The cowboy culture is steeped in history and tradition, especially in Abilene, Kansas, the home of the featured guest for this Saturday’s “The Joan Jerkovich Show'” at 9am on 910 KINA. My guest is Pastor Stan Norman of the New Trail Fellowship Cowboy Church in Abilene.
In 1866, the first large-scale effort to drive cattle from Texas to the nearest railhead in Sedalia, Missouri, for shipment to Chicago failed. Local farmers in eastern Kansas, concerned that the cattle drive would trample crops and bring disease to their herds formed groups that threatened to beat or shoot cattlemen found on their lands. Therefore, the 1866 drive failed to reach the railroad, and the cattle herds were sold for low prices.
Cattle drives had to strike a balance between speed and the weight of the cattle. While cattle could be driven as far as 25 miles in a single day, they would lose so much weight that they would be hard to sell when they reached the end of the trail. On average, a herd could maintain a healthy weight moving about 15 miles per day. Such a pace meant that it would take as long as two months to travel from a home ranch to a railhead.
With the challenges associated with driving cattle over distances, a cattle shipping facility was built in 1867 west of farm country around the railhead at Abilene, Kansas. It became a center of cattle shipping, loading over 36,000 head of cattle that year. The route from Texas to Abilene became known as the Chisholm Trail, after Jesse Chisholm, who marked out the route.
The Chisholm trail was 1,000 miles long. On average, a single herd of cattle on a drive numbered about 3,000 head. To herd the cattle, a crew of at least 10 cowboys was needed, with three horses per cowboy. Cowboys worked in shifts to watch the cattle 24 hours a day, herding them in the proper direction in the daytime and watching them at night to prevent stampedes and deter theft.
By the 1890s, barbed wire fencing was standard and railroads had expanded to cover most of the nation. Meat packing plants were built closer to major ranching areas, making long cattle drives from Texas to the rail-heads in Kansas unnecessary. Hence, the age of the open range was gone and large cattle drives were over.
Although some of the nostalgia of the cowboy culture has transitioned in to the modern age, the cowboy heritage is strong within the churches distinctly called “Cowboy Churches”. A typical cowboy church may meet in a rural setting in a barn, metal building, arena, sale barn, or old western building, have its own rodeo arena, and a country gospel band. Baptisms are generally done in a stock tank.
So put on your cowboy boots and hat and listen in to what Pastor Norman has to say about his Cowboy Church in Abilene. YeeHaa!
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