Tag Archives: cowboys

Old Cowtown Museum Celebrates Independence Day

"Abraham Lincoln" visits Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita, Kansas, to celebrate Independence Day.  Lincoln actually did visit Kansas once before he was elected president.

"Abraham Lincoln" visits Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita, Kansas, to celebrate Independence Day. Lincoln visited Kansas in 1859, before he was elected president. Tom Leahy, a 4th grade teacher in Conway Springs, Kansas, portrayed Lincoln. See his comment below.

 A few decades ago, when I was a Girl Scout I spent a week during a couple of summers as a tour guide at a living history museum called Old Cowtown in Wichita, Kansas.  There were only a few buildings in those days, and it was hot and dusty, but I loved it! 

 This past weekend, I returned with my family to experience it as a tourist.  Old Cowtown Museum has grown and become even more of an Old West experience.  Now, instead of Girl Scouts, there are professional costumed re-enactors and guides.  The buildings are almost all authentic from the late 1800s and show what a midwestern cattle town was like.  The buildings are also now air-conditioned….so you can re-live the past more comfortably.

 Special events are planned throughout the year.  This past weekend, the museum celebrated Independence Day 1870s style.  “Abraham Lincoln” visited. Of course, he’s an anachronism, but he did visit Kansas once before he was elected president.  Brass bands played, there was an old-style baseball game — Lincoln played third base, gun fights between cowboys and ranchers, dance hall girls, pie-eating contests, watermelon spitting, a bucket brigade and wagon rides.  My nephews are champion pie-eaters.  We drank sarsaparilla (root beer) in the saloon.

We visited a homestead and saw a half-day-old calf in the barn.  The mother wasn’t too happy with our interest in her baby.  I never knew a moo could sound so threatening.   Every time I tried to focus my camera on the calf, the mother tried to head butt me.  Fortunately, the rail was in the way. 

In the grand finale, a couple of cow pokes placed two anvils together and blasted the top one with dynamite in the anvil shoot, which was one old-time way to celebrate before fireworks were available.  People do love to blow up things to celebrate!

There were so many activities, we didn’t get a chance to visit all of the buildings, including the Munger House, which was the home of Darius Munger, Wichita’s founder.  I was the tour guide for the Munger House as a Girl Scout, so now I have to return to Cowtown just to re-live my old guiding days.  New since my tour days is the home of the Marshall Murdock, who vigorously promoted the town through his newspaper. There are dozens of buildings, including two churches, a school house, many stores and professional buildings, a train depot, saloon and homes.

To see more of the experience, see my YouTube slide show below, which shows a lot of the action.  You can also click on Old Cowtown Museum.  Check out the map of the town on the Cowtown website.


Filed under Abraham Lincoln, Education, Entertainment, Family, Gardening, History, Kansas, Life, Personal, Presidents, Travel

Kansas City Symphony in the Flint Hills

 Cowboys herded cattle during the music of \

SYMPHONY in the FLINT HILLS   A symphony concert in a pasture?  Hmmmm?  Concert veterans Matt and Sue R. told us about the Kansas City Symphony’s third annual concert in the Flint Hills of Kansas on June 15.

A cowgirl along the path to the concert.  Photo by Cathy Sherman.

A cowgirl along the path to the concert. Photo by Cathy Sherman.

I love the symphony, but I thought of some drawbacks.  Chiggers, mosquitoes, snakes.   And Kansas summer weather.  It changes from hour to hour.  Hot, humid, thunderstorms, lightning, mud, floods, even tornadoes. Take your pick.   I experienced nearly all of them at Girl Scout camp……

(Later, I discovered a hazard I hadn’t thought of, though I should have known better.  Cowpies!  I stepped in one.  I worried about the other possible calamities for nothing.  I returned home unscathed without even a sunburn!)

Another attraction was our friends who had a vacation house on Lake Wabaunsee, which wasn’t that far away from the concert site.  The lake is interesting its own right because it was built by the CCC crews during the Great Depression, and cabins there housed German prisoners of War during World War II.

The two Sues make the long trek to the concert site.  Photo by Cathy Sherman.

The two Sues make the long trek to the concert site. Photo by Cathy Sherman.

This year, the concert was just south of Council Grove, a three-hour drive from our house.  The location changes every year for variety and because the audience of five thousand people can do a lot of damage to the land, even if only for a day. 

 Matt and Sue, the old friends who’d gone to the second annual concert, did the hard work of dialing for tickets, which were sold out within an hour. 

To get to the concert area, we walked a mile from the parking lot, hauling our chairs, soft coolers full of food and drink, hats, sunblock, umbrellas, bug spray and cameras.  There were wagons and shuttles for those who couldn’t make it on foot.  Or were smarter than I was.  Our group arrived early enough to sit close to the stage, but Sue pointed to an an area at the top of the hill.  She knew that the higher you sat, the better to enjoy the sweeping vista.  She was right! 

A group of music lovers stake out a spot. Photo by Cathy Sherman.

A group of music lovers stake out a spot. Photo by Cathy Sherman.

The symphony patrons are seated in front on hard seats that they paid extra for, but the cheap seats are the best. 

In the afternoon before the concert, experts gave talks in tents on many Flint Hills topics, such as archeology, Kansas birds, ranching, geology, the prairie grass and wildflowers. You learned something, and you got out of the sun.  (More about the Flint Hills below.)

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius addresses the crowd. Photo by Cathy Sherman

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius addresses the crowd. Photo by Cathy Sherman

Now, we’ll go live.  Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, honorary chair, greets the crowd.  The first half of the program features Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony (Symphony No. 6 in F Major, op. 68 ) and works by Chadwick and Copland.

Matt and Sue R.

Matt and Sue R.

 As the sun sinks in the west (sounds like a Zane Grey Western), it’s still hot, humid and sunny.  Cowboys herd a river of cattle on a hillside as the Symphony plays “The Great Westerns Suite,” a medley of powerful music from four western movies.  The setting sun brushes everyone and everything with gold. My eyes tear up as the theme to How the West Was Won fills the valley.  I loved that movie as a girl.  I still love it.  (Spoiler alert) I cry over Jimmy Stewart’s death yet again.  “Oh, Linus,” I can still hear Carroll Baker’s character say.  Also featured is music from The Magnificent Seven, Silverado and Dances With Wolves.  I’m a sucker for every western archetype.  Sue later discovered that the cattle drive — so perfectly timed — was not part of the program.  We’d thought the arrival of the cattle was choreographed to match the magestic western music. Instead, the cattle had broken free from their alarmed cowboy escorts and headed toward the music on their own!


Brooke watches the cattle make their way toward the music, which we later discovered was not choreographed as we'd thought. Sue R. said that the cattle broke free from their alarmed cowboy escorts. Photo by Cathy Sherman.

The sound is huge, but you can still hear the chirp of crickets and appreciate the rolling hills and rhythm of the cattle as they flow across the land.  It makes you think of corny phrases like “The hills are alive with music.”  Everything is grand. The music, the view, th"Ashokan Farewell" plays as the sun sets.e history.  The real tear-jerker is the last song on the program, Ashokan Farewell, the theme from the Ken Burns miniseries, The Civil War.  The Kansas State Song, Home on the Range, plays as we prepare to leave.  Everyone knows the words…..

The crowd of 5,000 winds its way to the parking lot after an inspiring day. Photo by Cathy Sherman.

The crowd of 5,000 winds its way to the parking lot after the concert. Photo by Cathy Sherman.


THE FLINT HILLS —I’ve lived in Kansas since I was two, but I haven’t spent much time on the Kansas prairie after my days at Girl Scout camp.  The Flint Hills are a band of hills stretching through the center of Kansas into Oklahoma, comprised of limestone and shale.  Zebulon Pike named the hills for the flint-like chert stone he saw in the limestone.

I studied prairie grass in college botany classes and driven through the Flint Hills at least a hundred times on the Kansas turnpike, which bisects it, but until I walked through the tall grass itself I didn’t realize how beautiful and diverse it is.  And it definitely isn’t flat.  Geologist Rex Buchanan can tell you by looking at each hill what layer of rock lies underneath.

Prairie once covered a third of the North American continent.  The largest portion of virgin tallgrass prairie lies in the Flint Hills, which escaped plowing because it’s so rocky.  The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, the first national park devoted solely to the preservation of the nation’s prairie heritage, is 11,000 acres near Strong City.Blue Wild Indigo, a wildflower in the Tallgrass Prairie of the Flint Hills.  It was used as a dye. Photo by Cathy Sherman.

Not so long ago, the tallgrass prairie reached into eastern Kansas, where I live.  Tallgrass prairie once blanketed Mount Oread in Lawrence, the home of the University of Kansas.  There’s plenty of rainfall for trees, but fires periodically killed the trees and shrubs.  Modern man keeps the natural fires from burning the trees (and the buildings.) Now mature trees are everywhere in eastern Kansas, making it look more like Missouri than it did when Quantrill’s raiders swept in.  

My backyard, which is a mile from Missouri, is part of that state’s oak – history forest and has walnut, redbud, mulberry, hickory, hackberry, elm trees, plus the Campanile on the campus of the University of Kansas, surrounded by trees where once there were none. Photo by Cathy Sherman.oaks– burr, shingle and chestnut.

On the KU campus, an acre was devoted to the tallgrass prairie that once prevailed there (I don’t know whether it’s still there), but you need thousands of acres to make a prairie.  And it’s a living thing, too, made up of hundreds of different species of plants, animals and insects.  A fire every now and then burns out the shrubs and trees and regenerates the grass and wildflowers. Lightning used to start the fires. Now, mostly ranchers do.

One April I was driving to Wichita for an Easter weekend.  As I passed through the Flint Hills during a controlled burn, huge dark flakes began to cloud my windshield.  It was snow, tinged with ash.  Ranchers burn every spring, and it doesn’t take long before the hills are green again.


Symphony in the Flint Hills websitewww.SymphonyintheFlintHills.org   

Interesting websites about the prairie:

Tallgrass Prairie National Preservewww.nps.gov/tapr  

Geologist Rex Buchanan points out a rock formation in the Flint Hills in a talk about the geology of the area. Photo by Cathy Sherman.

Geologist Rex Buchanan points out a rock formation in the Flint Hills in a talk about the geology of the area. Photo by Cathy Sherman.

Kansas Wildflowers www.kswildflower.org 

The Nature Conservancy in Kansas — www.nature.org/Kansas

Kansas Wildlife & Parks www.kdwp.state.ks.us


Filed under Biology, Kansas, Life, Music, Nature, Travel

Kansas City Symphony in the Flint Hills Cattle Drive — The Magnificent Seven Theme

Flint Hills Symphony & cattle drive

The theme to “The Magnificent Seven” at the Kansas City Symphony in the Flint Hills concert on June 14, 2008, near Council Grove, Kansas.  www.symphonyintheflinthills.org

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Filed under Biology, Kansas, Life, Music, Nature, Travel