Posted date: Feb 21, 2021
by: Admin My Local Life
John and Elaine Raile Kite donated this golden oak to the Museum of Cheyenne County. It is now the centerpiece in the redesigned Law Office at the Museum.
John Kite retired in June 2007 after practicing law in Cheyenne County for 50 years. His father, Edward, E. E. Kite, was also a lawyer for 50 years. Together, they provided 100 years of law to the county.
Edward E. Kite, known affectionately as "The Judge," was elected District Judge of the 17th Judicial District in 1926, and served until 1947.
He died in 1956 after 50 years in practice in Cheyenne County.
Margaret Lister wrote the Essay "The Old Desk" which relates the life of the 100 year old roll top desk.
The old desk sat in the corner of the room, enjoying the ray of sunshine that laid across his top, warming the golden oak and making it shine through the layer of dust that covered him. He had been in this room for many years. He hadn’t really minded as it was quiet and warm and a good place to think back over his life. The other furniture in the room, the settees, the chairs, and the glass front bookcase had been with him in the old offices. During their times they had seen the young, old, important, and the ordinary. People who came to the office asking for advice and justice. They all had heard sad, funny, honorable, or deplorable stories. So many stories.
The roll-top desk was the one who knew office activity, sometimes piled high with books and papers, sometimes his roll top shut down tight to present a tidy front to visitors. At other times his broad flat workspace was clean and gleaming with a single important document displayed awaiting an official signature and seal. That was when he felt most proud of his position in the office.
0f course, that was not how he started out. He was crafted carefully of beautiful wood, made to be strong and sturdy and quietly elegant. He was made for a person who would be his match and partner through many years. He waited quietly and expectantly in the artisan’s wood shop.
In 1907 young lawyer E.E. Kite was looking to open an office in Cheyenne County, Kansas. A local newspaper described Kite as being of “much more than ordinary promise, strictly reliable, a close student of the law, with an elegance and energy to go far in his career.” In his search for furnishings, Kite and the desk met. The young lawyer was just the person the desk was seeking. Even though funds were scarce and the desk was not inexpensive, Kite and the desk found their match in each other and began a decades-long partnership.
The first lawyer’s practice grew, as his reputation for fair and wise jurisprudence was well earned. He was crowned with a judgeship in 1926, elected Judge of the 17th Judicial District in Kansas. Oh my, the desk was proud. His lawyer, who had studied and written and filed papers and held meetings around his desktop, was a man of prominence. The desk boasted a bit to the settees and bookcases. Some say the golden oak shone a bit brighter, and he stood a little more square.
In the way of things, as the first lawyer’s prominence grew so did his family. The three Kite children, Doris, Wendell, and John, were welcomed by the desk to hide their treasures in his drawers, or do homework on his desktop, even hide in the knee-hole during hide-and-seek games or thunderstorms. His broad flat worktop was large enough that a child could do homework on one side of the desk while father worked on legal matters a ways down the side. The hours the children spent doing their schoolwork and artwork on his top were some of his best memories. He always felt a little sad though that he had not been made with a secret drawer or had a locked cubby hole tucked away under his top.
One of the children, John, announced at an early age that he too would be a lawyer. About that time, the Judge, as E.E. Kite was known, had moved to more magisterial quarters, leaving the desk behind. Now the desk had cause to once again brighten for he would have a bright, hardworking young man as a partner.
As for many years before, there was no lack of brilliant legal scholars who wrote at the desk and, he thought, benefited from the integrity and knowledge that was written and discussed there. And just as the desk thought, the second lawyer, young John Kite, with the same hard work, honesty, intelligence and reliability as his father, moved ahead through County ranks until he reached a height of admiration and respect the desk could scarcely envision but knew was well deserved.
Desk and lawyer served Cheyenne County for many years, gradually lessening the workload and office hours. Fifty years of partnership, lawyer and desk, culminating with the second lawyer’s retirement and closing of this office, the office the desk claimed as his own. The desk was proud. He would take his place as Desk Emeritus, a recognition of the years he had partnered with the justice. But it was not the ending he hoped. There came a day when the desk, carefully bundled in moving blankets, was taken to a room, dark and quiet. He was placed in a corner where stray beams of sunlight would warm him often. Other office friends shared the room. They had time to reminisce over their years together and the lives of their lawyers…
About 100 years, the old desk figured. One hundred years! Oh, the things he had heard and seen and helped with. Over the years he had virtually absorbed the ideas and ideals of the Judge and the lawyer. Over the years he had attained a glow, a look of substance, that was a reflection of the good men who had used it
for so many years. Now he was hidden away, his story of partnership with children and lawyers judges and justices closed up with no voice to tell it.
In time, the old desk settled into his habitat and was coming to a comfortable peace when his life changed again. There were people who came looking through the room and the furniture inhabiting it. These were people coming to honor father and son who had contributed greatly to the betterment of Cheyenne County, Kansas. And they had done it sitting at his desktop, putting files in his drawers, studying with books propped on his solid, shiny flat desktop, sharing writing space with their children. Now he stands for all to see…an embodiment of all that was good, honest, strong, and true in both man and wood. A 100-year-old desk. Sturdy and elegant enough for another 100 years. The young E. E. Kite had chosen his desk well.