Remembering Bob Dole

Part IV: The Washington Dole and the Russell Dole

The family first lived in a house in Falls Church, Va. During Dole's third term in the House of Representatives, he and his wife and daughter moved into a five-bedroom, two-story Colonial house on a curving street in the wooded Virginia suburb of Lake Barcroft, two blocks from a pretty lake. The lot was covered with oaks, maples and beeches, and in the back it sloped to accommodate an extra level - a walk-out basement. Doves called and mockingbirds sang in the trees along Beachway Drive.

Robin was a fifth-grader when the family moved to Lake Barcroft. She played table tennis in the basement utility room with her father, who she says played a good strategic game but let her win. Of course he had to use his left hand.

Narrow-faced, dark-haired, slightly aquiline-nosed like her father and with a deep voice like both his sisters but more varied in pitch than his and less raspy than theirs, she sat in the Washington office of his campaign for president three months ago and spoke nostalgically of the Lake Barcroft place. At 41, she had not lived in the house for more than 20 years. She wished she could buy it, she said - and in fact, it was for sale just then, at an asking price of $318,000. The real estate agent who listed it did not mention the former resident among its attractions, and the price, according to its occupant early this summer, was in keeping with the values of other properties around it.

Robin Dole, who has worked in many of her father's campaigns, used to go to a Methodist church with him when they lived in Virginia. She said her mother, an Episcopalian, did not go with them. After church, the father and daughter would go to a Hot Shoppe and have creamed chipped beef on toast. They were still observing that ritual of Sunday brunch early this summer, often going to hotel coffee shops, such as the one in the Hay Adams, with its view of the White House, or to a restaurant in the Watergate complex, where Dole and Elizabeth live. At the time, Robin Dole said she was worried that during the heat of the campaign she wouldn't see him as many Sundays as before.

When she was in high school at Falls Church, her father took her and her date to a Sadie Hawkins Day dance at the school and then drove them to a restaurant. The restaurant, it developed, required a tie. The date didn't have one, so Dole, who wasn't going in with them anyway, removed his and lent it to him.

Two years ago, just before the 50th anniversary of the Normandy invasion, Robin went with her father to Castel d'Aiano, where he laid a wreath honoring the fallen. He is a hero to the villagers, according to a soldier who served with him. For Robin, the visit was a chance to see, as nearly as her father's memory permitted, exactly where he was when he was wounded. "I think I always wanted to understand," she said.

In January 1971, a little more than two years into his first Senate term, Dole acquired a second job that separated him from his family even more than before. He did his day job as U.S. senator and then moonlighted as chairman of the Republican National Committee, flying all over the country for night speeches and rallies. He and Phyllis, as he tells it, drifted apart, and no wonder.

Late that year - a year in which he and she had had dinner together only twice - he decided there was no use trying to save the marriage. She was in the living room when he told her, she said.

"He just came in and sat down and said, 'We need to talk,' and said, 'I want out,' " she said. "And that was it. I didn't know what was wrong."

She said the experience stunned her. The divorce, granted on Jan. 11, 1972, by District Judge Adrian Allen of Topeka, came almost overnight. It was handled swiftly, as an "emergency" case, because, the judge said, Phyllis Dole's attorney had told him it would be a hardship for her to appear for trial. The petition, filed by Phyllis Dole, cited incompatibility.

She spent another year in the Lake Barcroft house. Then she moved back to Kansas, a place she had learned to love in spite of its lack of the greenery and mountains she knew from her New Hampshire upbringing.

Here, she has remained a supporter and friend of her ex-husband. She likes to do handicrafts, and she said she and her husband, Ben Macey, whom she dated in their high school days in Concord, have made thousands of Dole campaign buttons and painted sunflowers on them, working in their Topeka basement.

Defending Dole against a suggestion some have made, she said it wasn't true that he had ignored his daughter. "They have a very nice relationship," she said. Robin didn't see him much during his time as national chairman, she conceded, but she was in high school then: "Kids kind of break away from home when they're in high school."

Also, she said, she has been quoted as saying her husband slept in the cellar. A distortion, she said: It wasn't a cellar but a nice walkout basement, and he would come in late at night and sleep there rather than go upstairs and wake her and Robin.

In the spring of 1972, not long after his divorce, Dole met Elizabeth Hanford of North Carolina, who had been a collegiate beauty queen like Grace McCandless and was a Harvard Law graduate. She was 13 years younger than Dole.

For a while, both dated others - he took a tall Kansas City, Mo., fashion model named Phyllis Wells to the National Republican Governors' Conference in West Virginia in May 1972 and to President Richard Nixon's second inaugural ball in January 1973. She worked in his Kansas City office as a part-time press aide from August 1971 to April 1972. In May 1972 she told a reporter that she and Dole weren't engaged but that she wasn't dating anyone else. Dole wouldn't comment, the reporter said.

Dole and Elizabeth, who was a member of the Federal Trade Commission, were married in December 1975. Since then she has become secretary of transportation, then secretary of labor, then president of the American Red Cross, a job from which she is on leave to campaign for her husband. Three days after the wedding, Doran Dole, who had stayed in the newlyweds' apartment while they took a honeymoon trip to the Virgin Islands, died of a heart attack.

Staff members said the marriage made Bob Dole a little less obsessive about work, a little more inclined to spend weekends at home.

Home for him and his new wife was, and still is, his Watergate apartment. He had lived in it ever since the divorce. It used to have two bedrooms, but the Doles have converted one into a den. The apartment is at the south end of the huge complex, on the ground level, and it has its own patio with a green hedge, flowers, a couple of small potted trees, and "a little gate with sort of a rail fence" - the description is from a phone conversation with Elizabeth Dole.

The flowers and the gate sound like an urban attempt at re-creating Doran Dole's finicky yard in Russell, and of course when Bob Dole walks around the block with Leader, the couple's miniature Schnauzer, he has trees and water -the broad, gray-green Potomac - as part of the close-up setting. The river could accommodate both the Smoky Hill and the Salina rivers with scarcely a ripple, and on the west side, in Virginia, the countryside rises in a gentle, wooded slope, different from anything in western Kansas. Still, the scene arguably lacks the spaciousness and certainly lacks the serenity of the country around Russell County's two rivers. Traffic roars and grinds along the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, between the Watergate and the river. People jog along the riverside path, hurrying to get healthy.

The Watergate complex itself consists of four buildings, each 11 stories high. The sides facing the interior courtyard seem to dance toward and away from each other in curving lines, and each floor has full-length balconies with toothy rows of posts molded of aggregate, each one exactly the same as all the rest. Around Russell, the sawn limestone fence posts look distinctively uneven, not one the same as any other, and the lift and fall of the plains enacts a natural dance that changes with every cloud. Living at the Watergate, for those who work in the Capitol, has advantages and comforts, but the surroundings are so loud and swift that sometimes the contrast to life in a Kansas plains town is bound to wrench the sensibilities of the expatriate.

When Marcie Adler, a longtime Dole staff member from Russell, goes home and talks with residents, she said, she is reminded of "what's really important to people," and she enjoys the peaceful sunsets and "feeling a good wind that's not polluted."

"Like most of us in Washington," she said, "we kind of have two sets of roots - the ones back home and the ones here."

Dole has actually put down longer roots in Washington than he did in Russell. But his home life, when he is home, sounds Middle American enough, if you disregard the fact that it is in a complex vast enough to house a third of the population of Russell. On weekday mornings, he has orange juice, coffee and a big bowl of Kellogg's Common Sense Oat Bran Flakes for breakfast. Which one of the couple gets the ingredients together? "Depends on who hits the kitchen first," Elizabeth Dole said.

He dresses himself, as he has done since he began to recover in Army hospitals from his wounds, buttoning his shirt with the aid of a buttonhook and tying his own tie. The left sleeve is a problem, but he often buttons it ahead of time and then slips his hand through. And he often wears French cuffs.

As Senate majority leader, Dole was chauffeured to and from the Capitol daily, but the family car, used only on weekends, was and is a 1987 Chevrolet.

In the evenings, Dole works out on a treadmill or with the rowing machine that Elizabeth gave him. He plays music "with almost anything he's doing," his wife said. Sometimes it's classical, sometimes (still) "You'll Never Walk Alone" or something by Johnny Mathis or Glenn Miller.

When he was in the Senate, Elizabeth Dole said, she and he talked in the evenings about what had happened that day. "He has a habit of bringing home an envelope of things he thinks I would enjoy seeing," she said, "and it's always marked 'Take home' in his handwriting." The contents might include a letter, something he had read or something that referred to his wife. "He's a very, very considerate and thoughtful person," she said.

They like going out to eat, and often they bring in Chinese food, which is especially attractive to him because no one has to cut it up for him.

Don't ask whether, in this household, the strong and beautiful woman or the politician and war hero with the Dust Bowl voice is the dominant figure. Leader, the Schnauzer, "rules the roost," Elizabeth Dole said. "He sleeps on the bed." (What would Bina Dole have said?)

The couple also have a two-bedroom condo at Bal Harbour, Fla. It is set back from the Atlantic, but no buildings stand between. Dole enjoys the water, though he doesn't go in, and he likes to sit in the sun.

A place the Doles sometimes visit is Wolfeboro, N.H., where a friend has a lakeside dwelling. Like Washington and Florida, it is a very different natural scene from that around Russell.

So was the scene at work, when Dole had a job. His office in the Hart building, two blocks northeast of the Capitol, provided a view through floor-to-ceiling windows of a courtyard with cherry trees of the kind Washington is famous for. They bloom in a pink profusion in April. But those, like the ones around the Tidal Basin, are Yoshino cherries, native to Japan. Inside the building, small ornamental trees grow in brown plastic tubs and shed a few crinkly leaves onto the pink marble floors between rounds by the janitors. Those are ficus benjamina trees, members of the rubber family, of tropical origin.

For further scenic effects, a black sheet-metal sculpture, "Mountains and Clouds," by Alexander Calder, reaches most of the eight stories from the floor to the skylight in an atrium close to Dole's senatorial office. It is pointed like a mountain and has a black metal construction suspended above it like Joe Bftsplk's cloud in the old "Li'l Abner" comic strip. The sculpture may be art, but it isn't nature, much less Kansas nature.

Inside the office, when Dole was the occupant, scenery took the form of paintings and did often look like home. One watercolor by J. R. Hamil of Overland Park showed a scene northeast of Russell, with ripe wheat, a red-roofed barn and a segment of the Smoky Hills. Another Hamil painting, with more ripe wheat, showed a meadowlark perched on top of a rock post, singing - a quintessential home sight for people from around Russell. There were a couple of sunflower paintings as well, and behind Dole's desk was a blizzard scene in oil, with a cowboy on his horse. Other art included a scene of the Washington Monument and one of the Jefferson Memorial.

Among the books in two wood cases in the office was "Land of the Post Rock" by Grace Muilenburg and Ada Swineford. Others included Carl Sandburg's four-volume "The War Years," about Abraham Lincoln, one of the historical figures Dole has said he admires the most. There were also books on another figure who is among his heroes: Dwight Eisenhower of Kansas. There were books on the Civil War and World War II, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward's "The Final Days" about the Nixon presidency, and a book of prayers by the Rev. Frederick Brown Harris.

Dole's other office, the one set aside for the Senate majority leader, looked west, up the Mall, from the second floor of the Capitol. In the background were the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. On the Capitol grounds between were large trees of many varieties, including two big hackberries at First and Pennsylvania Avenue that he could probably see from his window. Those are among the few varieties of trees that grow wild around Russell, but otherwise the view from the Capitol looked not the least like home.

The settings of Dole's 36 years in Congress, in fact, had almost nothing to make him feel as if he were back in Russell. The same was true of the pace.

At work, Dole strode through the corridors of the Capitol at a clip his young aides found hard to match - even during his last year in the Senate, when he was 72. As his importance increased, so did his entourage of other senators, rushing along at his side and talking procedures and measures. Still, he took time to give a quick glance and a "Hello" to Capitol employees such as Mike Arandia, who works behind the counter of the souvenir shop. If he saw Nancy Ellis, a gray-haired waitress for special functions, he would stop and ask what was for lunch. If it wasn't fried chicken, she said, he would be unhappy. Russell tastes had endured.

In his offices, a core of efficient, strong women stayed on through the years even as other employees around them quit or were eased out, unable or unwilling to work as hard or as well as Dole required. Perhaps such women remind Dole of his mother, who died in 1983 at the age of 80.

One of the women is Adler, for nearly 19 years a member of his staff, handling especially visitors from Kansas. She has an appraising gaze, a clear voice and an efficient, chipper air, qualities that fit both the Dole job and her former work as a university instructor of physical education.

How had it been, working for Dole so long? "He doesn't expect any more than I would of people that work for me," she said. But that's a lot: She said she was notorious among the interns in the office for making them do their work over. Dole, she said, is more flexible than she. Still, he expects good work.

"You quickly learn that you shouldn't send something in to him that's not done absolutely as perfectly as you think it can be," she said.

Staff members learned that Dole wanted memos to be held to a page in length. He would give them back with a "Try again" or a brief suggestion for a different direction written in his slanting scrawl. Adler said his comments, at least to her, weren't usually negative. On the other hand, they were rarely complimentary - shades of Doran Dole.

"One time," she said, "I got a very lengthy project back, telling about my travels through a number of Kansas communities and reporting on who had said what and what was happening there, and so forth. And on the top of it he wrote 'Good,' and I thought that was like getting five stars. I saved it, too."

She thought a minute and decided that she had in fact seen three "Good"s from him. "You don't forget those 'Good's," she said.

From what former staff members say, three compliments may be the record. Bill Wohlford of Wichita, a lawyer who worked for Dole for 51/2 years in the mid 1970s, said he didn't remember the senator's ever complimenting him. But you could tell, "just by his attitude," when you had done well, he said.

Dole could be critical and demanding, Wohlford said: "There would be times when I'd see speeches come back with a lot of black marks on them." And he might say, "That wasn't a very good piece of work."

The senator lacked the young Lieutenant Dole's willingness to listen patiently to his subordinates and act on their advice. It was hard to get a chance to sit with Dole and ask him what changes he wanted in a speech or a report, Wohlford said. And sometimes, when you got that chance, Dole himself didn't know - he just knew he was dissatisfied.

Washington-style, but with an almost unique intensity, he drove and was driven. When he ran as the Republican vice presidential candidate in 1976, the Secret Service code name for him was "Ramrod." No one in Russell would have called him that.

One of Dole's techniques in handling personnel was to try to stir up competition among them, Wohlford said. He might take work from one staff member and give it to another. Sometimes he would go around the administrative assistant, his top hand - that would be Wohlford, toward the end of his stay with Dole - to work directly with a staff member. Wohlford got used to it, he said.

Dole wasn't insensitive, Wohlford said, but his ambition made him push people hard. When the Senate was in session, Wohlford would start work at 6 or 6:30 a.m., leave the office 12 hours later and then have to go to a politically important reception. He would spend half of Saturday catching up and sometimes work on Sunday as well.

At least his employees knew that Dole worked harder than they, and most of them seem to have felt dedicated to the work they were doing. Ernest Garcia, who worked 31/2 years for Dole in Washington in the late '70s and then was his state director for a year in Topeka, said if Dole should ask him to come in on a Saturday, he would never think of saying, gee, he had tickets for the ball game that day. "I would just automatically say, 'I'll be there,'" he said. "The whole reason for my being in Washington was to be here and work for him."

And so he, like others and like Dole, put his personal life aside and devoted himself to the cause of Bob Dole.

Wohlford went so far in that direction that even Dole noticed. On one occasion, when the two were working late, Dole admonished him to spare himself more, to think of his family.

"In my first eight years in Congress," Dole told him, "I read every piece of mail, answered every phone call, signed every letter, was involved in every piece of legislation. I did it all, and you know what it got me? A divorce."

Wohlford finally did think of his family. He clambered out of the Dole whirlpool when his third child was born. When he decided to come back to Kansas, he said, Dole happily made phone calls on his behalf, and after he was settled here, phoned to see how things were going. That kind of reminiscence, along with the tales of long hours and heavy demands, is common among Dole's former staff members.

Like many of Dole's other alumni, Wohlford supports him politically, and his depiction of Dole as a boss has the tone of honest assessment, not criticism. Dole was loyal to his staff and found it very hard to fire anyone, Wohlford said. Rather than do that, he would have Wohlford relocate employees, perhaps on some other congressman's or senator's staff.

Though he was demanding, he was also fair, Wohlford said.

A complex character, in short.

"If you think you understand him, it's kind of like the Kansas weather," Wohlford said. "Wait a day, and you find out you're wrong."

Like most who have worked for Dole, Wohlford was impressed with his ability to absorb facts. Often, he said, Dole knew more about a situation than his staff did. He was a stickler for accurate words and good grammar, Wohlford said, and he wanted the speeches and letters that represented him to be brief and direct.

Another former staff member, Bill Taggart, a Kansan who is now a consultant and lobbyist in Washington, said of Dole, "He is without a doubt the finest editor I've ever seen." But making out the editing, scrawled with Dole's numb left hand, was tough at first. "After you've been on his staff for a few years, you can read it," Taggart said.

The least complimentary book about Dole - the one called "Senator for Sale," by Stanley Hilton, a former staff member - tells a story about George Gilder, a speech writer. Hilton says Dole threw a speech of Gilder's on the floor and ordered him to pick up the pages and get out.

In an interview, Gilder, a writer and lecturer who lives in Tyringham, Mass., put a different light on the experience. He said by phone that he had been working for Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and was sent to help Dole after Rockefeller announced he was not interested in running again. He caught up with Dole in Des Moines.

"And," Gilder said, "I present myself at the hotel room and say, 'I've come to write speeches,' and Dole says, 'All right, write me a speech.'"

Gilder went downstairs, worked a few hours and took the speech back to the room. Dole told him to return in a half-hour and they would discuss it.

"So I came back in a half an hour and was ushered into the room by Mrs. Dole," Gilder said, "and the speech was strewn all over the floor of the hotel room. And he went from page to page across the floor and said, 'Bad! Bad! Bad!' like it was some dog's deposit.

"And I guess he said, 'Pick it up' then, or 'Get it out of here,' or something like that."

The performance was humorous, Gilder said, and "I was quite entertained by it." At the same time, he said, Dole "wanted to convey that he wasn't enthusiastic about the rhetoric I was supplying for him" and also probably was unhappy about having an outsider imposed on his campaign.

Gilder, known especially for his 1981 book on supply-side economics, "Wealth and Poverty," scoffs at the portrait of Dole as a man of hurtful wit.

"He's too liberal for me," he said, "but he doesn't wound people. I think that's baloney. He's very compassionate."

Still, in an article in Life magazine in September 1987, Gilder put a different slant on his experience with the rejected speech. He said he was crushed and considered quitting, though he did recognize that there might have been a trace of "madcap humor" in Dole's treatment of him.

And Gilder said in the article that when he slipped into the hotel bar afterward and told other Dole staff members what had happened, they weren't in the least surprised. That sounded like their man, they told him. Writing the Life article with 10 years' hindsight and when Dole was seeking the presidential nomination, Gilder said Dole seemed by the mid-'80s to have mellowed - a change for which he said Dorothy Sarnoff, an image consultant in New York who had worked with Dole, took credit. Others say Elizabeth Dole has polished some of Dole's rough spots. And most former staff members say the treatment of Gilder doesn't sound like the Dole they know.

An exception is Garcia, who said of that kind of treatment, "I've heard of it," though the harshest view he gave of his own experience was of Dole's looking at a piece of work and sternly demanding, "What is this?"

Though some senators would also disagree with Gilder's "doesn't wound" remark, Dole as Senate majority leader was widely regarded as a shrewd and perceptive reconciler of differences and factions.

An old political opponent, Norbert Dreiling of Hays, said that habit may be a handicap to Dole as a presidential candidate. On issues such as tobacco and abortion, Dreiling said, "He's trying to please all sides and in effect make a deal," in the style of his days as majority leader.

Dreiling said Dole showed in his 1974 senatorial race that "he can be tough and he can be mean, particularly in a political sense." In that race, Dreiling was state Democratic chairman and Dole's opponent was Bill Roy of Topeka. But Dreiling said he and Dole have "been friends over the years" and he feels that Dole has grown and mellowed as his constituency has changed from rural and conservative to a mix of farm and city, conservative and liberal.

In regard to Dole's ability to calm and reconcile, a former administration official who asked that he not be identified said he once sat in Dole's outer office and tried to work out a point on a child-care bill with former Sen. Bob Packwood, the Oregon Republican.

He told Packwood what the administration's position was. It differed from Packwood's position, and the former official said Packwood "proceeded to curse me out in a very loud way," using one of the basic four-letter insults.

Dole was sitting a couple of doors away and heard everything.

"It's reasonably tense when that kind of language ensues," the former official said, "and Senator Dole wanders in and said, 'Oh, so you're working things out!'"

Using humor to smooth over an angry encounter was typical of Dole, according to the former aide. He said Dole did not like personal confrontations. Some senators bawl out their staff members, even in public, he said. Not Dole. He would tell his chief of staff what had gone wrong and expect the chief to deal with it.

He had a reputation of going through staff, said the former staff member, who was with him seven years. But he said the problem was finding staff members who fit in, specifically those who would work hard enough. Observing that many of Dole's former staff members later worked on his campaigns, he said it "speaks volumes, if you have that kind of loyalty."

What Dole is not to his staff, he said, is a chum. "There's a fair distance, and you know who the boss is."

Still, he said, Dole was approachable in some ways. The former staff member remembered taking his 3-year-old son in on a Saturday, and the child played with the toy John Deere tractors in Dole's office while Dole and the staff member conferred.

And in the Senate chamber, Dole would often walk back to the staff couches and do an under-the-breath, amused commentary to other senators' staff members on what was going on -"Wow, what a windbag that is! Will we ever get out of here tonight?" and so on.

Also, the former staff member said, Dole was "a very proper person," never swearing, even when the two of them were alone. But he said Dole hadn't stuck by the teetotaling of his Russell days - he would drink a glass of champagne or red wine once in a while.

For staff members, the pressure to meet Dole's standards reached a peak when Dole would be speaking on the Senate floor and an aide, a specialist in the subject under discussion, would be scribbling his next few sentences on sheets of yellow tablet paper, ripping them out and handing them over as fast as he could write - a common practice of senatorial staffs, but particularly tough when the senator was as picky as Dole.

That was the Washington Dole as his staff members saw him. Back home, he was more relaxed, and some would say he was a different person.

Judy Brown, the longtime Topeka employee, found him "very easy to work for." At the same time, he expected her to do things right. Four or five years ago, she scheduled a luncheon talk for him at a gathering in a hotel in Overland Park. It was a mixed group, and the women had the choice of staying for lunch or going shopping at Country Club Plaza. The turnout showed which choice they had taken - it was about half the expected size.

"Well, who got me into this?" Dole asked afterward.

"I said, 'I guess I did, but I told you this was a possibility,'" Brown said. "And he was fine."

Maybe she had a special touch with Dole. Other staff members sometimes had her ask him things they were unwilling to ask.

When Dole campaigned in Kansas, he would stop at every little town to talk with people, even if he had only one stop scheduled in the county. And he's notorious for not being able to pass a Dairy Queen or other dairy store without stopping for a chocolate shake.

Brown arranged a northeast Kansas tour for him. From Kansas City he would take a small plane to Marysville for a 6:30 p.m. talk. First, the driver of his new office van, just to get acquainted, would meet him at the Kansas City airport. Later, the van would take him from Marysville to Washington, Kansas, for another appearance.

But it was raining hard at Kansas City. The small plane couldn't fly to Marysville. Anxious calls went back and forth between the pilot and Brown. At 6:15, Dole finally got on the phone: What should we do?

Brown suggested that he call the people in Marysville and cancel. Then, she said, "Why don't you get a milkshake and get in the van and drive?"

"Nobody could believe that I would say that to him," she said. "There was this little silence, and he said, 'UH-kay.'" And he hung up and did what she had told him.

That sounds more complaisant than the Washington Dole, and another Topeka staff member, Cindy Hillman, said she found him ready to tell her when an event had gone well or she had done a good job. On the other hand, he might say, "We've got to do a better job of this, and here's how I think we ought to do it."

She lost both her parents last year, and Dole, she said, showed his concern by phoning her and writing her notes. "He could not have been more understanding and compassionate and caring, as busy as he was," she said. Other staff members have had similar experiences, and obviously Dole couldn't have had one eye on a possible new vote in their cases.

On his Kansas campaign swings, he likewise made a point of concern and friendliness, but of course votes could be very much in the picture there. David Spears, who worked out of the Wichita office in the downtown Bank IV building as Dole's state director, went with Dole on a driving tour of all 105 counties a few years ago.

"His big push was, a constituent got a response back from his office within 24 hours," he said.

A couple of times, a constituent, going home from a meeting at which he had told Dole or one of his staff members about a problem, would find a reply waiting on his answering machine at home, the problem solved. On the drive from, say, Atwood to St. Francis, Dole and his helpers would have phoned Washington from the car and straightened things out.

That sounds like the Washington Dole and certainly the political Dole, but Spears said, "He actually cared about helping people."

Dole rode in the front passenger's seat on such swings. He took notes, returned calls to national political leaders and read lists of names and issues prepared for him by staff members so he would be ready for the next bunch of voters. He would look out the window at a stand of wheat and ask Spears, who grew up on a farm near Osborne, "What's that field going to make?" More ammunition for the next stop.

Diana Dooms, who handled immigration cases for Dole's Wichita office, got behind the wheel to drive him during one of his Kansas visits. She was, as she put it, really pregnant, "And he was concerned: 'How're you feeling? Doin' OK?'"

Dole's legendary memory for faces and names - possibly a heritage of his father, possibly compensation for not being able to take notes with ease, possibly just good politics - served him on his campaign swings. Jerry Schmidt, now a Hillsboro police officer, was a career soldier and met Dole in 1978 or '79 at an Association of the United States Army banquet at Fort Riley. He shook Dole's hand, and they talked for two or three minutes.

In 1984 or '85, Schmidt went to the Kansas State Fair and saw Dole in a booth. "I went over there to say hello or shake hands with him," Schmidt said, "and he called me by name. I kept looking around to see if I had a name tag or somebody (else) had called me by name."

In contrast to the lingering loyalty of many of Dole's former staff members, Ana Riojas, who worked for him from 1971 to 1975, has reversed her attitude toward him. She liked him at first. As a secretary in his Kansas City office, she said, she was never told that employees were to help only Republicans: "We were to help anyone who called."

At the time, said Riojas, who is vice chairwoman of the Kansas Association of Hispanic Republicans, Dole showed concern for the needs of Hispanics. She liked his party loyalty, too, and she "was just astounded with his directness and honesty."

In 1974, when he was running a close race against Bill Roy for re-election to the Senate, she enlisted her two children and eight of their friends and drove them all over Kansas City to deliver campaign literature door to door. They made 29,000 stops, she said. The inducement was her promise to them that the senator would come and thank them in person. They were excited at that prospect, she said, but Dole never came, though she called his Washington office and said he needed to do so.

"So I quit," said Riojas, who has an employment agency in Lenexa. "That's why I left Bob Dole."

Since then she has become convinced that Dole is "into Mexican-bashing." She especially resents his backing of English as the country's official language.

She had found him quite otherwise in several instances earlier in his career. What had made the difference? It used to be politically expedient to be seen as a champion of the Mexican-American community, she said, and now it's not.

"Does he change to meet the favor of the people?" she asked. "I'm wondering if that's how he changes the inside of himself."

A Dole press aide, told of Riojas' statements, replied, "Her unfounded and mean-spirited remarks can only be viewed as a measure of how passionate this activist is on the issue of English-first."

Another Kansas woman who feels less than enthusiastic about Dole as a candidate is Pat Lehman of Wichita, president of the Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO. She said that Kansans associated with organized labor have almost never been able to get an audience with Dole or his staff. When she called, she said, she would hear a Rolodex being flipped through, and then: "Oh, yeah. You're the woman from the AFL-CIO." And, she said, she would be told that the senator had no available time, no aide was available, the scheduling secretary wasn't available. She would ask that those people call her, she said, but they never did so.

The Dole aide responded that records didn't show that the union representatives had first made contact with the Dole offices in Kansas. She said Dole had "maintained an open-door policy for his constituents, including members of the AFL-CIO."

The Washington Dole, then, is, or was, an able, demanding, intimidating, hardworking, aloof, harsh, sympathetic, contradictory figure, and one who has rarely seemed relaxed by Kansas standards.

Even when he made a campaign stop in Overland Park on June 13, two days after his resignation from the Senate, he looked more in the Washington than the Kansas mode, though from the platform he waved at old friends in the audience as always. "Cora, good to see you," he said over the microphone to Cora Hollinger, formerly of Russell and now of Overland Park. "Did you get my birthday letter?"

He spoke with the usual gestures and expressions, his facial mobility making the audience overlook the flatness of a voice that sounded like John Wayne imitating Crazy Horse. As always, he took only an occasional glance at his text or notes. Dole often uses glasses for reading, though large type and sometimes a teleprompter permit him to leave them off when he speaks.

But in Overland Park his face, when he wasn't speaking, looked set and grim. The fiery sun, full in his face, made dark shadows at the side of his mouth. During his inevitable, drawn-out mingling with the crowd in the heat afterward while the padded television microphones hovered like big fuzzy caterpillars just above his face at the ends of long metal booms, his smile became more and more fixed and tight-lipped. That was unlike his wife's smile, radiant and cool from the platform even in the face of a sun that she surely knew was imperiling what has to be a big campaign asset to her husband: the youthful glow of her complexion.

That scene, though in Kansas, took place in a metropolis and a long way from the real plains. A few weeks later, Dole went home to Russell for his 73rd birthday party under the huge Chinese elms in Lincoln Park. He was a different man.

For one thing, he had shucked the suit and tie he wore in Overland Park and had actually put on a pair of bone-colored wash pants, neatly pressed, and a blue work shirt - fully starched, of course. "That's the first time I've ever seen him in a denim shirt," said Karyn Nelson of Salina, who has been married to his nephew, Jeffrey Nelson, for 27 years.

South of the speaker's platform, the Russell Fire Department had pulled up a hose truck with "Doran R. Dole" in gold on its red side. Doran Dole was a volunteer fireman for more than 50 years.

The clothes, the occasion, the old friends and the mild breeze in the shady park relaxed the Dole smile and stance even in the face of a dozen television cameras on a platform a hundred feet away. It was possible to imagine that this was the pre-war Dole, joking easily and waving the fingers of his left hand to someone in the crowd as if he were the football hero being honored at Homecoming. Before he spoke, the crowd sang "Happy Birthday" to an accompaniment by the Russell High School band.

"Anybody else have a birthday today?" Dole asked, and several hands in the crowd went up. "Happy birthday," he called. He made his usual joke about Strom Thurmond, the 93-year-old senator from South Carolina - who, he said, had offered to be his running mate to offset any notion that Dole was too young to be president. And, turning serious, he made his usual remark that "It all started here in Russell, Kansas."

He spoke in the colloquial, casually enunciated style -"gonna," "wanta," "the prez'dn'" - that he used in the Senate and has used in countless press conferences and talk-show appearances. He sawed the air with his left hand, tilted his head as he set out on a new turn in his remarks, now and then nodded for an easy emphasis with each word of a phrase. The style was familiar, but in the little park in Russell, with homey faces smiling at him, it looked and sounded natural and in place.

He talked a quarter-hour, then stood back, smiling a little and now and then finding someone else in the crowd to wave to, while Elizabeth Dole spoke in her fluent off-the-cuff style and her low, well-modulated Southern voice. When she had finished he said, "God bless America" and at 7 p.m. stepped into the crowd, not to emerge for two hours.

"You're only 55, aren't you?" he said to a man wearing a straw hat and looking more like 85.

"You have any wheat out there?" he said to another man.

"What's your weight now?" he asked Clyde Funk, who was a guard on the high school football team with him.

"Here's my sheriff, right here," he told the nearest in the crowd after greeting Harry Morgenstern, whose office had been next to Dole's in the courthouse, three blocks away. "We rode the rails together - the trails together, whatever."

Dole's voice, though not seeming pushed, had climbed a bit from its usual level down in the Paleozoic sands. To an onlooker standing three or four circles back in the crowd, his words came across clearly over the murmur of his fans.

After almost an hour, Dole sat down at a picnic table next to a young man in a wheelchair, and as he did so, taking his weight off his feet, he finally looked tired. He had spoken in Washington earlier that day, then in Dearborn, Mich., then flown to Hays and been driven to Russell. Still he talked, smiled and signed, and he managed also to eat some chocolate ice cream out of a plastic cup.

Revived, he stood again, posed for a picture with a couple of young women, moved eastward - the direction of a waiting car - but then sat at another table to talk with Lakisha Holloway, 18, of Russell, and others in a cluster of two adults and eight children. He stood, petted a pair of white goats and posed amid Smoky Hill Clover 4-H youngsters with their banners.

It was 8:45 p.m. Cicadas were grating tinnily from the elmtops. A bank of thunderheads had taken on a pink-and-orange glow from the remnant of the plains sunset.

Dole spotted an opening downfield and moved off quickly between the retreating defenders. But then he saw two people in wheelchairs and stopped to talk with them. "Wanta sign Joe's hat here," he said, grabbing the white Bob Dole cap from the head of one of the wheelchair occupants, who smiled hugely, delighted.

Finally Dole was near the gate and the car. Robin had joined him, and they were practically alone for a moment. "Where's the food?" he asked her.

But at the gate, five fuzzy boom mikes awaited. He talked into them about the challenge to reunite the party. Finally, at 9:01 p.m., he got into the back seat of a blue Chrysler with Robin and turned north on Lincoln Street, the direction of Gloria's house.

It was 15 weeks to Nov. 5. The waters from the upstream cloudburst had to keep roaring at least that long.

Seen through the back window of the car, Dole's silhouette did not slump and did not stretch out in relief. Even in Russell, even among kinfolks, there was still a reception to be up for.


Bibliographical note

In addition to interviews, documents, newspaper stories and magazine articles, four books have provided material for this story. They are:

"Bob Dole," by Richard Ben Cramer (Vintage, 1995)

"Bob Dole: The Republicans' Man for All Seasons," by Jake H. Thompson (Donald I. Fine, 1994)

"Unlimited Partners: Our American Story," by Bob and Elizabeth Dole with Richard Norton Smith and Kerry Tymchuk (Simon & Schuster, 1996)

"Senator for Sale: An Unauthorized Biography of Senator Bob Dole," by Stanley G. Hilton (St. Martin's, 1995)