Column published in the Smith County Pioneer January 9, 2014:

HOME ON THE RANGE
By El Dean Holthus

Happy New year to everyone and may 2014 be year in which, “The wind is always at your back” and you can always, “Drink upstream from the herd”.

The Trustees, Gerald Caspers and El Dean Holthus, of the Ellen Rust Living Trust operate the Home on the Range Site according to the directions of the Trust document; the Home on the Range Cabin is on the National register of Historic places making all our operations public. The overall purpose of the Trust was to restore, improve and maintain the Site, with emphasis on the Cabin. Annually our responsibilities, as trustees, are three fold, ranked as following; first, be good landlords (fertilizer, herbicides, insurance, taxes, all responsibilities of being good landlords); second to maintain the tenant house and IF any funds remain they must be retained or spent for the betterment of the site. No Trust beneficiary receives any income, the Trustees are compensated only for hours billed. It operates as a not-for-profit. This then becomes the criteria to evaluate the Trust activities for 2013 and establish guidelines for activities in 2014 and beyond. It was interesting to hear the comments of many people after the Cabin was restored, saying, “now your work is done”; far from it, the restoration was significant but only the first step in site improvement as directed by the Trust document. We are no longer in a, “fix up, fall down, fix up” cycle. We are directed to maintain and continue to improve the property

The Trust document also included a long term goal, a directive, to be completed not later than December 2018. This goal was to find a permanent entity to which the site would be transferred that would guarantee perpetual management, care and maintenance of the Site.

Restoration of the Cabin was completed July 3, 2013 by Schamber Rehabilitation and Buffalo grass planted. The nature walk is beginning to take shape with one footbridge completed and two laid in ready to have banisters added; material for completion has been purchased. Four information stations have been planned, more will follow in 2014. The silt and brush dam at the 90 Road Bridge was removed by Levin Construction; David Levin required a creek crossing for his Traxcavator, we are going to leave that crossing to be improved as a “low water” crossing providing an option for the nature walk.

The site suffered a hail storm in June that resulted in a total loss of the nearly ripe wheat and major damage to the tenant house and garage. These losses were covered by insurance and property repairs were made by our tenant Dean Panter.

Furnishings for the Cabin have been funded and construction or restoration of the furniture has been nearly completed by Gerald Caspers. These furnishings are simple and what we believe a single pioneer doctor might have had in 1872. They will be placed in the Cabin as soon as we have security in place.

Gerald and I are in the ongoing process of transferring the site to The Peoples Heartland Foundation headquartered in Pratt; working locally with personnel of The Peoples Bank in Smith Center. Our Donor Advisory Agreement with the Foundation satisfies the trust document by guaranteeing the Cabin will stay on its sight, having professional management for the property and family involvement as long as any of the original beneficiaries or their heirs is interested. It also establishes Home on the Range as 501©3 charitable.

As exciting as 2013 might have been 2014 will not lack for interesting happenings that are planned for the next year.

Our first sponsored event will be a showing of the Civil War documentary, “Road to Valhalla”. This is a story of the Civil War as it affected the border between Missouri and Kansas; which started in 1854, 7 years before the secession of the Confederate states and is best described in history under the title of “Bleeding Kansas. This documentary was produced by Lone Chimney films of Wichita who are planning to produce a Home on the Range one hour documentary for Public Television.

The showings will be in the Center Theater, Smith Center, Kansas, with matinees starting at 1:30 pm on January 25 and 26. We invite everyone to attend; tickets are $6/person with proceeds being divided between HOR and Lone Chimney, both being 501©3 qualified charities. This is a great story of early Kansas history.

The Sarah Steward Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution is developing plans for the installation and dedication of a new flag pole on Site on June 14, 2014.

The major on site event will be the re-dedication of the restored Cabin on October 3-5, 2014. The Governor has been invited, the Higley Family will holding their 104th annual reunion in Smith County, Marshal Allen Bailey, Big Buck Helton and the Prairie Rose Rangers are scheduled musical entertainment, vendors have been invited along with re-enactors; on Sunday we will have “cowboy church”, followed by a brunch with the dedication scheduled for noon on the 5th. Saturday and Sunday will be fun filled days for people of all ages, write it on your calendar and plan to attend.

Orin Friesen is continuing to work on a special commemorative Home on the Range CD in recognition of the restoration of the Cabin and its re-dedication.

Gerald and I wish in this New Year to remind all of you, in the memory of our Aunt Ellen Rust, the Home on the Range Site is being developed and maintained in the public interest and for the benefit of the public. We urge everyone to visit, not once but several times a year as this is an ongoing and ever changing project. If you are interested in establishing and maintaining an information station along the nature walk or if your organization has need of a program let one of us know.

May each of you be blessed in the New Year so that you may be a blessing to others.