Reporter Sleeps Overnight in the Cabin
Article published in Smith County Pioneer, May 1, 2014:
REPORTER OVERNIGHTS IN THE HOME ON THE RANGE CABIN
By El Dean Holthus
Beccy Tanner, feature and Kansas historical writer for the Wichita Eagle, on April 24, 2014 stayed over night in the restored Cabin. She is the first human in 126 years who can say this. This was not a whim on her part or a flash in the pan idea; it was nearly 5 years in the making.
This story cannot be told without starting at the beginning. In 2009 the late Phyllis Bell contacted the trustees about entering the Home on the Range Cabin in the Kansas Sampler 8 Wonders contest for historical places; we accepted her offer as long as she would do the paperwork because we were snowed under working to seek sources of funding. She entered us in the contest and although the Cabin did not receive enough votes to be one of the “8” we did receive enough to be a finalist. This began our growth in popularity around the world via the internet.
Beccy Tanner, good friend of Kansas Sampler’s Marci Penner, chose the Cabin and Home on the Range to be one of her featured articles in the Eagle in honor of Kansas Sesquicentennial anniversary of statehood. As a dedicated author she wanted a feel of what she was writing about and contacted El Dean and Kathy about staying in the Cabin. She chose a December night in 2010 for her adventure; she was prepared with sleeping bags, air mattresses and propane heaters but the winter night was very unforgiving and the Cabin, in its run down condition, offered little protection so she had to give it up and come and spend the rest of the night with Kathy and El Dean.
Beccy completed her article including pictures taken that winter night and it was selected as the first story of 2011 by her editors; the trustees were highly honored to have our story as the first of the 150th celebration by the Eagle with little indication of what was to come. It was picked up by the wire services going to all the major cities in the USA and around the world. Orin Friesen, Wichita radio personality, curiosity was piqued by Beccy’s article so with the support of Greg and J.W. Johnson and the Prairie Rose Ranch in May of 2011 sponsored Michael Martin Murphey in a special concert for the benefit of the Cabin.
This brings us full circle with Beccy; her article triggered the donation explosion that allowed us to complete the restoration of the Cabin in 2013 and allows us to be ready for re-dedication in 2014. Her personal plans were changed but her experience should have been much better and more positive with the Cabin nearly the way it would have been when Dr. Higley lived in it.
Beccy is by no means the only media support we have received as everyone, print, broadcast and television has been very supportive by permitting us to share our story locally and around the world.
This event has triggered conversation concerning others who might want to experience the ruggedness of staying overnight in the Cabin; this has been discussed by the Trustees but we do not have a plan to do that in the near future. Anyone remember the movie “George Washington slept here”; what would it be worth to someone to have a certificate that read, “I stayed overnight in the cabin where Home on the Range was written”. Don’t laugh too hard, dreams like this are what sometimes develop into plans.