Archive for Saturday, August 25, 2007

Fictional ‘last’ cattle drive gets brought to life

August 25, 2007


Calling all Cowpokes

  • Events surrounding the two-day cattle drive begin at 5 p.m. Sept. 4 in Gorham, which is about 210 miles west of Lawrence on Interstate 70. The Gorham Community Development Association will offer a ranch-hand style supper at the Gorham Cafe, followed by activities in Gorham City Park. Author Bob Day will sign books.
  • The cattle drive will begin at 9 a.m. Sept. 5 on the Dickinson Ranch, 2324 370th Ave., Gorham.
  • These activities will follow in Luray, which is about 30 miles northeast of the ranch:
  • 2 p.m. The Luray Historical Society will be open to the public and the Yellow Dog Saloon and historic soda fountain will offer homemade ice cream.
  • 5:15 p.m. The Last Cattle Drive Parade begins with Parade Marshals Bob Day, Newton King and Tic-Tac-Toe, the young calf immortalized in the novel. Entries depicting scenes or items in the novel are encouraged. Cowboy poet Ernie Masden will perform rope tricks and give readings. Day will sign books.
  • 5:30 p.m. Free barbecue.

For more information, visit

An adventurous and beloved Kansas tale about a modern-day cattle drive is coming to life in September.

Robert Day's humorous novel, "The Last Cattle Drive," is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and to commemorate the tale of a wild romp across Kansas, Day and friend O. Newton King will re-enact a drive.

For the past three years, King, retired owner of King's Pharmacy, has planned and organized the drive to pay tribute to one of his favorite books, and he's inviting others to join.

"His idea is almost as crazy as the idea of the book," Day said. "It will sort of be a real chapter of the book - a condensed version."

On Sept. 4 and 5, they will ride trails on the Dickinson Ranch in Gorham, near where the cattle drive started in the novel. Last September, they did a practice drive just to see how things would go.

"It went badly," Day said. "We lost all the cattle and ran into a milo field. It became the 'lost cattle drive' rather than the 'last cattle drive.'"

Day's novel, which is modeled after Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," is about a cattle drive in the age of the automobile. Four men started a drive in Hays and traveled 300 miles to Kansas City, Kan. He described it as a "contrast between irreverence and some kind of order."

The man driving cattle in the novel, for example, is in the "business of breaking rules," Day said.

"For someone to take 250 head of cattle and do what they did would have been an impossible task," King said.

Day created his main character, Spangler Star Turkle, from his own experiences working on the Ward Sullivan ranch northwest of Gorham, King said.

Readers can recognize certain places in the book such as the towns Clinton and Eudora, King said.

"That's what he used to make the thing come alive," King said.

Day was born in Shawnee in 1941. He graduated from Kansas University and taught English at Fort Hays State University. He was a visiting professor at Kansas University and taught fiction writing. He began working at the English department at Washington College, where he is now a writer in residence. He summers in Ludell, Kan. He has also written two novellas, "In My Stead" and "Four-Wheel Drive Quartet."

"The Last Cattle Drive" is considered a modern western classic and hasn't been out of print since it was published in 1977.

KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway has taught the novel in an honors seminar, "Kansas as a State of Mind."

Hemenway said the book is well received by students because they can relate to the idea of the cattle drive.

"We have such a rich history in Kansas," he said. "I think it's fun for students to imagine themselves as residents in the 20th century and imagine experiences of their forefathers."

Hemenway said Day has a great sense of humor and his comic vision is evident in the book. It's also an interesting challenge to students because he "evokes so many questions that students can ask, such as 'What happened to the West?'; 'What happened to the cowboy?'; and 'Have we lost some of the values we associated with stalwart settlers?'"

King says the ride will "focus on fun and avoid the calamities of the novel." It's limited to 50 riders each day for $300 each. The money will go to Ellis and Russell County 4-H clubs.

King said he "wanted to leave something more permanent than cow pies" after the drive.

Activities and book signings will take place in Gorham and Luray beginning Sept. 4.

Kirk Dickinson will host the drive as part of his agri-tourism business.


miasac 10 years, 7 months ago

This is an awesome book. Read it if you get a chance!

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