ MdCV
Derrick Doty was a member of the Marais des Cygnes Valley graduating Class of 2002, which also included the following classmates: Emily Allen, Christopher Allison, Brandon Anderson, Birie Anderson, Jackie Beatty, Shannon Berry, Christina Conklin, Courtney Criqui, Hannah Dewey, Lucas Flatin, Ron Frey, Donnie Lawton Jr., Josh Lloyd, Tiona McAuley, Echo Masenthin, Wayland Meiers, Kyle Norton, Amber Palmer, Tidus Spencer, Brad Stoneking, Amy Stwalley, James Christopher Willyard, and German exchange student Isabel Ploner.

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