Column published in Smith County Pioneer, July 10, 2014:

HOME ON THE RANGE
By El Dean Holthus
The storm damage, thanks to Scott Brewer and Austin Allen, is nearly cleaned up; the nature walk is clear. There is good news and bad news in the damage caused by high winds in the past several years; the bad news is the cost of removal of damaged trees; the good news is that most of the junk and damaged trees have been removed from the “bottoms”, the areas where the Beaver winds through the property. We can now mow the large marijuana and assorted weed patches that will soon allow the planting of native grasses that have been lost due to flooding and overgrazing thereby providing three large areas for separate encampments, picnics and camping.

The Trustees hosted an informal open house on July 4, 2014 to celebrate the 238th anniversary of our Nation and the 142nd anniversary of the construction of the Higley/Home on the Range Cabin. Kathy Holthus served visitors famous “Ethelbelle Sears Sugar Cookies” made in the shape of the flag along with coffee, lemonade and water. El Dean Holthus guided visitors and explained the work that has been completed on the Site.

Visitors from Kensington, Smith Center, Phillipsburg, Wichita, Atchison, Jewell and Manhattan in Kansas with out of state visitors from Missouri, North Carolina and West Virginia and Wisconsin enjoyed the treats and time at the Cabin.

Leola Frey Grantham, 96 years young from Atchison, had last visited the site 90 years ago when a child living in Osborne County. We have a pictorial board in the Cabin showing the steps of the restoration; she walked in and immediately pointed to the “chicken house” photo, saying, “That is what it looked like when I was here and it did have chickens in it”. Few of you can understand the emotions felt to hear someone such as Leola tell us how glad they are that the Cabin has been saved.

Robert L. and Edward Kerns were in Kansas for a family reunion in Plainville and by chance happened to drop by the Cabin on Friday. Robert is from West Virginia and had brought Edward, his 86 year old uncle from North Carolina to the reunion. Edward is a WW II and Korean veteran having served in the Army with the 82nd Airborne. Robert is a Rotarian and was excited to take the story of Home on the Range and the involvement of Kansas Rotarians back to West Virginia. The irony of the story is this, both knew the song Home on the Range but neither had ever heard of Dr. Higley, the Cabin or the popularity of the Song. They were great listeners and brought up the point that we can never cease to tell the story; not just for this generation but all that follow.

Three sisters, graduates from Kansas State University, two from Jewell and one from Manhattan visited HOR as part of their quest to perform the Willie Wildcat “KSU” yell at different locations hoping to make the K-Stater Alumni magazine. Melinda Rose is a fraternity house mother at KSU, Sherri Koster and Kerma Crouse along with daughter Rachel Crouse are from Jewell. Sherri, Sanitation Engineer for Smih, Phillips and surrounding counties is known to many readers. Sherri and Kerma are also members of the Daughters of the American Revolution and enjoyed viewing the new DAR flag pole.

Mr. Stokes, Wichita, visiting with his mother from Phillipsburg, remarked, “The last time I was here it was damp, smelled musty and moldy as if it had been abandoned”. One local visitor shared that several years ago they had brought their children and grandchildren to visit and the odor caused them to become ill with severe allergic reactions. This is a couple of the reasons why the following words are fighting words to me; “I wish they would have left it like it was.” Can anyone be serious in saying they liked it better when the Cabin was musty, moldy and looked abandoned?

BREAKING NEWS: Two items just confirmed.

Sara Devine and husband, from Fort Riley, will be meeting us at the HOR site on Sunday the 13th for a pizza picnic at noon. I met Sara in Wamego this spring and shared she had visited the Cabin as a child and wanted to return; she and her husband are helping us update our geo-cache location.

I received an email this morning from Andrew McCrea, who does a radio and TV feature called American Countryside; he and family will also be at the site July 13 for an interview about Home on the Range in general and our October re-dedication in particular. Locally his show airs on KFRM 540 AM, M-F at 8:25 am.

Thank you all, come and visit.