Books In Production

Announcing The First Book In The
Greenbrier Short Story Collection
Books Celebrating American Life, Families And Adventure

Book Spline House On Walnut Street copyWhat are the chances something like this could ever happen?

 The House On Walnut Street is a classic tale of love, tragedy, conflict and courage. Here’s the inspiring and rewarding short-story about a family that rises above tragedy to reveal one of the most inspiring stories of our shared American experience.

160 Walnut Street Circleville Ernest and May Tolbert
The last photograph of
the house at 160 Walnut Street
was captured by Google in 2007.
The building has since been torn down.
Photo: GoogleEarth

In the 1920s, the residence at 160 Walnut Street was the home of Ernest and Mae Belle Tolbert. What happened here between the spring of 1920 and the fall of 1968 is one of the most beautiful and inspiring true stories of the American experience.

Robert Butche’s riveting short story about a father-son relationship that establishes a bridge for shunned by family and a boy needing to find his own way in life.

Dutch Tolbert cropped
Dutch Tolbert
The man who went against long standing family tradition to protect his son from the mistakes of others.

The central character in Butche’s short-story is William F. ‘Dutch’ Tolbert a hard-driving and widely known West Virginia newspaperman.  is based on the life of one of America’s most inspiring newspaper characters, William Frank ‘Dutch’ Tolbert – the hard-driving Managing Editor at The Williamson Daily News, a newspaper serving West Virginia’s Billion Dollar Coalfield communities.

For most of his life after graduation from Ohio University in 1927, until his passing in 1968, Dutch Tolbert was employed by West Virginia’s prominent Ogden Family Newspapers – mostly at The Wheeling Intelligencer and its Tug Valley sister, The Williamson Daily News.

Those who endured Dutch Tolbert, as well as those who loved him, knew Dutch was a take-no-prisoners newsman. His readers bore witness to his editorial sense of fairness, volatile temper, power to persuade, and unconcealed love for those who shared his beloved Tug Valley.

Williamson News masthead 1948 jpg
Dutch Tolbert’s Pride and Joy
The Williamson Daily News
Circulation: 7,202

Behind the hard-charging newspaperman was a boy whose values were tested by personal tragedy, self-doubt, and a father’s love for his son. What happened at the House on Walnut Street is a story about real people caught up in one man’s American Experience.  In this telling, we discover why this story was kept secret since it began at Dalton Crossing, near to Columbus Ohio, September 18th, 1917.

On a clear day, blue of sky, surrounded by ripening corn, twelve minutes past noon, William Frank Tolbert’s father, of the same name, driving in leathers and goggles, was taking it all in when his 1915 Dodge Brother’s open Touring Car collided with a south-bound Interurban train at Dalton Crossing, near Columbus, Ohio.

In the fiery aftermath Dutch Tolbert’s father was thrown from the open vehicle. When the dust settled, fire broke out, killing W. F. Tolbert.

His only son, one of four children, was having lunch with his fourth grade class at Second Avenue School when his father died. That evening, just before going to bed, his mother told him his father would never come home again. Frank Tolbert was ten years old when he lost his father.

What are the chances of something like that could ever happen again?

 The Exciting and Violent Story Of The Men Who Stole Ohio From The Shawnee

Book Spline Moonlight Upon The Prairie copy


Moonlight Upon The Prairie
Autumn Of The Pekowi

The American Colonies 1763
The American Colonies

Thundering Hooves

In the dry heat of what was the lingering summer of 1782, a band of eight young Indians, dressed in battle colors, atop powerful horses, were mere boys except for their leader, Chogan.

In late morning they moved deliberately through the woods and grasslands on the Ohio Country side of Wheeling Island. To the east, nestled in the highlands of what was far western Virginia, south of the military lands at Fort Wheeling, was a man known to Indians on both sides of the river.

His name was John Boggs, Captain, Virginia Militia, son of Irish, father of three. Unlike so many who wore the white man’s uniform, Boggs was among the most complicated whites eager to become men of wealth by taking unto themselves the wide open spaces once the sole province of Indians.

Chogan’s men waited no more than two minutes before their leader, a strong and powerful 24 year old Shawnee warrior  signaled the war party to move down river Ohio’s west bank.  When he reached water level, Chogan signaled for his charges to remain silent.

Up river Ohio, nor more than a thousand yards, a boat appeared on the Virginia side, near to where Wheeling Creek met river Ohio. Chogan recognized it sight unseen by all the loud voices, giggling and chatter by persons leaving the newly formed United States for a journey on Colonel Ebenezer Zane’s proposed highway connecting Fort Pitt and the propserous settlement at Limestone in Injin land south of river Ohio.  The ferry was no threat, but Chogan well understood that his life and those of the young men, really boys, riding with him, depended on the element of surprise.

Perhaps it was the ferry, or the water level, or the current, but for whatever reason Chogan chose to take his Shawnee attack party south on the Ohio side. What he was looking for, the shape of a specific hill that rose 400 feet above the river at the mouth of a tiny stream, was in Ohio County Virginia. Beyond that hill lived the family they were intending to kill – Captain John Boggs, a man with rivers of Indian blood on his hands, his family, two farm slaves and two hired hands helping to tend to harvest.

No more than twenty-minutes after turning south, Chogan spotted the hill – and the small stream that drained the valley. An insignificant creek the English called Boggs Run in honor of the man whose scalp they would happily take back to their kinfolk near to Steubenville.  Seeing dots of sand in the low water before the September rains, at a place where river Ohio was no more than 500 feet wide, Chogan led his men across river without being seen.

Book Spline Saigon Diary copy

William Westmoreland, Gen. U.S.A
Greeting President Lyndon B. Johnson
Than Son Nhut Airport, 1968

Flares In The Night

It was near six o’clock when Jack Crogan’s Jeep pulled onto Nguyen Hue Street. Robert not only thought Crogan at the wrong address, but in the wrong neighborhood.

I-House, about which Robert had heard such superlatives, appeared near dilapidated to Robert. It was painted sky blue along the front. It was crammed between other buildings each with gaping street level openings to the street – typical in the tropical cities of Asia.

John Tower hands
Hon. John Tower Senior Senator, Texas, (R)
Chairman, United States Senate
Committee on Armed Services

There was long awning, from I-House’s double doors to the curb. The end of the awning was inscribed International House in cursive script – as if a fine Manhattan restaurant or night club. Above the awning, on the second floor windows were inscribed the words International House in red letters nearly two feet tall. Above the name were the letters I.H. painted black and nearly six feet high.

It may not have looked like much on the outside, but I-House, as it was called, was Saigon’s home away from home for Expats, government officials, contractors and high ranking military. I-house had close to 5000 members – for there was nowhere else to go in Saigon for those wanting the comfort and familiarity of a stateside high-end country club.

Unlike Vietnamese restaurants near the river front, most of which offered excellent French-Vietnamese cuisine, I-house provided American food and drink every bit the equal of midtown New York. Prime, Nebraska steaks flown in daily. Hamburgers, roast pork and dressing, and deserts from New York’s finest restaurants.

I-House offered ribs and potato salad on the 4th of July, plump roast turkey and dressing on Thanksgiving, and glazed ham and prime rib at Christmas. Robert was in for the surprise of his life – and all he had to do was climb the 32 stairs to the second floor. At 33, even on crutches, it was a snap.

The problem at I-House was leaving, for what had the feel of an open bar made those steps far more in number and far steeper then when they were climbed.

“Wait for me inside,” Jack told Robert. Although no longer clothed in mud, Robert felt hot and sweaty. No more than a minute before Jack was back, no less hot after the late afternoon drive from Bien Hoa.
“Let’s go up to the dining room,” Jack said already taking the stairs two at a time. Robert followed, wondering where Jack got all the energy. Upstairs, I-house was an air conditioned oasis in the middle of a hot and miserable war.

War Zones are tricky places – in the sense that while I-house was U.S. sponsored, it was not in any way governmental. The club was managed by enterprising entrepreneurs – some Yankee, mostly not. Members, like Crogan and Robert paid the princely sum of $20 a month to enjoy all they could eat and drink at menu prices typically about 20 cents on the dollar.

Thus the club’s VIP members enjoyed attentive service, and an open bar plentifully provisioned with cheap liquor, wine and beer delivered daily by thieves who diverted American goods offloaded at Saigon’s docks into the local economy. No one cared, or so it seemed, who stole what or how much. Shrinkage, whether goods or cash, was to be expected in a war zone.

All the better for the comfort of I-House’s very important members – Americans, Europeans and military allies who ran the war and effectively owned the country. To say the least, Expats in Saigon ate well and lived high – thanks to a veritable river of incoming rations.

Jack waited for Robert atop the stairs – looking from table to table for Earl Sansing – one of the most powerful men in the city. Saigon had a mayor and Viet Nam a president, but Earl Sansing had State Department money looking for a place to go and the protection of John Tower, the senior senator from Texas.

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