Friday, July 15, 2011

Get Along Little Doggies

Next time you are buying beef, think of this.  After the Civil War, as prosperity returned to northern cities, the demand for beef grew.  Cattle from Texas, the legendary Longhorns, could be sold into the new markets if it could reach a rail head.  The nearest suitable tracks were in Kansas over 500 miles as the crow flies from the Texas range land.  Since cattle can't fly, they walked, driven on by cowboys up the Chisholm Trail.  The trail went north through the Indian Territories (present day Oklahoma) and on to the cow towns where the cattle (and the cowboys) could get loaded.  Before the century closed, and before rail reached into cow country, 5,000,000 head reached Kansas over the Chisholm Trail.  The cowboys, the trail, the towns along the way and the town marshalls have been made famous by John Wayne and others.  Who doesn't know about Wyatt Earp and Wild Bill Hickock?  No matter how hard the ride, lonely the nights, or lawless the life the romance lingers.  Willie Nelson tells it well:

Wichita was on the trail and had rail service.  Wichita prospered.  After the cattle drives came stage coaches and horse and buggy drivers.serving passengers off the Arkansas Valley Interurban Railway and heading for west Kansas.  To capture the travellers' business, in 1921 the Broadview Hotel was built on the banks of the Arkansas River right in the middle of town.  The Broadview was grand in every way with a rooftop promenade offering an all around view of the city below.

On August 1 you will have a chance to celebrate  frontier history in Wichita and meet some 21st century pioneers.  The Broadview will reopen after a 15 month renovation.  The lobby grandeur is restored, but the stone arch on the east side is still engraved with "Freight Station".  Two hundred modern rooms await.  And the pioneers?  The hotel's 9 woman housekeeping staff.  They are long-time employees.  Management wanted to reward their loyalty.  They were offered, and accepted jobs on the construction crew, tearing down walls, breaking tile with jack hammers, caulking, carrying and cleaning up.  The construction job Superintendent says he would hire them again.  He probably won't have the chance because on August 1 they will be busy, again, keeping house and making history.

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