Reopening tourism season offers many benefits

Dave Bergmeier

Agriculture is our heartbeat in the High Plains and yet it can be easy to overlook the opportunities to learn about our rich heritage.

This week’s cover story by Field Editor Lacey Newlin goes into great detail about the impact of the cattle trails, like the legendary Chisholm and also the Western, the Goodnight-Loving and Sedalia and Baxter Springs, and how they spurred the iconic towns and the stockyard cities that include Fort Worth, Texas; Des Moines, Iowa; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and St. Joseph and Kansas City, both in Missouri.

We have come to know the trails were the early interstate highways driving the commerce of cattle to railheads including Dodge City, Ellsworth and Abilene in Kansas and those also became the home of cowboys. The large stockyard towns became powerhouse cities and provided jobs to packing plants as consumers many miles away craved the taste of beef. What brought those drives and led to those towns? Private enterprise and an American ideal that never goes out style—supply and demand.

Today, of course, most of the towns have changed and the result is that the real estate in those downtown stockyard areas have been redeveloped. While we do many activities differently today a visit to a historic cowtown provides more than a nostalgic trip. It is one many people can point to a source of a pride and say, “This was something our country did and it shows what the American can-do spirit can accomplish.”

The past year, as has been noted many times, was struck hard by the pandemic, and no industry was hit as hard as the tourism industry that was shuttered for a year. YouTube or promotional videos can provide a taste of what visitors might see if they traveled for a visit but it never replaces the timeless capture of children enjoying and learning about rich agricultural history.

If you are fortunate enough to travel to the Oklahoma National Stockyards in Oklahoma City, you can still marvel at a working sale and understand what past generations of youngsters experienced when they saw the magic of past stockyards.

As 2021 unfolds there will be opportunities to travel, with proper precaution taken, visitations can mean not only getting out of the house for a well-deserved vacation, but also to spend hard-earned money as a guest and that money turns over many times in a community. Heading to the cattle towns is not just a tourist trip. It is an opportunity to learn or relearn our nation’s history all right here—in the heartland.

As you read Newlin’s cover story, our hope is that it will rekindle a sense of adventure and to pay homage to forefathers who had a vision that could not be denied. And as you are carving out your own trail, if you choose to go to a historic cattle town, you are investing in an important segment of a rural community and making another connection to agriculture.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].