Friday, August 30, 2013

From the Range to the Range

We’ve met a lot of interesting people on our cross continental travels and the among the most interesting have been local folks not affiliated with the tourist attractions.


We’re still in Dodge City, and this part of Kansas is definitely cattle country. Since we like to eat steak and hamburgers, we decided to spend some time at the local cattle auction to find out what we could about the process that takes cattle on the hoof (on one kind of range) to the frying pan (on a different kind of range).  A gentleman at the auction  who was kind enough to answer a couple of questions, sort of took us under his wing and gave us a good overview of the cattle business.

The way it works, at least in Dodge City, is that cattle ranchers breed and raise cattle to a certain weight range. They then ship the cattle to a sale like this auction where they are purchased by feed lot owners. A feed lot is, well, a lot where cattle stand around and get fed.

cattle price

There were 23 head of cattle in the ring (the red side of the sign), averaging 800 pounds a piece, and the selling price was about $1200 for each cow. According to our “tour guide” who caught a little friendly flack about helping us from his colleagues, that price represents a substantial loss for the rancher who sold this lot. But he had to sell because Kansas is in a drought, grass is scarce, and he had to cut his losses. The feed lot owner buys the cattle at this price, fattens them up to about 1400 pounds, and typically sells them again (hopefully for a profit) as cattle ready to slaughter. The gentleman who was helping us told us he works for Cargill, the giant agribusiness.  They do things a little differently by eliminating the middleman. Our helper is a buyer for Cargill. The “feeders” he buys are sent down the road to a Cargill feed  lot, and when those cows reach slaughter weight, they’re sent further down the road to Cargill’s own slaughterhouse and packaging plant. Cattle trucks in…refrigerated trucks out.

Speaking of slaughter, we visited the Dalton Gang Hideout Museum in Meade, KS.


In the late 1800s the Daltons were notorious bank robbers and between capers they hid out at this little house owned by a relative.

The fact that the house was owned by a Dalton family member was well known to lawmen, but every time the law came calling, only the law-abiding relatives were home.




That’s because a secret tunnel (it was rebuilt in 1840 as a WPA project) provided an escape route from the house.




The tunnel led 900 feet to a storage barn behind the house, and no one ever thought of looking there.

Eventually, word got out that the Daltons were planning a simultaneous heist at two banks in Coffeyville, KS. The local residents decided to end it all right then, so they got their rifles and shotguns and waited for the Daltons to come to town.

dead daltons

That’s the last picture of the Dalton gang. An no, they’re not sleeping.


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