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Durham landowner's Chisholm Trail dream comes true

Staff writer

For Gerald “Jerry” Unruh, traveling the Chisholm Trail with a bunch of other horse riders was a moving experience.

“I just sat there on my horse and tears came to my eyes,” he said. “I can’t believe the history of the West. This history is more valuable than anything money can buy. I want to keep it alive.”

He has been a Chisholm Trail history buff for a long time. He grew up at Durham, and he and his wife, Pam, became involved three years ago in planning for the trail’s 150th anniversary.

They live in Salina but own 160 acres through which the trail ran. They said trail ruts are still visible on their property.

“This is my passion,” Unruh said. “It’s just the start of my dream.”

Unruh plans to retire from his job at Philips Lighting at the end of the year. The couple plan to build a house on their property and buy a couple of horses.

“I wanted to be a cowboy all of my life,” he said. “My dream is coming true.”

Although the weather wasn’t as balmy as horseback riders may have wished for, they experienced what cowboys herding cattle on the trail 150 years ago almost certainly endured.

Temperatures hovered in the lower 40s, and rain and wind buffeted the area.

After receiving a handoff of the governor’s March 22 anniversary proclamation at the Dickinson County line Saturday evening, about a dozen riders rode south on Chisholm Trail Road to the Unruh farm at 300th Road.

Unlike the cowboys of old, the riders were treated to a catered meal in a machine shed. They were treated to a full breakfast the next morning before going on.

Riders traveled to the stone trail monument at U.S. 56 and Alamo Road, where they met a dozen riders from Newton Saddle Club, which included members from the Goessel area.

After Marion County economic development director Teresa Huffman read the proclamation, it was passed from one group to the other, and they carried it south, to the Harvey County border and beyond.

Steph Andres of Lincolnville, a veterinary technician with Animal Health Center in Marion, led the northern contingent.

She calls herself a “trailer.”

“I like trailing,” she said.

She carried the official Chisholm Trail flag, which was provided by Marion County economic development funds and will stay with riders all the way to Caldwell.

Tim Wedel of Goessel led the southern contingent on his horse, Tommy. He is a part-time farmer and cattleman. He said living on Chisholm Trail Road is what interested him in riding the trail.

“It’s a part of history,” he said.

Northern riders were Katy Albin, Andres, Justin Indorf, Cole, Debra, and Sienna Kaufman, Dustin Schafer, Dakota Tannahill, and Galen and Gerald Unruh.

Southern riders were Erin and Pyper Pryor, Amanda Castro, Bob Wedel, Kelli Highley, Mikayla and Clay Lare, Tim Wedel, Mike and Krysta Woelk, and Darrel Schroeder.

The last stop in Kansas will be Saturday at Caldwell, where the proclamation will be passed to Oklahoma riders.

Last modified May 4, 2017

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