Column published in Smith County Pioneer, October 16, 2014:

By El Dean Holthus

Thanks to all who worked so hard to make the week-end of October 4-5 special at the Home on the Range Site as we re-dedicated and showcased the Cabin and it furnishings, hosted the 104th annual Higley reunion and honored the memories of Dr. Higley and Pete and Ellen Rust. Visitors enjoyed tours of the Pete and Ellen Rust Memorial Nature walk reading how various families and groups are associated with Home on the Range.

The Trustees were able to provide a nice mix of local and professional entertainment along with local displays and professional demonstrations.

Gary Kirchoff’s demonstration of how he trains horses was well received; he corrected me when I referred to him as a “horse whisperer”, saying he considered himself an interpreter of horses. People were amazed at his skills of working with the horses.

Bob and Linda Levin had a steady stream of visitors to their display of fossils with special interest in one found only a few miles from the HOR Site.

The 10th Calvary Division, Nicodemus Detachment of Buffalo Soldiers were a tremendous asset to our program as they shared their stories with visitors to their encampment; I would expect it was the first time most in attendance had viewed horses tied to a picket or had observed the primitive living conditions of a frontier soldier. They would be good to have back for one of their full programs.

Our local musicians, The Three Amigos and The Girls of Grace all from Kensington were outstanding in their performances as the Amigos opened the Saturday program and the Girls of Grace opened the Sunday Worship. Manda Wanner, Smith Center, as she has done all around the country nearly blew the socks off everyone with her rendition of our National Anthem to open the official program. She closed our two day event by leading those attending in singing of Home on the Range.

The Kiwanis club of Smith Center handled the entrance duties of wrist band sales admission of pre-paid visitors and screening the vendors. The parking system was planned by Tim Bartley who organized the Smith Center and Kensington Lions clubs in directing the parking of visitors and vendors. The Smith Center Rotary Club, in addition to financial support, provided shuttle assistance with ATVs and pick-ups. A special thank you is expressed to Thaine Tomlinson, Smith Center, who provided ATV shuttle assistance to and from the handicapped parking area; he also provided this service July 4, 2012.

Norris Maydew, Lebanon, and his friends from Harness Fanatics provided 4 teams of horses, mules and wagons to provide shuttle service in the parking area providing a unique and first time experience for many.

The worship service hosted by the congregation of the Reamsville church was well attended with an inspiring sermon by their Pastor Dennis Lambert. The offering of $1250+ was theirs to be designated; they voted to give it to the Trust to be used to develop a location for Christian worship at the Site.

An event such as this cannot be a success without good food; this was provided by an association of youth service groups from Smith Center High School under the direction of Amy Terrill; Karen Beams and friend from Osborne; a special note of appreciation to Ron Gibble and wife Pam for doing yeoman’s work particularly on Sunday, thank you all.

Mike Saft and Mac McGowan set up a special events short wave radio station with its own call letters for our event; Mike has shared they contacted all 50 states over the two day period. He is preparing a detailed report for later publication.

Tina Michel provided an opportunity for visitors to purchase her special paintings. Tina has been another good friend of HOR as she paints our souvenir rocks.

Steve Stewart again had the quick draw where many tried their hand at drawing a revolver, cocking it with their thumb and firing for score as rapidly as they could. This always provides a glimpse of the Old West.

Marcus Allen and Zack Miller employees of LandMark Implement received nothing but highest praise for their efforts in providing riding tours along the nature walk using equipment provided by LandMark Implement who has been a supporter of HOR for many years; they funded the trailer for our 1/3 scale model parade cabin more than 4 years ago.

The concert by Orin Friesen and the Prairie Rose Rangers was enjoyed by an enthusiastic group of cowboy music fans. Orin was the first to organize a fund raiser in the Wichita area for the Cabin project and continues in his support. We moved this concert to the Smith Center High School Auditorium because of cooler weather. We appreciate so much the cooperation of the High School administration for their support, especally Greg Koelsch who made the arrangements for us.

Our sound system was provided by Brian Martin who also worked the board at the Smith Center High School for the Prairie Rose Concert; nothing but good things about his work.

Our Sunday afternoon program was special as we heard from many individuals and groups as to the importance of the Cabin and the Site to Kansas, the Nation and the World. Dr. Roger Marshal Rotary District Governor recognized Pat Grimes and praised her late husband Dr. Bill Grimes for his humanitarian work in Panama. Dr. Marshal presented a $1,000 check to the Trustees for use in continuing development of the HOR Site. Lt. Governor Colyer, being a doctor, was very interesting as he described, from a doctor’s viewpoint what might have been the thought process of Dr. Higley in selecting this location for his cabin.

It is difficult in planning and executing a program of this size and nature without making mistakes; I made my share but the major one and the most disturbing to me was that I had asked good friend and former neighbor, Betty Smith Athol, to have a presentation during the program and I failed to introduce her. Betty, here I am publicly asking for your forgiveness and requesting you to write in detail what you were going to say that it may be my column in a future issue. Thank you, Betty.

If you have read this column in the past you realize I am trying to reduce our “parochial” thinking of “my community first, the hell with the others”. I hope the Trustees in one small measure have achieved this in having chairs from the Athol Community Hall, Service clubs from Kensington and Smith Center, vendors from several communities, Gary Kirchoff from Cedar, Solomon Valley Players from Kirwin and Norris Maydew representing Lebanon; thank you all for your understanding and support.

I will close this with a personal note, if any reading this have ever heard one of my presentations you will know I have always stated the Home on the Range Cabin is a National Icon and the Song is World famous. My first statement was proven on Saturday when more vehicles were PARKED FROM OUT OF STATE THAN FROM SMITH COUNTY, significant because we had more than 50 volunteers from Smith County. My second point was proven on Sunday when speakers who had traveled the world told of going into foreign countries and hearing the natives sing Home on the Range in their native tongue. One of the best anecdotes shared was one by Marshal Bailey as he said a few years ago he was on a tour bus with people from 6 or 7 nations; the tour guide asked the travelers to sing a song from their country, Bailey was last and sang Home on the Range, EVERYONE ON THE BUS SANG WITH HIM.

We, the Trustees, hope each of you can come to make this, your Cabin, as special to you as it to us and those around the world