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FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions along the Western Vistas Historic Byway

On the matter of the BOD:  What is the proper spelling, Dispatch or Despatch?  It shows up in print both ways.  Answer:  The official name of the company was Butterfield’s Overland Despatch (BOD).  This is the way it is presented in the company’s prospectus.  “Despatch” is merely a less common way of spelling “Dispatch”.  Why the company chose the less common form is not known.

Butterfield Trail and Smoky Hill Trail:  Are there two trails?  Answer:  The Butterfield Trailand the Smoky Hill Trail are one in the same.  The Smoky Hill Trail was the name applied to the trail running first from Westport and other Missouri River towns, and later from Atchison and Leavenworth along the Smoky Hill River to Denver.  The trail became commonly referred to as the Butterfield Trail when Butterfield’s Overland Despatch (1865-1866) began using the Smoky Hill route in 1865.  In March, 1866, Butterfield’s Overland Despatch sold to Ben Holladay.  That company later sold to Wells, Fargo and Company.  Probably the first white men to utilize the Smoky Hill route were John C. Fremont and his party of 16 men who traversed the route from west to east in 1844.  After that, the government commenced topographic surveys along its course, but there was no apparent move to lay out a trail along the Smoky Hill River until gold was discovered in the Pike’s Peak and Clear Creek regions of Colorado in 1858 at which time it was commonly called the Smoky Hill Trail.  Other names used to designate the Smoky Hill River route were The Old Denver Road, the Military Road and even Starvation Trail.  

What is a Fick?  Answer:  Not a what, WHO.  Vi and Ernest Fick were the founders and benefactors’ of the Fick Fossil and History Museum in Oakley, Kansas.  The museum contains many renowned fossils, geological samples, and quirky multi-media art created by Vi Fick using fossils, shells, crayon wax and oils.

Fish fossils in Kansas:  Were the sharks and turtles that lived back then the same ones we have today? Answer:  The sharks and turtles of the Cretaceous period were very similar to present day types.  Turtles were like modern leatherbacks and sharks were similar to the tiger and mako sharks we have today.

Xiphactinus audax:  How do you pronounce that?  Answer:  zai-fact-in-us aw-dax was the largest bony fish that ever lived, sometimes reaching a length of eighteen feet. Although distantly related to modern tarpons, it became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period.  For more information about the swimming and flying reptiles, bony fish, shark, invertebrates and birds of the Cretaceous period, visit Keystone Gallery’s interactive mural.

Fossil Hunting FYI:  Can I go fossil hunting on the WVHB?  Answer:   Sorry, no. The fossil bearing strata (Niobrara Chalk) along the Western Vistas Historic Byway in western Kansas is located on private land.  Visitors are welcome to appreciate the fossil beds from the roadways, but please be respectful and only take pictures as mementos so that others may continue to enjoy the natural beauty.

Bison or Buffalo??  From Wikipedia:  The term buffalo is sometimes considered to be a misnomer for this animal as it is only distantly related to either of the two “true buffalo”, the Asian water buffalo and the African buffalo.  However, “bison” is a Greek word meaning ox-like animal, while “buffalo” originated with the French fur trappers who called these massive beasts boeufs, meaning ox or bullock, so both names, “bison” and “buffalo” have similar meaning.  Though the name Bison might be considered to be more scientifically correct, as a result of standard usage, the name Buffalo is also considered correct and is listed in many dictionaries as an acceptable name for American Buffalo or bison.

The Duff Ranch Details.  Boys, girls, and other “business”.  What is the proper terminology for herd members and do the boys get “fixed”?  Answer:  The terminology for the gender of bison is the same as for cattle.  From birth until one year of age they are called calves.  A bison female is called a heifer until she has her first calf at which time she is referred to as a cow.  Duff does not separate bulls from the herd since they have a natural breeding season.  At roundup, when the calves are weaned, they are kept away from their mothers for three or four weeks.  After that time they are reunited and the calves will spend a year growing on the range.  At the time of their next roundup as yearlings they will either be sold as feeders, retained to be grown on the range until harvested for grass-fed meat, or they will be used as replacement for older bison that are being retired.  Since bison mature more slowly than beef animals, the bulls are rarely turned into steers and it is common practice in the industry to allow bulls to remain intact since it does not affect their meat in a negative way.   Trained bison bulls are often neutered so they will be less likely to become unpredictable and dangerous as mature animals.

How many bison are on the Duff Ranch?  Answer:  After the cows calve in the spring there will be approximately 400 head on the ranch.  During the November roundup Duff will remove around 125 head of yearlings and older cows.  Meat animals will be processed between 24 and 30 months of age.

El Quartelejo, El Cuartelejo. Which is it?  Answer:  The Spanish spelling of El Quartelejo is with a C, i.e. El Cuartelejo. The English spelling is with a Q, i.e. El Quartelejo. Both spellings are interchangeable at the museum and the park and both spellings accurate in their identification.  For consistency, our byway maps, website and interpretive information uses El Quartelejo throughout.