Right at Russell, the ground is so flat that when the sun goes down on a clear evening it sits on the horizon like a red satellite dish. Most people who drive past on Interstate 70 probably think they're seeing all there is of the local landscape, and from that perspective, it's not much.
But if they drove 7 miles south, they would cross the Smoky Hill River, where Bob Dole used to swim when he was a kid, and find themselves facing a wall of bluffs and hills that would make a background for a Clint Eastwood western. Or if they drove 5 miles north of Russell, they would dip into a landscape of arroyos cutting down to the Saline River between rugged prairie hills, a scene that Dole used to ride his bike up from town to enjoy.
Russell has a hard, flat look, all right, but those views, close at hand, are as broken and interesting as good parts of New England.
When the town's best-known native left 36 years ago, he took some of the local hardness and flatness East with him. You can hear it in that walnut-hull voice of his.
Never miss a local story.
Still, many of his staff members from when he was in the Senate, along with people who grew up with him in Russell and never left, say his character has the same surprises as the landscape - the flatness giving way now and then to a shadowy drop-off or sunny crest.
Probably the complexities, to whatever extent they exist, arise in part from Dole's having grown up in a small Kansas town - during the Depression, at that - and then having become a longtime resident of Washington, D.C. If environment shapes character, Bob Dole ought to have a dual personality.
But the real upheaval in the Dole character occurred on April 14, 1945, in an Italian setting unlike anything in either Kansas or the District of Columbia. The wound that 2nd Lt. Robert J. Dole suffered as he led a squad across exposed ground under heavy fire did not just open formidable gullies across his path back to civilian life. It shifted tectonic plates deep underground, buckling the whole structure of the Dole landscape.
If Dole had not been so badly wounded, he might have become a doctor, and the world might never have heard of him. But he was brought up believing that he could and must do something, and the challenge of his wounds jolted that conviction into a passion. So the world knows Dole, and after Nov. 5 it may know him much better.
People in Russell have a right to think they know Dole especially well, and yet some of them express puzzlement at his Washington behavior, as if it didn't sound like their former neighbor. "I guess that's just politics," they say.
One former staff member, Judy Brown of his Topeka office, suggests that the Kansas Dole and the Washington Dole are indeed different people. She worked for Dole 20 years, doing all his Kansas scheduling for much of that time, and she saw him only when he was in his home state.
"I've talked to people in Washington and they said he was in a hurry and he was not in a real good mood," she said. "And he'd step out of the airplane here and you'd never know it." -He would be smiling and, as usual, the first thing he'd say would be, "What's going on?"
The Washington Dole is the one whom staff members with decades of longevity addressed as "Senator" right up to the time he quit being that and became a full-time candidate for president. Even in private talk among themselves, he wasn't "the boss," "the big guy," "Dole," "Bob" or anything but "the senator." They rarely made small-talk with him. Though not all were exactly afraid of him, most held him in awe.
The Kansas Dole is the one who speaks at a rally in Iowa, making his standard, varied gestures and using his effective but slightly distant facial expressions, delivering his worked-over, pithy cracks: Dole the national figure, Dole the old pro. Then he spots in the crowd the familiar face of Ralph Resley, a basketball and football teammate from Russell High. His face bursts out in a grin as delighted and uncomplicated as that of a 10-year-old farm boy running into a cousin at the Kansas State Fair. He is back home again.
Home is where the streets run straight east-and-west, straight north-and-south - and not in the devious whorls and doglegs of Washington streets. It is where residents are likely to converse in the simpler terms of 60 years ago, where the innuendo and irony of Washington discourse, if anyone ever tried it, would wither like unpollinated flowers in the clear air.
A farm couple from Osborne stepped into Banker's clothing store in Russell on a late-spring afternoon this year. The man needed a suit for their 50th wedding anniversary, they told Dean Banker, the proprietor.
Banker, who has lived in Russell all his 70 years, found a dark blue suit in which the farmer stood, expressionless, before a mirror. Banker told him the price. The farmer considered for a long time, then looked soberly at his wife.
"Well, I guess we better spend the money," he said.
Banker smiled, his ruddy face cherubic. "It only hurts a little while," he said, and the farmer chuckled.
"Tell you what," Banker said cheerily. "In honor of the occasion, will you let me give you a necktie to go with it?"
The farmer smiled and nodded. Also, Banker said, the store would pay the farmer's wife to alter the coat if she wanted to do that -"'cause we'd have to pay the lady that does the alterations for us." Accepted. More cracks from Banker, who is noted for a ready stock of them. At each, the farmer smiled broadly, a smile as open as a child's - the kind of smile that took over Dole's face when he saw Resley in the crowd.
As Banker rang up the sale - $259.46 - and laid out the tie the farmer had chosen, the conversation turned to Dole. "You know," the farmer said with sober admiration, "he came up from the bottom."
If that scene doesn't exactly sum up Russell, which has its subtleties and complexities like any place its size, it surely wouldn't strike a resident as unusual, either. And if you change names and figures, the same conversation could have been held in the same store in 1936.
That was when Dole, at 13, lived in a household just as concerned about its dollars as the old farmer in Banker's.
He spent his first nine years in a three-room house (counting a lean-to kitchen) that looked like Appalachia. During the Depression, his parents had such a rough time making a living that they rented out the main floor of the larger house they by then owned, at 11th and Maple, and the whole family of six moved into the basement.
From the examples of his parents, Dole learned to work hard, to look neat, to be ready with a simple wisecrack and not to expect - or freely give - praise. In his and his wife's book, "Unlimited Partners: Our American Story," he says without a trace of a whine that his father saw no need to compliment anyone for doing his duty. "Pretty good," was the most he would tell his sons after they had worked hard to mow the lawn to his standard.
Another thing Bob Dole learned was responsibility. One Christmas season, his more adventurous older sister, Gloria, and younger brother, Kenny, started to peek at the Christmas presents in the closet. Bobby Joe, as he was called then, tried to make them stop.
"You're going to get in trouble for that," he said - the future congressional finger-shaker showing already. And on weekday mornings, when the four were walking to school, he would take Kenny's hand and rush him along, turning to say to the others, "Come on, come on, we're going to be late." He was a kid who felt an obligation to others. And like his brother and sisters, though not his parents, he regularly went to Sunday school at the frame Methodist church on Main Street.
Yet he had a certain amount of scamp in him - even the very young Dole wasn't an entirely simple character. His younger sister, Norma Jean Steele, says their mother, Bina (pronounced with a long i), had a rule against pets in the house. But on a night when a rampaging plains blizzard was tamping snow between the bricks of the streets, Norma Jean would stand watch while Bob smuggled their fluffy white dog, Spitzy, into the basement to spend the night in the room he and Kenny shared. And in his book, Dole says he used to creep out to the family radio after bedtime and play "The Shadow," with the sound turned low so he wouldn't get caught. A good kid, but no paragon.
Born in the first, small house on July 22, 1923, Dole was the second of the four children. His father, Doran (accent on the first syllable), ran a creamery on North Main, buying milk, cream and eggs from farmers and shipping them out by rail to big-city markets. Later he also managed the grain elevator across the street from the creamery. He was a hardworking man, putting in long hours on the job and missing only one day of work in 40 years.
They say that Doran Dole had a voice like Bob Dole's. It commanded obedience and put up with no nonsense. Doran Dole had no patience with loafers or dreamers.
But he had his softer side and his relaxed moments. He regularly visited sick friends in the hospital, spending hours late at night if need be. He took his children rabbit-hunting and swimming, and once he drove Bob and Kenny to Colorado for a mountain vacation, staying in a friend's cabin. Men hung around the creamery and the elevator to joke with him. They called him "Doley." Though he was no intellectual - neither he nor his wife finished high school - his character was more varied than his reigning drives would suggest.
One of his jokes stretched out over quite a time, and it had a victim. Russell Townsley, the former publisher of the Russell Daily News, tells the story: Doran and Kenny sold some seed to a farmer who lived around Milberger, near the county line to the south. Something was unsatisfactory, and the farmer brought the sacks back.
"The sacks had a tag on them, 'Do Not Destroy This Tag under Penalty of Law,' like you have on a mattress," Townsley said. "Well, a couple of the sacks, the tags weren't there.
"So Doran and Kenny got on this guy: 'You've got to find those. You're in bad trouble. That's a federal offense.'
"The guy goes home and he hunts all over the granary and the barn, and he can't find those tags. Comes in upset. Doran and Kenny just keep this thing going."
From time to time, Townsley said, "They would call the guy up and say, 'You'd better not come into town today, the feds are out here. We're tryin' to cover for you, but we're not sure we've got it done right.'
"And another time they'd say, 'It's OK, we've taken care of them. They're out of the way. You can come to town today if you want to.'"
The game went on. "After about two years," Townsley said, "this farmer comes in, walks in to the grain elevator, and he looks at Doran and Kenny, and he says, 'You dirty sons-of-bitches,' and turned and walked out. He'd finally found out what they'd been doing to him."
That kind of elaborate trick is routine in the farming and oil businesses, Townsley said. Still, if critics are justified in attributing a streak of mean humor to Bob Dole, the story about the father suggests a precedent.
Bina Dole was one of 12 children of a poor farm family. She married before she was 18. In the recollections of Russell people and in the books by Richard Ben Cramer and Jake Thompson - though not in her son's book, which insists that she was not a taskmaster - she sounds like as demanding and hard a parent as her husband. Like him, she demanded still more of herself than she did of her children.
And she expected that they make demands on themselves.
"Can't never could do anything," she told them.
Still, if her husband jumped on the kids for tracking mud on the sidewalk he had just washed, she would intercede, as Gloria Nelson, the eldest, remembers. "You just let them do what they want," she would tell him.
She worked endlessly about the house and in the kitchen, tending to every detail. G. B. "Bub" Dawson, a family friend, says she waxed the insides of her wastebaskets. On holidays and for family gatherings she fried chickens, made bread, baked piles of cookies and decorated them in reds and greens, made pumpkin pies and sour-cream raisin pies, put up pickles and mixed homemade ice cream for the men to crank in the freezer. At Christmas, Gloria says, she would make pink, green, white, chocolate and caramel popcorn balls, wrap each in waxed paper and keep them in clean white pillowcases.
Rows and rows of her spices have been left lining the shelves of her kitchen as a memorial that evokes a nurturing presence: nutmeg, allspice, ginger, cinnamon, paprika, garlic, mustard, tarragon, allspice, curry powder, powdered alums for pickling, colored sugars for cookie-decorating.
The kids liked it when their mother was painting or redecorating the inside of the house and had them put a mattress on the floor and sleep there. "Four little heads, you know," Gloria Nelson said. "Four ornery kids. We could laugh and giggle."
As if her home duties weren't enough, Bina Dole took to the back roads to sell sewing machines, sometimes accepting milk or eggs as a down payment. Self-taught by sewing clothes for her family, she demonstrated the machines with skill.
You could follow her course through the countryside by the taillight of her car, which stayed on. Bob Dole, in a phone interview, said that was a driving habit she never broke: "She had one foot on the brake and one foot on the accelerator."
Though she enforced a stern code on herself and her children, Bina Dole, like her husband, did know how to relax. She and he and the children played Chinese checkers or listened to "Amos 'n' Andy" on the radio together in the evenings. The family often visited the children's grandparents, both sets of whom lived in rented houses on farms they did not own. (Bob Dole was named for his grandfathers, Robert Dole and Joseph Talbott.) And she had a piano - a used spinet, which she played by ear. Her character wasn't varied by great highs and lows, perhaps, but it wasn't as flat as a wheatfield, either.
In that industrious household, Bob Dole did yard work, scrubbed the porch, picked up elm limbs knocked down by storms, took trash out to the barrel, swept the basement. When it was his turn to dry dishes and put them away, he did the job straight, not like Kenny, the family joker, who would hang them all over the kitchen - a pan on a nail, another on the doorknob.
Starting when he was about 12, Bob Dole worked afternoons and Saturdays making malts and "smooths," as the local kids called milkshakes, at Dawson's Drug Store on the west side of Main downtown. Dawson's, one of the first places in town to be air-conditioned, attracted just about everybody: farmers in town to buy a part for the tractor; housewives coming in to shop and meeting in one of the lattice-backed booths for cherry Cokes; and, on weekday afternoons, crowds of school kids who burst in and stampeded toward the seven booths, hoping to grab one and not have to stand at the counter. "You braced yourself for that," said "Bub" Dawson, who worked with Dole in the store Dawson's father owned.
The crowds didn't often include the Dole sisters -"We weren't allowed to mess around after school," Norma Jean Steele said. "We had to come home and do our work."
Bob Dole worked standing in front of a marble back counter that held a 12-foot mirror and had a bas relief of a doll's face - or was it a young woman? -looking down from the arched wooden top. (The counter can be seen at Russell Flower & Gift shop on Main, where it holds a display of variously flavored coffees.) He made Green Rivers (lime fizzes) and dipped chopped ice from a bin that was supplied by a 200-pound block of ice beneath the counter. He poured small (400s) or large (800s) chocolate milk drinks, scooped out nickel ice cream cones and dime double-dips from the 20 flavors on hand, sometimes flipped the ice cream for a malt (20 cents) with his right hand and caught it in the glass with his left. He got paid $2 a week, as Dawson recalls it, plus all the ice cream he wanted.
The help must have been well worth the pay. Dole was a good-looking boy, and he entertained the customers with his jokes, just as Dawson and his two brothers did.
"Been to the beauty shop?" Dole or one of the others would ask a woman customer who had just come across the street from that shop. Yes, she would say, and he would ask, deadpan, "Couldn't they take you?"
Move the site 1,300 miles east and change the marble-topped ambience of Dawson's to the rich leathers and lacquered woods of a Senate office. It is early 1985, just after his first election as Senate majority leader, and in a voice like boiled coffee, Dole tells reporters no, in spite of his new prominence it still doesn't matter whether people call him Bob or Robert. "As long as you call me," he says.
As a matter of fact, few people in Washington would dare call him either of those, but the tone of the crack is still pretty much Dawson's Drug or Banker's store - maybe cornier than a good many senators would care to adopt, but unpretentious, even folksy. When Dole went to Washington, he didn't cut all his Kansas ties.
Another tie he developed young was an old-time Kansas standard of utterance and behavior. His friends from before the war say he never swore, never drank a beer. Yet Russell, when he was growing up, was full of oilfield workers with strong language and strong thirsts. Beer joints sprang up to accommodate them: The Big Apple, The Wagon Wheel, Lindy's Place, Betty's Place, Geibel's Gables. Prohibition and, afterward, the strict Kansas laws made the joints illegal, but raids were few. You could get any kind of drink you wanted. At Dawson's, the older employees on request would reach under the counter for a small bottle of prescription alcohol and spike a drink. Or a farmer would sit in a booth and improve a lime Coke with a pocket flask. Nobody said anything; it was nobody's business.
Dole's father provided booze at times, as Dole relates in his and his wife's book: "Like many of his best customers, my father occasionally felt the urge to quench the public's thirst. But it wasn't the refreshments he served that attracted business . . . . It was the fair prices he paid for locally produced milk, cream and eggs." And Ralph Denning, a former Russell city councilman of Dole's age, says Doran Dole used to put him in a back room at the grain elevator with a radio on Saturday afternoons and tell him, "You can have all the beer you want for keeping me posted on football scores." The scores were naturally of great interest to customers.
At home, Bob Dole showed a normal adolescent's interest in cars, and once, he took the family Whippet out to practice driving. He had an adult acquaintance with him, according to Steele, though Dole said in a phone interview he wasn't sure about that.
At any rate, he drove to the home of Bud Roberts, a friend, and somehow banged into a tree.
"I think I had pulled into the driveway," Dole said, "and I was trying to back around or something."
He drove his dad's car home with a dent in it, afraid to tell his folks. His younger sister remembers that he parked it on a lot across from the house, out of sight behind some trees, and she and his other siblings tried to reason with him.
"He was crying, and he was so scared," Steele said.
They talked him into going home and confessing. Though the damage was minor, his folks were highly upset. And did he get a whipping?
"I gotta believe that would be one time - I sometimes escaped," Dole said, with a characteristic flip away from the main current of his sentence. "My brother, I think, got more than I did." The gist seemed to be that yes, he got a whipping.
By all accounts, Kenny deserved more disciplining than his brother. Both of them played with rubber guns, for instance, splatting each other and their friends with strips of inner tube, but it was Kenny who hid in a tree near the front door with one of the wooden guns and blasted his sisters when they stepped out. Bob Dole worked hard, generally stayed out of trouble, did his homework, and even practiced the family piano during the short time he took lessons. For those who wonder, by the way, that voice of his may be as flat as the road from Dodge City to Sublette, but it doesn't mean he's tone-deaf. His sisters say he whistled around the house and sometimes sang, and he stayed right in tune.
He is, however, color-blind as to red and green, though his medical report says the condition "has not been a problem" to him. Kenny was color-blind, too. Their sister Norma Jean says their mother used to lay out the boys' socks with their Sunday-school clothes, just to avoid mistakes.
The remark about doing his homework could use an asterisk. Busy with athletics all through high school as well as with his soda-fountain job and his home chores, Dole didn't make academics his highest priority as a Russell High School Bronco.
Bertha Ehrlich, now Bertha Sellens of St. John, sat behind him in American history class. Everybody knew how busy he was, she said.
"And some mornings he would come in and he'd turn back to me, and he'd say, 'What was our assignment today?' And I'd tell him, and he'd sit and read very quickly while the rest of us were talking.
"By the time class started, he seemed to have absorbed it and knew what was going on. He always had a keen mind."
That was something else he took from Russell to Washington: the knack of digesting the essentials of a situation in a hurry. The difference is that in Washington he had staff members always handing him one-page summaries of topics from wheat prices to nuclear warhead production.
In spite of Dole's less-than-full devotion to studies and his limited time for them, he did well enough in that respect. True, the nearly complete files of the high school paper, The Pony Express, for his junior and senior years never list his name on the honor roll, and when the paper once or twice names students recognized for getting at least one A, his name isn't there, either. Still, his grades were good enough to get him elected as a senior to the National Honor Society, which required a standing in the top third of the class.
Dole went to high school in a three-story yellow-stone building on Elm Street just south of the business section. That building now houses the middle school but otherwise, outside and in, looks much as it did then.
Russell as a whole is also unchanged in essential ways. The brick downtown streets, laid in 1923, have scarcely aged. Storefront architecture has generally dropped its metal entry columns, and the B. F. Goodrich, Firestone, A.L. Duckwall and Kelvinator stores and the Mecca Theatre are long gone, but where there used to be one kind of store, a different kind has moved in. The makeup of the patrons hasn't much changed - farm people, business people and their employees, school employees, laborers, lawyers - though those connected with oil production are many fewer now that the wells that made the town roar in the '20s and '30s have mostly declined to the status of strippers.
The town is smaller than it was. In 1954, it had 6,857 people. But the oil bust and farm bust of the mid 1980s, together with the general trend toward small-town decay, had drained it to 4,781 at the latest census. So in the age of the booming stereo and the power edger, you can still walk a couple of blocks in any direction from the corner of Eighth and Main downtown and hear the sweet tumbling song of the western meadowlark, the state bird, which sticks to fields and roadsides and seems to exult after a rain, right along with its listeners. Sometimes meadowlarks sing from the tops of the yellowish limestone fence posts for which the area is known - 450-pound, tapering slabs that make the ranch fence lines look like small, topless Stonehenges.
On weekday mornings, Dole had the meadowlark songs to cheer him as he walked or trotted across the tracks a block south of his house and then the rest of the nine blocks southeast to school. Kenny, two years behind him, might try to keep up, limping slightly as the result of a bone infection that had left him with a weakened leg several years before. Sometimes a slowed or stopped train held them up.
Pretty eyes glanced Bob Dole's way as he walked into the building. He was one of the top athletes in the high school, an agreeable, handsome youngster, and he wanted to be a doctor. When he was a senior, this item ran in a gossip column in The Pony Express:
"Bob Dole, the Sampson of R.H.S., struts out to football practice without pads. Some man, eh girls?"
The Girl Reserve Club, a social and service organization, voted him "the ideal boy" of the school, though a few weeks later it decided that Arvin Bender deserved an equal ranking.
Dole had developed strength and endurance by lifting weights - he used a length of pipe with concrete blocks on the ends - and by jogging before school, jogging to school and jogging everywhere he went, in a day when scarcely anyone lifted weights or jogged. "He had to be the best," Dawson said.
Sports captured him from his freshman year onward. He lettered in basketball, football and track at Russell High School. He played end in football, showing a flair for pass-catching. In track, he ran the 220, 440 and 880. The school paper said Coach Dean Skaer considered him and two other boys to be "about as fine middle distance runners as the school has had in a good many years."
But basketball was Dole's favorite sport, and his best. Though he was an inch or two over 6 feet - tall enough, for the day - and made the Union Pacific League all-star team as a center, he normally played guard, and his strength was in team play and leadership. His determination made him a good rebounder - a quality in which, Resley said, "I'd put him up with anybody." He passed the ball to a teammate when he could. He was more apt to get lots of assists than lots of baskets.
His spirit kept up the football team's enthusiasm, too. After a play, he yelled at the fallen Resley: "Hey, Ralph, come on, get up. You're tougher than them."
Adolph Reisig, now of Hays, who played right guard inside Dole's right end, remembers the spark-plug style of his pep talks in the huddle:
"Now, guys, they're gonna turn sour. We've got every chance to beat 'em, and we're gonna beat 'em."
Though Dole is often said to have weighed 195 pounds in those days, the Russell County News gave his weight for a football game in his senior year as 162. It was his determination and his self-imposed, away-from-school training, rather than his size or skills, that made him a star.
"I'd say he was the hardest-working athlete that ever went to Russell High School," Reisig said.
Teachers remember him favorably, too. Faith Dumler, who taught him Spanish in his senior year, said he was probably a strong B student, though, she observed, "I don't think Bob took to the language too seriously."
Alice Mills, at 96 one of Russell's most outspoken and analytical residents, had him in an introductory algebra course in the eighth grade and is pretty sure he made A's. She found him "a very dependable person, and punctual, and, I'm getting tired of saying, always very well-dressed - as if that were a credential for the presidency."
The kind of "well-dressed" she meant had nothing to do with the cost of his clothing. But it was a neat family. The mother insisted on that.
When Bob Dole was getting ready for a day's work at Dawson's, he sometimes paid his younger sister a quarter to iron the light-colored pants he was expected to wear. "He had to have his clothes just look just so," she said.
So Bob Dole as a youngster was neatly dressed, handsome, strong, hardworking, dependable, poor-but-honest, smart, polite and religious. If you expressed that kind of boyhood in terms of a landscape, you could well imagine the Kansas plains, deep in green grass, on a flowery day in spring.
But at least the grass had a sticker or two in it to give it character and surprise the incautious. Arvin Bender, a farm kid whose family land had several oil wells on it, would drive to school in his own new car, a blue Chevrolet Bel Aire sedan with a radio. Bender, a Wichita resident who has retired after working 39 years in the cost-accounting department at Beech Aircraft Corp., remembers that Dole and some of the other football players would ride up and down Main and all around the school with him at noon, the windows open and the radio blaring country music.
Sometimes, according to Adolph Reisig - though Bender doesn't remember this - Dole, accompanied by Bud Smith and Phil Ruppenthal, would approach Bender and say, "Now, Arvin, you wouldn't mind if we borrowed your car at noon? We'd like to go somewhere." And Bender, flattered at the attention from football heroes, would hand him the keys.
Once, though, it turned out that Bender needed the car for something. Knowing that the joyriders would drive up and down Main, he waited by the courthouse to flag them down.
"When they went by," Reisig said, "Arvin started waving at them." The guys in the car returned the wave with big friendly grins and kept going.
"So Arvin was very frantic," Reisig said. "He needed the car.
And they made another trip around Main Street, and Arvin was standing there waving. And so that time, they honked the horn at him and waved. And they kept going."
Though Bender didn't remember that incident (Dole said that he didn't, either, but that if Reisig said it, it must be right), he remembered that Dole, who was dating a cheerleader, Peggy Lee Beck, once asked him to drive the two of them to the cemetery east of town. Dole had bought her a five-pound box of chocolates - an extravagance for most kids in those days - and at the cemetery he presented it to her with embraces and kisses.
Memories from 55 years ago don't always jibe. Dole said he doesn't remember that incident, and he added, "I got a pretty good recollection of candy."
The cheerleader, now Peggy Lee Wyers, of Stigler, Okla., didn't remember the candy incident, either. She found it plausible, though, including the show of affection. In spite of Dole's reputation for shyness, she said, "He was a good kisser."
After games, she and he used to go to the Tower restaurant and dance on its small dance floor. Or they would go to movies, or to a dance out of town. They saw each other at work, too: During his senior year, he mixed his chocolate smooths at Russell Drug, not Dawson's, and she worked alongside him.
The two of them had a regular connection at school aside from athletics. As a senior, she was editor of The Pony Express, and for part of the year Dole was sports editor. He was succeeded in the spring by another football player, one of the best friends of his lifetime, Bernard Smith, called "Bud."
The shepherd instincts that Dole showed among his siblings came out one day in world history class. Dole, a senior, took charge of the class that day - whether in the teacher's absence or as a routine procedure, the student paper doesn't say - and "noticed Calvin Combs redecorating a picture in the Pony Express . . . by adding a few whiskers and a curly mustache. Teacher merely stated, 'Calvin, will you please bring your drawing and come to the front of the class so that I can watch your technique?'"
Forty-four years later, a reporter was questioning him about his new position as Senate majority leader:
Q. What adjective do you want people to use to describe your leadership?
A. Effective. It can't be a popularity contest. You can be very nice to everybody and get some things done. But I think there are times you have to have some discipline.
Dole had had discipline from the start, and in the history-class encounter, as later in the Senate, he passed it on.
That summer of 1941, as a high school graduate looking forward to enrolling at the University of Kansas, where the basketball coach, Forrest C. "Phog" Allen, had given him some encouragement, he worked for the Kaw Pipeline Co., making 65 cents an hour.
One of his co-workers was Larry Nelson, who later married Dole's sister Gloria. Once, at the end of a day, Nelson jumped into the ditch to plug up the bell of the pipe and stop oil from running out. On his knees in oil that came up to his chin, he quickly passed out from the fumes.
"I believe it was Bob that grabbed me by the hair - I had hair then," Nelson said. Dole, who recently confirmed that it had been he, held up Nelson's head long enough that other workers could grab him and pull him out.
Otherwise, Nelson would have drowned in oil.