About 25% interested in Dorothy’s house, Ruth and I stopped at Liberal’s visitor center where I asked if the original Wizard of Oz movie had a direct connection to Liberal. No, I was told, there’s none except for the fact that Liberal is in Kansas and needed a tourist draw. On to Garden City.
The Kansas Official Travel Guide 2015 that I picked up in Liberal mentioned about 15 Garden City attractions. Several were fairly intriguing. One seemed just plain weird. I put checks by 6 of them including the suspected weird one-Brookover Feedyards. Ruth & I had noticed cattle feedlots all over Oklahoma’s panhandle and this part of Kansas. The Brookover Feedyard’s Official Guide entry announced, “The Yard that Started It All, by Earl C. Brookover”. This was, the entry went on to enthusiasticaly report, the first commercial feed yard system in the Midwest. Earl conceived the idea in 1951. If visitors checked into Brookover’s office, they could take a feedlot tour. I thought it might be interesting, like a natural disaster holds interest. Ruth was not enthused. We never made it to Brookover.
We stopped at the Sandsage Bison Range on our way into town, but no one was there. The Antique & Comic Shop downtown was truly weird, like that cluttered store in the horror movie where the slasher hides out. The Airport Raceway offered a look at the dirt track that’s home to Micro-Mayhem, the largest sprint car purse in the U.S. But unless it was Micro-Mayhem time, there was probably no one there and Airport Raceway on Aerodome Road was clearly somewhere out-of-town.
That left 2 attractions. The first didn’t look very promising. Four levels of faded glory, the Windsor Hotel dominated a city block on Main Street. But then we met Brian Nelson and got excited about his project. Brian, Executive Director of this hotel’s restoration, took us on a tour. The Windsor, The Waldorf of the Prairies, was built in 1887 and closed in 1977 when it became too costly to comply with fire regulations that demanded the installation of a sprinkler system. The Windsor was once a deluxe hotel with 125 rooms but no closets and few bathrooms. Restored, it will be a showpiece like the recently reopened Opera House in McPherson, Kansas, Brian’s role model. Young Brian has accepted this project, which has a long way to go, with enthusiasm and vision. Ruth & I hope he succeeds.
The other great attraction was Crazy House, a clothes, boots, and western supplies supercenter for ranchers and farmers where I learned that Rodeo King is a Texas felt hat maker and that Dan Post creates the highest quality western boots. Greg Shaw, Crazy House’s owner, made it to the age of 91 before dying last year. My official Kansas guide told me that Greg’s modern emporium catered to “working feedlot cowboys”. Now I have to go back to Garden City for that Brookover tour.