Kansas Cowboy Hall of Famers Gary and Margaret Kraisinger will speak at Smoky Gardens at 9 a.m. Oct. 6 as part of Land and Sky Scenic Byway Dedication festivities. The Kraisingers have written two books about the Great Western Cattle Trail. The writers will sell their newest book and map at Land and Sky Byway Expo in Sherman County Fairgrounds Ag Building, starting at 11 a.m.
The Kraisingers will discuss the cattle trail, including topics specific to the Wallace Branch. Mr. Kraisinger holds a master’s degree in cartography and has drawn detailed maps of the trail, which are featured in their books. “A cartographer can’t say the trail is a line across western Kansas,” Mrs. Kraisinger said. “A cartographer has to draw the section, range and township the trails crossed.” Mrs. Kraisinger writes the articles for the books.
Both Kraisingers were inducted as historians into the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame by Dodge City’s Boot Hill Museum in October 2015. Mrs. Kraisinger is the first woman to be inducted into the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame. In April, The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum (the National Cowboy Hall of Fame) awarded them the Wrangler Award in Oklahoma City for the best nonfiction book of the year. In July, The Wild West History Association awarded the Kraisingers the Six Shooter Award for Best Nonfiction Book of the Year in Oklahoma City. This honor was special to the Kraisingers because the group consists of Old West authors and book publishers.
The Western Cattle Trail ran from Texas to Dodge City before heading to Ogallala, Neb., and points north. The trail’s Wallace Branch came through the three Land and Sky counties from 1881-84.Because of the fatality rate, the Kansas Legislature pushed the quarantine line ahead of settlement for more than a decade. The Wallace Branch was the trail’s final route through Kansas. In 1885, Kansas quarantined all Texas cattle out of the state. Ticks riding on the Texas longhorns carried Texas cattle fever. Texas cattle were immune to the disease, but the disease killed other cattle in great numbers.
The couple’s interest in the cattle trail began in 1967. They were teaching in Dighton and noticed evidence of a trail passing through Lane County. They asked around, but no one knew anything about this trail. They went to Dodge City and asked about it. People told them the cattle trail ended in Dodge City. They thought that was strange and were skeptical. They inquired at Kansas State Historical Society about this Lane County trail. No, the historical society had no information. The couple began researching on their own.
Their current book, “The Western Cattle Trail, 1874-1897: Its Rise, Collapse and Revival”, tracks the trail from Texas to Montana. “This is not a book that only talks about the trail’s trunk line,” she said. “The trail had scores of feeder routes.” The Kraisingers have researched them all. Their research derives mostly from primary sources. They have mined six cowboy diaries from that time period. “We rely heavily on their narratives,” she said. They have mined interviews with cowboys in books and contemporary newspapers and examined archival maps.
They are working on a new book about the Chisholm Trail that will be issued in a few months.by