Kansas Kaleidoscope, March 1998
(Volume 1, Number 6)
Real People. Real Stories.
A fun magazine for kids!
The Cowboy Story: Trails to Rails
Lightning. . .hail. . .floods. . .river crossings. . .cattle stampedes. These were just some of the obstacles faced by the men who drove long-horn cattle north from Texas to the railroads in Kansas. The men were known as cowboys and their heyday in Kansas history was between 1867 and the mid-1880s--the era of the long cattle drives.
Was Abilene in Good Hands with "Wild Bill" Hickok?
Abilene quickly grew from a small cluster of log cabins in early 1867 to a booming cowtown by fall of that year. The influx of cowboys coming in off the Chisholm Trail created problems for the new town.
Trails to Kansas
The main trails for the longhorn cattle drivers in the 1800s went north from Texas. the first of the major trails, the Shawnee, opened in the 1840s and headed to railheads in Missouri. The Civil War and the Texas Fever quarantine line later closed the Shawnee Trail.
Wow: Those Horns Were Long!
The cattle roaming everywhere in Texas after the Civil War were called longhorns for a very obvious reason. Their horns were long! In fact, some horns were so long the animals' heads had to be turned in order for them to fit through a railroad car door.
These boots were made for Riding
Cowboys spent about 18 hours a day on horseback tending cattle. Special clothing and gear were needed to help them through the long days.
Jim Holenbeck, a rancher near Manhattan, is one of Kansas' best know custom bootmakers. Jim, who also repairs saddles, learned his trade at Okalahoma State Technical College where he took a course called Shoe, Boot and Saddle.
A Family of Cowboys
Jim Gray and his family are cowboys. They are quick to point out, though, that they are not modern cowboys. They still use old cowboy ways to manage their heard of 120 cows on their ranch near Ellsworth. They ride horseback and wear traditional cowboy clothing.
It's All In the Grass
What's real secret behind Kansas' successful cattle industry? It's all in its native prairie grasses. By the late 1860s, cowboys and ranchers had discovered the kansas prairie was an ideal place to fatten cattle. Before then, buffalo had been the primary grazers on the prairie grasses.
Follow the Cattle Drive Timeline!
Before Kansas statehood in 1861 millions of buffalo graze on prairie grasses. By the 1950s cattle are shipped by truck not rail. Follow the timeline to learn what happened in between.