Wayne Bailey remembers being five-years-old and sitting on a horse at the railroad yard in Matfield Green, Kansas, watching cattle from Texas being unloaded. The scrawny, long-horn steers were run through a dipping tank to kill all the vermin on their hide before cowboys herded them on the twenty-mile journey across the Flint Hills to spend the summer grazing on the best grass in the Midwest.
“Dad would tie me in the saddle so I wouldn’t go to sleep and fall off and get trampled,” Wayne said, “but I was expected to share my part of the load just like the rest of the cowboys.”
Now, that’s a cowboy. Other than a few years fighting for our country in Vietnam, Wayne has spent his life in the wide-open spaces of the Flint Hills. Wayne has the reputation being the toughest cowboy in the area. Shake his hand and you’ll agree. Wayne also has a reputation as a good time looking for a place to happen; Wayne has lots of fun tickets. There was a time he built a little airplane he could fly over parades in the small, rural towns in our area so he could drop water balloons on people. That worked swimmingly until he crashed the airplane.
Twelve years ago, Wayne and his wife, Marcia Stout Bailey, decided to invite a few of their friends out to the ranch for a few holes of golf. If you know the legends of the Flint Hills, the Stout name is widely known and respected as pioneers and ranchers; Marcia carries on the family tradition. Thus began the Annual Rip Em In The Hills Golf Tournament where Wayne and Marcia turn their cow-pie-filled pastures into golf course with 15 foot tall pins so you can see where the holes are.
Here are some of the rules copied off the flier, exactly as it reads:
- Only 46 balls per player (they need every one of them!)
- No fishing on course ponds
- Proper golf attire is NOT required
- Repair all divots so the beauty of the Flint Hills is not disturbed.
- Taxi service for those too drunk to drive home (I doubt it! LOL)
I’ve heard about this legendary game before, but never managed to be in town the same weekend they hosted it. But this time I was, so I loaded up the cameras and headed 17 miles down country roads east of Cassoday, Kansas (THE Prairie Chicken Capital of the World). I’ve been to their ranch several times before to photograph an annual 18 mile cattle drive from their place up to Matfield Green. Thank God they have the kindness to give me something with four wheels instead of four legs to help get me around!
A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll let the photos narrate the story.
Wayne tells me the next Rip Em In the Hills will be the last Saturday in April, 2016. This, my friends, is Kansas culture and you’ll be a better person for spending a day with real, live cowboys and cowgirls.
If you like Kansas stories, I’d encourage you to follow along on my Growing Up Kansas Series. They are mostly true stories of my childhood living in this same part of Kansas. Here’s one of my stories that includes Cassoday and is called, Meet the Elmer Fudd of Hunters. Just search for the Growing Up Kansas series on my website to enjoy several of these short stories.
Also, my first novel about this part of the world, Voices on the Prairie, will be published this summer! Sign up for this blog and to to the “subscribe” for updates on when the book will be released.
Furthermore, there is a great book about the People of the Flint Hills by John Brown that tells you a lot more of Wayne and Marcia’s story.
A must-read about the Flint Hills is by Dr. Jim Hoy, Flint Hills Cowboys: Tales from the Tallgrass Prairie.
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