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New display ready at Pratt County Historical Museum

Fran Brownell
Pratt County Historical Museum Curator Charmaine Swanepoel points to a new display of a longhorn steer horns and skull from the Robbins' Anchor D Ranch near Belvidere. PCHM Board Treasurer Thad Henry helped organize the team which put the new display together. The museum is now open again to the public.

Pratt County Historical Museum at 204 South Ninnescah has a new display for visitors to see, now that it has reopened with weekday hours of 1 to 4 p.m. and 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Hanging on the wall of the museum’s Livery Stable at the end of Main Street is the skull from El Capitan, a prize Texas Longhorn steer from the Anchor D Ranch near Belvidere, KS.

Family members of Richard “Dick” Whitfield Robbins Jr., who died December 24, 2018, donated the long horns in his memory, from his estate.

“We’re delighted to have this set of horns from a critter who was raised just a few miles outside of Pratt County,” Museum Curator Charmaine Swanepoel said of the rack that has a tip-to-tip span of about 7 ‘ and weighs about 60 pounds.

Amber Robbins, executor of her father’s estate, made the donation.

“El Capitan was born on the Anchor D Ranch,” Robbins said. “He was named by Virginia Walker, my Dad’s long-time friend and neighbor.”

Robbins said her dad got El Capitan’s mom at a livestock sale in Missouri in 2001.

“El Capitan was killed by a lightning strike in 2013 when he was 12 years old,” Robbins said. “Dad always put the heads on the ranch fence posts for nature to take its course.”

Marvin Jantz and Larry Sanders were two of Dick Richards’ long-time ranch employees who helped with that and other chores of running the ranching operation.

“El Capitan’s a part of Kansas history and I’m grateful to be able to preserve both El Capitan’s memory and Dad’s memory through the museum exhibit,” Amber said.

Pratt County Historical Museum Board Treasurer Thad Henry said Bryan Kirby of T&W Meat Company volunteered his service to do the restoration to prepare the skull and horns for display.

“The reason I wanted to do it was for the Robbins family and all that they’ve done for Pratt,” Kirby said.

Museum Board members Kent Goyen and Tom Frazier put the display in place.

“It’s a neat display,” Henry said. “We will give El Capitan a good home.”

Amber said her father Dick Robbins Jr. always had a pat answer when questioned about the ranch’s Rockefeller connection.

“My grandfather raised registered Herefords and was involved with the Santa Fe Railroad,” my Dad would answer when quizzed about the ranch’s Rockefeller connections, Amber said.

The Anchor D Ranch has been in the Robbins family for three generations since 1935 and part of the ranch that is now the headquarters had once been the Rockefeller Ranch, according to Amber, who is on the nursing staff Pratt Regional Medical Center.

“Dad was a great storyteller,” Amber said. “He was also the subject of a lot of great stories.”

Like stories, Amber said, of when, as student at Kansas State University, her dad rode his bike around campus with handlebars sporting a set of longhorn skulls.

“More recently, Dad was well known for wearing his signature red baseball hat that also sported a set of longhorns,” Amber said.

The portrait-size picture of Robbins sporting his longhorn hat was viewed by an overflow gathering of his friends and family during Robbins’ Celebration of Life at Buster’s Saloon in Sun City on Friday, January 4, 2019

Other members of the Richard Robbins Jr. family still residing in Pratt are Amber’s brother Richard W. Robbins III, who resides at the Robbins Family home on Pratt’s North Main Street, and her uncle William “Bill” Robbins, who divides his time between his rural Pratt home of rural Pratt and San Diego, CA.

Swanepoel said she hopes the new display will serve to help keep alive the importance of Kansas ranching for future generations of history buffs.

“It’s really going to be nice to have a new display to attract visitors once we’re given the green light to reopen,” Swanepoel said.