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May 18, 2013

Echoes of the Old West can still be found daily in Kansas

Despite what Texas claims, Kansas is still the Old West.

Despite what Texas claims, Kansas is still the Old West.

The state has given the Old West everything iconic that westerners hold dear.

The boot.

The hat.

The Marlboro Man, Matt Dillon, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Buffalo Bill, Billy the Kid.


Martina McBride.

Texans may do all that bragging. But remember, folks, the Old West began here.

Even now, nearly 150 years after vast herds of cattle were driven up the Chisholm Trail to the cowtowns of Kansas, glimpses of the Old West are played out in portions of Kansas every day.

It is still possible to ride horse-drawn wagons, go on cattle drives, saddle up for trail rides or watch as cattle are bought and sold.

The Moore Ranch near Bucklin bills itself as a working ranch where people can work cattle, ride horses and do all the other chores often seen on a ranch.

Guests are assigned cabins and can stay a few days or weeks. Daily chores include checking cattle on horseback, moving cattle, fixing fences or monitoring the range. Daily experiences can range in cost from $130 to $175 a person.

A cattle drive experience costs anywhere from $525 for a two-day drive to $825 for a three-day drive. For more information, call 620-826-3649.

•  The Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper has become a go-to place for those wanting to experience the country way of life in just an evening’s time. Included with the dinner is music by the Prairie Rose Rangers and wagon rides.

Cost is $30 for the all-you-can eat meal; children ages 6-12 are $10.

For more information, call 316-778-2121.

•  The Flying W Ranch near Cedar Point in the Flint Hills, owned by Josh and Gwen Hoy, has scheduled cattle drives throughout the summer. Cost is $200 a person and includes meals, trained ranch horses and stories by Jim Joy, Josh’s father, who is director of the Center for Great Plains Studies at Emporia State University and is an Old West historian and folklorist.

For more information, call 620-274-4357.

•  The Winter Livestock in Dodge City, America’s largest independent cattle auction company and one of the nation’s oldest cattle auctions, is one of the best ways to catch glimpses of working cattlemen and women. The auction typically sells about 4,500 head of cattle a month.

Go to the Winter Livestock sale barn in Dodge on any given Wednesday, and it smells of cattle and peanuts. Hundreds of peanut shells line the floor – buyers eat the nuts while making bids.

The sale barn hasn’t changed much in the 75 years it has been in operation. Blue-jeaned cowboys and cowgirls in hats and worn boots caked with manure sprawl on wood seats throughout the show barn, watching intently as cattle are shoved through in groups and singly.

•  Old Cowtown Museum, 1865 W. Museum Blvd., a living-history museum portraying life in the 1870s, is open Tuesday through Sunday. The “Age of the Gunfighter,” a daylong event featuring re-enactments and gunfights, is Aug. 31. Admission is $7.50 for adults. For information, call 316-350-3323.
•  Pretty Prairie Rodeo, 202 N. Elm St., Pretty Prairie, Kansas’ largest night rodeo, July 17-20. Tickets go on sale June 29. Before then, call 620-459-6392 for more information. After that date, call 800-638-2702 for tickets and information.
•  National Day of the Cowboy, celebrate 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. July 27, at Old Abilene Town, 100 SE Fifth, Abilene. Donations accepted. For more information, call 785-479-0952.
•  Boot Hill Museum and Front Street, 500 W. Wyatt Earp Blvd., Dodge City. Open daily. Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Cost of tickets varies on experiences. $10 for adult general admission, $8 for children. Admission includes a self-guided tour and an introductory video. If visitors want to include dinner, it is $35 for adult country-style dinners; $12 for children. In addition, the adult ticket for the Long Branch Variety Show is $10; $8 for children. For more information, call 620-227-8188.

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