Ken Stark

I was born in Alameda, California. My brother, Phil, was already about a year old. We were toddlers when our parents divorced and Mom brought us to her hometown, Kakakee, Illinois. Before long, she got sick. Phil and I had to stay in an orphanage for five months. The people there were nice, but we were excited when Mom came to get us.
We kids grew up east of the water tower, in a tiny house next to enormous cornfields. It was funny: we had a chicken house, but no chickens . . . a garage, but no car . . . and a bathroom, but no plumbing. We did have apple trees to climb . . . a bike to ride double… a friend, Tootie . . . a dog named Echo . . .  and plenty of room to run. This was home. We were happy boys.
To support us, Mom took in ironing and tried to sell her stories and poems. Each week, she read a sackful of library books, usually English history. Some had old black-and-white prints of kings, queens, and battle scenes, which inspired Phil and me to draw. We even drew picture stories on strips of paper glued end to end. Then we viewed our “movies” using a cardboard projector. Mom praised whatever we drew. We felt like Rembrandts.
I was twelve when Phil and I went to Phoenix, Arizona, to live with strangers—our father and stepmother. Everything was different. It was hard to fit in. We missed Mom and our country home. I became terribly shy, then my troubles grew. In my freshman year of high school, I broke my collarbone three


Seeing the Elephant

Pat Hughes; Pictures by Ken Stark

Young Izzie wishes he could join the Union Army with his brothers, Ario and Cal. He wonders what it would be like to “see the elephant”—soldier talk for going into battle...