“This is the best July 4 tradition we’ve ever attended,” a couple from Illinois told Trail Boss Ken Klemm. This tradition was the Second Annual Great Western Cattle Drive held July 4 on the historic Homestead Ranch northeast of Goodland.
Approximately 100 people came to the event near the site of Bray Post Office, the first post office north of Dodge City. “We had a good turn out,” Trail Boss Ken Klemm said.
Klemm and 10 other cowboys drove a herd of longhorn cattle on the Wallace Branch of the Great Western Cattle Trail. The cattle drive went faster than the cowboys had planned. The longhorns were very motivated to reach the stock tank at drive’s end.
In his role as Trail Boss, Klemm said that trail cowboys were nearly self-sufficient on the trail except for iron for horseshoes. Trail cowboys usually reached Bray Post Office around July 4. The post office was named for its Postmaster, Elijah Bray.
Before the cattle arrived, Mrs. Bray (Laurie Klemm) talked with the crowd about the trail. The Wallace Branch was the final trail section in Kansas. As settlement advanced westward, Kansas Legislature pushed the cattle drives into unsettled counties. After settlement came to the western tier of Kansas counties, the cattle drives were pushed into Colorado.
Colter Klemm roped a calf. If a cow dropped a calf, trail cowboys had to dispose of the calf. Calves couldn’t travel. If cowboys could find settlers, they often traded the calf for butter or vegetables or some other supplies.
Expanding the tradition at next year’s cattle drive
Klemms want to expand their living history offerings. This year they had a farrier show how to shoe horses. “Next year, we’ll probably do more roping,” Trail Boss Klemm said. The farrier will also return.
Cowboys were Tim Barnett, Eldon Boyington, Howard Carney, Dale Johnson, Terri Anderson, Lance Gensil, Sam Monarch, Keith Kenney, Ken and Colter Klemm. Tim Gossen and Kat Boyington also helped.
To order a commemorative medallion from either 2015 or 2016, contact The Buffalo Guys, 114 W. 12th, Goodland, KS 67735. The National Park Service is considering the Great Western Cattle Trail for National Historic Trail status. The Wallace Branch is an attraction along Land and Sky Scenic Byway. See more about the cattle drive on Facebook.