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Radio personality has retired – a little bit, kinda

Prairie Rose bass player Orin Friesen was named to the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2015. He has retired as the general manager of the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper and Ranch.
Prairie Rose bass player Orin Friesen was named to the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2015. He has retired as the general manager of the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper and Ranch. The Wichita Eagle

Orin Friesen has kicked off his boots and retired as the manager of the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper and Ranch.

But don’t think he will settle down in a recliner – not just yet.

He retired as manager from the ranch as of Jan. 1, said J.W. Johnson, co-owner of the Prairie Rose, but he is still the leader of the Prairie Rose Rangers band and is involved in the daily groundwork of the ranch.

“To have Orin was a huge benefit for my husband, Greg, and myself as the new owners of the Prairie Rose,” Johnson said. “I feel privileged and blessed to have worked alongside him for the past eight years. We hugely benefited from his presence. He is beloved by so many.

“The fact he will remain connected through the band and special events means I don’t have to say goodbye but just say hello less often.”

Friesen is a neighbor to the Prairie Rose near Benton and has his own studio where he records a weekly bluegrass radio show from his house.

Currently, he also is the music director for the “Home on the Range” movie. He is producing a soundtrack album to go along with the movie with proceeds going to benefit the cabin in Smith County as well as the Lone Chimney film company that produced the movie.

Some of the artists on the album – longtime friends of Friesen’s – include the rock band Kansas, cowboy singer Michael Martin Murphey, John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the Diamond W Wranglers, Riders in the Sky and Rex Allen Jr.

Friesen has been inducted into the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Kansas Music Hall of Fame, the Kansas Bluegrass Hall of Fame and America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame.

Friesen, 70, grew up on a farm near York, Neb.

I decided when I was a kid all I wanted to be was a cowboy.

Orin Friesen, retired manager of the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper and Ranch

“I decided when I was a kid all I wanted to be was a cowboy,” Friesen told The Eagle last year.

In junior high and high school, Friesen began making his own ham radio sets. He grew up fascinated with radio programs.

“I don’t see myself as retiring,” Friesen said Thursday. “It depends on what you call retiring. I retired when I was 16 and moved off the farm. I haven’t worked that hard since. But since the first of this year, I’m busier now than ever. I’m not one of those people who sit around and watch TV. There is so much I want to do – projects, traveling, reading and writing.”

Friesen said that when he was a child, his family didn’t have television.

“I remember taking a bath in those old metal washtubs and listening to the Grand Ole Opry from the radio,” he said. “It got me interested in music and cowboys.”

I remember taking a bath in those old metal washtubs and listening to the Grand Ole Opry from the radio.

Orin Friesen, retired manager of the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper and Ranch

Friesen said he wants time to travel with his wife, Bekki, and write.

“Bekki has never seen Wyoming, the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone, and I’ve never seen the Alamo,” he said.

They have a daughter who leaves this semester to attend college in Prague.

“We want to go over there and see her at the end of the school year and see Europe, Austria and Northern Italy.”

And, quite frankly, he says, he wants to begin his mornings a little differently from now on.

“I love to write, and I have all these other possible ideas for books and have started two or three,” he said. “I’m going to find time to get up early in the morning, get my cup of coffee and focus on writing. I’m going to write a little each day.”

Beccy Tanner: 316-268-6336, @beccytanner

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