On October 4, 2014 as the sun rose on a lightly frosted Home on the Range Site; smoke from the campfires of the Buffalo Soldiers and Kirby Mullen and Dennis Williss rose silently into the air belying the hectic activity that had begun on Thursday and would continue for the next two days of celebration.
At 10 am our program opened with the Three Amigos from Kensington, Rev. Dave Hutson, Wendell Bohn and Galen Larson doing their usual great job of entertaining with music and humor.
The first dramatic act was Gary Hicks, Overland Park, re-enacting Alexander Majors, founder of the Pony Express. Visitors then had 1 ½ hours to visit vendors and other displays.
Marla Matkin, Hill City, opened the afternoon stage show, wowing the audience with her re-enactment of Libby Custer, wife of Gen. George Custer. Her description of life on the frontier as the wife of a military officer told of the many hardships and after hearing the news of the death of her husband and all who served with him at the Battle of Little Big Horn and masking her own grief had to inform the other wives of the deaths of their husbands.
The next act was by the Solomon Valley Players who, working outside the large tent, presented their own production of the true determination of the authorship of Home on the Range, ending with a gun fight between two of the female actresses. They performed a great story that delighted their audience.
The Marshal of Dodge City and Cowgirl Janey anchored the afternoon stage entertainment with a great program of instrumental and vocal music presentations. They have been good friends and supporters of Home on the Range for many years.
During breaks in the scheduled activities tours were given by Marcus Allen and Zack Miller, employees of LandMark Implement, utilizing a small tractor and Gator provided by LandMark.
About 5 pm the Buffalo Soldiers crossed West Beaver Creek entering the show area from the East singing their cadence song. They performed their maneuvers during which First Sergeant Barry Tompkins gave a brief history, from horseback, of the Buffalo Soldiers in general and their Nicodemus detachment in particular. Upon completion of their exercises they dismounted, answering the questions of interested visitors. Comments indicated this was one of the most popular live action events of the day.
The Site was closed at 6 pm and activities moved to the Smith Center High School Auditorium where an enthusiastic audience enjoyed the fine music of Orin Friesen and the Prairie Rose Rangers. Orin is another who has been a strong supporter and fund raiser, in the Wichita area, for the Cabin project.
Sunday morning began with a worship service, hosted by the church of Reamsville, at 10 am opened by Galen Larson and singing by the Girls of Grace. Dennis Lambert, pastor of Reamsville and Thornburg preached an inspiring sermon. The Ozark Alliance closed the service with a program of bluegrass gospel music. The offering of $1250+ was returned by the Reamsville congregation to the Trust to be used to develop a site suitable for outdoor Christian worship at the Home on the Range Site.
During the lunch hour break Rotary International District 5670 Governor Dr. Roger Marshall and area Rotarians toured the foot bridges built by Rotarians and had pictures taken at the Dr. Bill Grimes memorial bridge.
The official re-dedication program began at 1:30 with the singing of our National Anthem by Manda Wanner, Smith Center, followed by reading of a congratulatory letter from the Kansas Historical Society, comments from Marshal Bailey, Mike Higley, general contractor, Len Schamber, and Dr. Marshall who honored Pat Grimes widow of Dr. Bill Grimes and presented an honorary membership in Rotary to El Dean Holthus along with a check from his District for $1,000 to the Trust in recognition of District 5670’s selection of Home on the Range as one of their 2014-15 projects.
Kansas Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer then presented his thoughts on the Cabin and how as a doctor he could relate to Dr. Higley’s selection of this site for his Cabin. He then presented a special proclamation from Kansas Governor Brownback with the words; “I, Governor Sam Brownback, of the State of Kansas do hereby recognize and dedicate this Home on the Range Cabin in the memory and sacrifice of our pioneer ancestors, to the vision and determination of the present owners, to the many who supported it’s restoration that it might be enjoyed by future generations”.
The afternoon and week-end closed with Manda Wanner leading all present in singing Home on the Range.
As a Trustee of the Ellen Rust Living Trust I would sum up the week-end’s success based on our goals of honoring the Higley family as they celebrated their 104th family reunion, to showcase the restored Cabin and furnishings, to honor the memory of Dr. Brewster Higley VI and Pete and Ellen Rust, to introduce the public to the Pete and Ellen Rust Memorial Nature Walk and to provide a quality program of entertaining and educational activities. These were accomplished; thanks to the efforts of the many financial donors and those who volunteered their time and labor.