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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Drive to save cabin on the range

The Wichita Eagle

Orin Friesen hopes Kansans are open to saving their "Home on the Range" cabin.

More specifically, he hopes Kansas schoolchildren will help lead the way in helping raise money for the cabin's restoration.

Friesen has launched a campaign to raise money for Brewster Higley's cabin in Smith County where the frontier doctor wrote in 1872 what eventually became the Kansas state song.

The cabin, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, badly needs repairs, estimated to cost between $80,000 and $100,000, to restore it to its original integrity.

Friesen, operations manager at the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper near Benton and a local country radio personality, said he learned of the cabin's condition earlier this year and was inspired to start the campaign.

The land and cabin are maintained by the Rust Family Trust, named after Ellen and Pete Rust, who owned the property for nearly 75 years and who are credited with saving the cabin.

The trust now needs help in preserving the cabin.

"It matters that we preserve this cabin," Friesen said. "It needs to be saved for future generations. There are a lot of songs that belong to different states — Texas has a bunch, and Tennessee does too. But none are more famous than our state song. I can't figure out another state song that is so tied to a particular place."

Friesen's campaign runs through the first week in May. Raising money for the cabin will also be a focal point at Prairie Rose's Western Days, May 6-8.

If Friesen's campaign succeeds, it won't be the first time students in Kansas have championed a cause.

The ornate box turtle was named the state reptile in 1986 after a campaign by sixth-grade students from Caldwell. The barred tiger salamander was adopted as the state amphibian in 1994 after it was proposed by Alice Potts' second-grade students at OK Elementary in Wichita.

During World War II, Kansas schoolchildren joined the war effort by collecting milkweed pods for use in making life vests. Officials said 28 ounces of milkweed fiber in a life jacket could keep a flier afloat for 140 hours.

"This isn't that big of a deal compared to winning the war, but I am idealistic enough to think that if each kid in Kansas could donate $1 we'd have more than enough," Friesen said.

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or

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