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11/16/2004

Seein' The Elephant

Someone once asked me when we started the Kansas Cowboy, “How are you gonna keep from running out of stories?” I told ‘em, “Heck! There are more stories than I’ll ever get around to writin’ about!”  
 
At the time I wasn’t all that sure about that, but over the past eight years Kassi and I have discovered that the stories do just keep coming and we haven’t even scratched the surface. The sad part is when you realize all the wonderful old Cowboy tales that have disappeared because no one thought to get them down before the last old Cowboy rode off into the sunset.  
 
That is what is unique about the Kansas Cowboy. We don’t dwell on the stories that have been told and retold till everyone kind of knows them by heart. Yeah, I like ta read about Jesse James, Wild Bill, Wyatt Earp, Charlie Goodnight and Oliver Loving, but there are so many amazing stories of the relatively unknown characters that I rarely have time to reride old trails.  
 
My most recent interest is in L.B. Harris. In 1873, Harris blazed a new cattle trail to Ellis, Kansas, the L.B. Harris Trail. He recognized that the old Chisholm Trail would soon be overrun with settlers and that a new route further to the west would soon be necessary to keep the trail herds away from settled lands. He was just a bit ahead of his time. The Indians were still causing trouble to the west and most drovers were better prepared to deal with trespassing on homesteads than with marauding Indians.  
 
But, Harris was typical of the men that made this country by their bootstraps. His bold vision was soon realized by the establishment of the Western Cattle Trail a year later when John T. Lytle forged his trail to Dodge City. The drovers were men of destiny. Their names are little known beyond cattle circles but in the pages of the Kansas Cowboy they ride the old trails again and the Cowboys that “rode for the brand” keeping those herds pointed north are not forgotten.  
 
Drovers are just a part of the history retold. Frontier tales on the Smoky Hill Trail recall the days when the trail was lined with the graves of men who dreamed their dreams but ended in stark reality. Businessmen and ranchers alike played a part in the story of the Kansas Cowboy. Kansas was one of those states where the real drama of the West was played out. I particularly like the performance and look for the supporting characters that fill out the production.  
 
I hope you join me as we ride once again with these people who in their own particular way may the legend of the Kansas Cowboy into a spirit that will never truly die. We set out to “See The Elephant” as the old cowpokes used to say. It’s a long way ‘round this here beast but it shore is an enjoyable ride! 
So Long, 
The Cowboy 

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