Heading West from Wichita we checked into Dodge City at the Gunsmoke RV Park.
We met Charlie Mead, Deputy U.S. Marshall for Dodge City. He told us about Dodge City and those thrilling days of yesteryear.
Fort Dodge was established in 1865 to protect wagon trains on the Santa Fe Trail. Six years later in 1871, five miles west of the Fort, a pioneer by the name of Henry L. Sitler constructed a three-room sod house. Built to oversee his cattle ranch, Sitler’s home became a frequent stopping place for buffalo hunters and traders. Dodge City was founded the next year, on August 15, 1872, at the edge of the military reservation, with the Sitler’s home as the first building. It quickly became a trade center for travelers and buffalo hunters. Dodge City was named after Fort Dodge and Col. Richard I. Dodge (commander of Ft. Dodge).
Like Wichita, urban renewal removed all the remnants of the original Dodge City, so, a re-creation was made.
During those early years, Dodge City also acquired an infamous stamp of lawlessness and gun-slinging. There was no local law enforcement and the military had no jurisdiction over the town. Charlie reminded us that in 1872 it was said there was no law west of Chicago, and no God west of Dodge City.
Doc Holiday thinks I cheated him, and is drawing his gun.
Buffalo hunters, railroad workers, drifters and soldiers scrapped and fought, leading to the shootings where men died with their boots on. This created a hasty need for a local burial place – Boot Hill Cemetery. Before Boot Hill, Dodge City had no official cemetery. Persons dying who had friends, enough money or sufficient standing in the community, were buried in the post cemetery at Fort Dodge. Others, penniless or unknown, were buried where it was convenient to dig a hole. The cemetery was used until 1878.
Traveling around the Country has left me penniless, so I am eligible to be buried at Boot Hill, with my boots on.
The cattle yard, just outside of Dodge, contained over 10,000 head of cattle, heading for your table.
Well, it is time to get the hell out of Dodge!
Wichita, Kansas to Dodge City, Kansas: 154.7 miles
We went to the Mid-America All Indian Center in Wichita, Kansas, which is a community center and Indian Museum. The museum highlights accomplishments of Indians from the Kansas area, such as movie star Wes Studi, and artist Blackbear Bosin. The museum displayed a lot of his works.
By chance the Wichita Kansas Inter Tribal Warriors Society was having their annual Pow Wow. Pow Wows are Indian Celebrations of community and spirituality, featuring Indian dancing. A group of men, called singers, sit around a large oval drum and bang the drum while chanting the particular song to which the red-man danced.
We attending the entire 6 hour Pow Wow, and to me every “song” sounded exactly the same (oui ya ya ya, oui ya ya ya). I was assured that each song was in fact quite different.
The Pow Wow is divided into two sessions. The day session and the evening session. The first session is Gourd Dancing. The Gourd dance is a ceremonial dance that pays homage to the Indian veterans and leaders and always precedes the evening portion of the Pow Wow. The Gourd Dance is primarily a man’s dance. The regalia worn by a gourd dancer is not elaborate, and usually consists of a long sleeve shirt, pants, a gourd sash, and a rattle. The Gourd Rattle is not a gourd, but is instead a tin or silver cylinder filled with beads on a beaded handle.
A break was taken just before sunset for the Tribal Members to have dinner. To our surprise, we were invited to join them. It was a simple dinner of corn or barley soup with meat, and some sort of flat bread. All was prepared on the premises. Since this is a smoke-free facility, there was no smoking of the peace pipe.
During the break we went to view the “Keeper of the Plains” sculpture by Blackbear Bosin, which is a 44-foot tall steel sculpture standing at the point where the Big and Little Arkansas rivers join together in downtown Wichita to form the Arkansas River. It has become the symbol of Wichita City.
The evening session of the Pow Wow was a more colorful dance of both men and women in what we consider Indian War dancing.
I found it interesting, that no time, either in the museum, or during the Pow-wow, did they refer to themselves as “Native Americans”. They are “Indians”, or “American Indians”.
In the hall they had displayed all the Tribal Flags. I liked this one:
We traveled the Great Plains of Kansas from Topeka to Wichita. In doing so we traveled part of the Chisholm Trail. The Chisholm Trail was a trail used in the post-Civil War era to drive cattle overland, from ranches in Texas to Kansas railheads. The portion of the trail used by Jesse Chisholm went from his southern trading post near the Red River, to his northern trading post near Kansas City, Kansas.
Wichita began as a trading post, on what is now known as the Chisholm Trail, in the 1860s and was incorporated in 1870. It is named for the Indian tribe that lived here (or I should say, use to live here). It subsequently became a destination for cattle drives north from Texas to railroads, earning it the nickname “Cowtown”.
Today’s Wichita is like any big city, so we went to a re-creation of Wichita as it existed in 1880-1886, when it was known as Cowtown.
It contained about 2 dozen buildings, including a barbershop
Saloon Hall with dancing girls
Schoolhouse, where we learned about the real Chisolhm Trail
And even a shootout
Technical Stuff: Paxico, Kansas to Wichita, Kansas: 165.2 miles
We went to the Capital of Kansas, Topeka, to see the new Evel Knievel museum that just opened June 30th of this year.
The name Topeka is an Indian sentence that means “place where we dug potatoes”. The city was laid out in 1854, and chartered as a city in 1857. Topeka’s founders chose the name because it “was novel, of Indian origin and euphonious of sound.”
Robert Craig “Bobby” Knievel Jr. was born October 17, 1938 in Butte, Montana.
After a police chase in 1956, in which he crashed his motorcycle, Knievel was taken to jail on a charge of reckless driving. When the night jailer came around to check the roll, he referred to Bobby as Evil Knievel (making a rhyme with his last name) Bob thought that was cool and began using that nickname. He chose the misspelling for his first name because he didn’t want to be considered “evil”.
While Evel began riding motorcycles in both motor cross races and jumping at an early age, he did not become famous until he almost killed himself trying to jump the Fountains at Caesar’s Palace on December 31, 1967.
Tidbit of Information: Evel Knievel’s famed video of his jump and crash at Caesars’s Palace was shot by future TV series Dynasty star Linda Evans.
The museum is sponsored by Harley Davidson Motor Cycles. Instead of exiting through a gift shop, you leave the museum through their showroom.
The Kansas Pacific Railroad began building it’s main line westward in 1863 which led to the founding of Wamego in 1866. The town was named for a Potawatomi chief. The town was built on the Kansas river, and developed as a point of transporting settlers and supplies across the plains.
Today, Wamego is most noted for the OZ Museum, which is home to one of the largest privately own collections of Oz memorabilia.
Lyman Frank Baum, born May 15, 1856 in upstate New York, wrote the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, originally published May 17, 1900. He was a prolific writer, but this remains the work he is most remembered for, mostly as a result of the 1939 movie with Judy Garland.
Tidbit of Information: In Baum’s book, Dorothy wears magical silver shoes, not ruby slippers. In filming the movie, the silver shoes did not show up well in the new Technicolor film processing against the yellow brick road. The shoes were changed to red slippers for the better contrast.
In 1879 William and Robert Strowig constructed a mill on land purchased from an old Indian medicine man called Pashqua. A town grew up around the mill and came to be known as “Paxico,” after the medicine man.
In 1887 the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway built their railroad through the town connecting Topeka to Herington, Kansas.
We are camping at Mill Creek Campground in the town of Paxico, on the railroad tracks, about 800 feet from the old Paxico train station.
The town is a virtual ghost town, consisting of antique shops and the Longhorn Saloon, in which we had a very good burger.
Our closest neighbor was the trains going through day and night.