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By car today, driving from  Bandera, Tx. to Sedalia, Mo. takes a little over 13 hours – a good day’s drive if you are in a hurry. However, back in the days of the Great Western Cattle Trail, it took much longer for cowboys to drive their herds to the end of the railroad where they were shipped back East to the markets. By following Interstate 35 through through Austin and Waco, our first stop is in Dallas.      


A visit to Southfork Ranch, home of TV character JR Ewing and his family, is in order.  Kick off your boots and stay awhile because there is now a hotel and a 63,000 square foot conference and event center near the property.  Horseback trail rides are available seven days a week along with a full-day tour including the famous Ewing Mansion, deli lunch, round-up gift shop credit and an end-of-the-day snack. 

   
Southfork Ranch, home of the Ewing Family. The JR Suite at Southfork Ranch. 

The best thing about staying at Southfork Hotel is the charm and warm Texas hospitality. You can even reserve a night in Miss Ellie’s Suite or JR Ewing Suite, both filled with memorabilia from the original show. For more information, visit online at www.southforkhotel.com  I’m sure the cattle drivers of the 1800s didn’t have it so good!

 
Clint Eastwood as Roudy Yates on Rawhide. 

Another television series takes us back further to the time of the actual cattle drives, set in the 1860s. Starring Clint Eastwood and Eric Fleming, “Rawhide” tells the story of how the drovers solved the daily problems of the trail. Texas cattle were first driven north across eastern Indian Territory to Missouri during the 1840s and 1850s. When the Civil War ended, the only good cattle markets were in the East. So the cattle were driven to the end of the railroad.

Traveling further north on I 35, our second stop is in Oklahoma City at Frontier City, a western-themed amusement park which offers more than 50 rides and a water park. The wild-west gunfighter stunt show features an old-fashioned shootout while Two John’s saloon Revue features  music and dancehall girls to 1890s tunes. All is in family-style fun and caters to the kids present.

 
The waterpark at Frontier City.   Photo Credit Andrea Harvey Customer Relations Frontier City

Stay for lunch and try Bubba’s Gut Buster hamburger from the Chuckwagon Food Court or a chopped BBQ sandwich at Santa Fe Barbeque. Sides include potato salad and baked beans or crispy Okra. There are numerous chain hotels in the area for lodging. We chose the Best Western Plus Saddleback Inn & Conference Center because of the name. It is only five miles from the airport and is decorated in a Southwestern style. Every room has a refreshment center, which is great when traveling with the kids.

We are only half-way to Sedalia, so we must continue. Based on a diary kept by George C. Duffield, who made the drive in 1866, it took three months. His journal is the basis of the stories on “Rawhide.” Our next stop is Wichita, Kansas, still on I 35 and known as a Cowtown. It was first settled as a trading post for the cattle drives. Experience what Wichita is best known for, its western heritage. Enjoy great western family entertainment and all-you-can-eat Bar-B-Que at the Diamond W. Chuckwagon Supper featuring the Diamond W. Wranglers and step back in time and explore America’s most authentic “Old West” town at Old Cowtown Museum, an outdoor, living history museum. Then dress the part of a true Wrangler when you shop at Shepler’s, the largest western wear store in the world. If you have the time, the family will enjoy one of the country’s top zoos, Sedgwick County Zoo. It has at least 2500 animals of nearly 500 different species. There are hands-on exhibits at Exploration Place that the kids are sure to enjoy.

   
Experience the "old West" at Wichita's Old Cowtown Museum.

In Kansas City, I 435 will take you around the southern portion of the city to U.S. Highway 50. Based on Wikipedia reports, cattle could be driven as far as 25 miles per day. They lost too much weight at this speed and were hard to sell by the end of the trail. So usually they were driven shorter distances. As many as 3,000 head of cattle were driven by at least 10 cowboys with three horses per cowboy. 

To handle these thundering herds, stockyards were built next to the railroad. In 1866, it was reported the Missouri Pacific and MKT Railroad stockyards handled about 168,000 head of cattle alone. Of course, when the cowboys reached the end of the line and got paid, their favorite place to go was Main Street, home of several saloons. It eventually became known as the “Red Light District.” And most of their money stayed right in Sedalia. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch even referred to Sedalia as the “Sodom and Gomorrah” of the century. Located above the businesses on West Main Street, these establishments provided jobs for musicians, especially piano players. Ragtime composer Scott Joplin was drawn to the area where he wrote the songs later used in the movie, “The Sting.”

“Rawhide” depicted the hardships of the 1866 cattle drive from San Antonio to Sedalia, taking 217 shows from 1959 to 1965 to finally reach Sedalia. Clint Eastwod and Eric Fleming actually came to Sedalia to celebrate the show’s ending. The city welcomed them with a grand parade down Ohio Street. They lodged at the then famous Bothwell Hotel, where my mother worked as a waitress. She was privileged to serve them breakfast that morning and reported, “they were just as friendly and polite as any other human being. They tipped nicely, too!”

 
Main Street Sedalia at the time of the cattle drives.     Photo Credit The Sedalia Heritage Foundation 

Clint Eastwood was the first celebrity I ever saw in person. I was 13 at the time and resolved to meet and meet more stars in person. Today as a journalist, I am able to do just that!

 

Kathy Barnett is the current managing editor of The Weekender Extended Magazine, which features places to go, things to do, and people to see across the U.S. for the FUN side of life. After serving as managing editor of her hometown weekly paper, she created a quarterly lifestyles tab called The Weekender for her boss. He syndicated the tab to other weekly newspapers who didn’t have the funds, time or staff to create their own. When the company was sold, Kathy continued the regional publication until it grew into a color magazine format for the whole state of Ohio. Upon the owner’s retirement, Kathy’s husband acquired rights to the name and serves as publisher. Other state issues were soon added as well as the Weekender Extended. Kathy and her husband are now raising two of their granddaughters in their Ohio home.


 

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