Mike Orler, a real cowboy from north of Byers and employed by H2O Farms, showed school children his gear and explained his job as part of Kansas Day activities at the Pratt County Historical Museum on Tuesday.
Not all Kansas occupations that helped build the state to prominence have gone by the wayside. Cowboys still play an important part in Kansas agriculture, and they still work in pretty much the same ways that they did when the state was formed. At least that is what Mike Orler, who lives north of Byers, told students visiting the Pratt County Historical Museum on Tuesday in honor of Kansas Day.
Orler works for H2O Farms near Macksville, riding feedlot pens and caring for the operations more than 2,500 cattle, along with three other cowboys.
“I’ve been a cowboy all my life,” Orler said. “I grew up near Baxter Springs, which was one of the first cow towns in Kansas.”
Now grown and the father of five adult girls, Orler said he still enjoys spending time on his horse, Elvis, riding the pens looking for sick cattle.
“It’s my job to find the ones that aren’t feeling well and help them,” he said. “We do have 4-wheelers, but we mostly use horses to ride the pens. I have a rope to help catch the ones I want, but sometimes we use a dart gun.”
More than 156 Pratt elementary students studied Orler’s cowboy clothing, saddle and horse equipment on Tuesday, asking questions about how he moved cattle, how old his daughters were, if he liked cats, if he had a dog, and how did he take care of his horse.
“I have four horses at my house, but only one is mine,” Orler said. “His name is Elvis. The others are my daughters’ barrel-racing horses. Taking care of horses is a lot of responsibility.”
Orler said horses need plenty of water, feed and hoof care.
“I even give Elvis a bath every now and then because I like him a lot, and that makes him happy to be clean.”
One student asked if Orler ever fell off his horse and what would he do if that happened.
“Well, I’d just have to get back up and get on again,” he said.
That's always been the cowboy way.