B O O T H I L L M U S E U M
Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame
ORSON E. "BUD" ALEXANDER
Orson E. "Bud" Alexander was born on December 24, 1890 to A.G. and Albertine Alexander at Council Grove, Kansas. In 1897, his parents purchased a farm about two miles north of Council Grove. Bud married Maude Carr in 1940 in Council Grove. The couple had three sons, Bob, Wayne and Jim, and a daughter Mary Elizabeth who died as an infant. Bud imported cattle from the south to the Flint Hills mostly from three sources, the Webster family, San Angelo, TX; Alfred Drummond, Madill, OK; and Joel Sanner, Port Arthur, LA. This was before cattle trucks, so cattle had to be shipped up by rail. These animals would weigh about 400 pounds in early May on arrival, but by the end of the summer, they doubled their weight to 800 or 900 pounds. When the time came in October to ship them out, they had to be rounded up on horseback. Bud tirelessly looked after these bluestem grass cattle and his own herd daily, leaving his house at 4am and returning at dark. The herd numbered from 5,000 to 6,000. Bud did some farming to harvest winter feed for his own cattle and his horses. Bud was a keen judge of both horses and cattle - he could guess the weight of an animal within 10 pounds. Bud won both rodeo steer and calf roping competitions. He was a member of many organizations including Santa Fe Trail Riders as an officer and distinguished rider, Flint Hills Rodeo Stockholder, Comiskey Rodeo Arena Director, Council Grove Harness Track Volunteer, Lakeside Arena committeeman, Territorial Centennial Event coordinator, Kansas Centennial Wagon Train organizer, and several Morris County extension and leadership positions. Bud was active late in life and he and his homemade trailer could be seen on the streets of Council Grove into the late 1960s. Bud Alexander died at the age of 87 on February 8, 1978 in Council Grove and is buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Council Grove alongside his wife Maude who passed in 1992. Today Bud's remaining son, Jim, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren keep the cowboy tradition alive working on the six-generation ranch.
Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame connection: Bud's sons, the late Bob and Wayne were inducted in 2014 as Rancher/ Cattlemen. Bud is also a distant cousin of Gerald Roberts, 2005 Rodeo Cowboy.
"Being a working cowboy has been my life and a family tradition to carry on for generations on our Flint Hills ranch."
CHARLES "WALTER" COUCH
Charles Walter Couch, named for his two grandfathers, is mostly known as Walter to his family and the area, and as Chuck to all of his Marine Corps and TWA friends. He was born to Harry and Alice Padgett Couch and raised on a farm south of Kingsdown, Kansas. He completed all 12 grades in Kingsdown schools, graduating in 1956. After high school, he attended Kansas State University where he lettered three years in wrestling and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture in 1960. Following college, he joined the United States Marine Corps and was trained and served as a fighter pilot for four years. After active duty, he moved to Manhattan Beach, California where he continued to fly for the Marine Corps another 20 years in the Reserves, achieving the rank of Lt. Colonel. He also began his 28 year flying career with TWA as a commercial airline pilot. After living in Manhattan Beach for a couple of years, he bought a grape vineyard in the Napa Valley and moved to St. Helena, California. Always interested in caring for the land, he ambitiously tore out the old vineyard and planted a new one. He also partnered with a veterinary friend and started raising cattle on pastures in Napa Valley. Walter had the "cowboy itch," so he built a roping arena where he could calf and team rope with like minded friends and entered a few rodeos. In 1987, he sold the vineyard and returned to his Kansas roots, buying the Pyle Ranch which joined the family farm. Thus, the Couch Ranch was founded and now consisted of 11,000 acres of crop and grassland. Once again, he built another roping arena and began raising Corriente roping cattle. He continued to fly for TWA both domestically and internationally for the next five years and was named the TWA Pilot of the Year in 1987. He retired from the airline in 1992. Walter has many interests and talents, not the least of which is a love of the land and also the wildlife. Since there are three creeks originating on the ranch that empty into Bluff Creek which flows into the Clark County Lake, he has been mindful of not polluting this valuable resource. Always interested in preserving the past, he moved a two story house that had been abandoned, from a neighboring farm to the Ranch in 2000. The house was built by early pioneers in 1907. He began a complete restoration doing much of the work himself. Upon finishing the project, he married Karla Kirk Luft in this house which became their home on February 14, 2004. In this marriage he gained a stepson, John Luft, and stepdaughter, Lana Luft. His lifelong interest in flying led him to build his own airplane and put a hangar and runways on the Ranch. In his retirement Walter has been involved in many organizations with the purpose of preserving our western history including the Ashland Pioneer-Krier Museum Board, Boot Hill Museum Board of Directors, Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame committee, Western Cattle Trail Association, Santa Fe Trail Association, and Dodge City Drovers. He has shared his knowledge and love of history with friends, school classes, and various other groups. The life of Charles Walter Couch has always personified the cowboy ideals of integrity and self sufficiency.
"May those who come behind us be good stewards of the land and protectors of the wildlife."
Faye Louise (Peck) Heath
Faye Louise (Peck) Heath was born on August 13, 1938 to Henry Nelson and Edna (Schweitzer) Peck on the family farm near Hope, Kansas as the youngest of five children. She rode her first mount, a pony "Peanuts," at four and rode him to school through seventh grade. From a very young age she had rodeo in her blood. At 12 she learned to ride her horse at a gallop standing behind the saddle while gathering milk cows. One day while practicing her trick riding, a dog spooked her horse. She fell off and broke her arm, but this didn't come close to stopping her. Faye's first rodeo experience was competing with her dad's horse, "Paint" in a Herington play day. She didn't place, but that only encouraged her to start practicing. After graduating from Chapman High School in 1956, she worked awhile at Duckwalls then began her day-job profession as a meat cutter, working at Robinson Locker Plant. She later worked for Dillons Grocery Store, for over 25 years until her retirement. It was after high school she began successfully competing in rodeo events on weekends riding Paint. Purchased in 1963, “Ole Yeller” was her first “really good” horse. Over the years she has won numerous ribbons and trophies. Though Faye loved to compete in every category she could, she is best known for her 30-plus year barrel racing career. On July 9, 1965 she married Marshall Heath at Lyona Methodist Church, Junction City. Among her many awards and honors were: for nine years she was High Point Eastern Kansas Horseman's Association Yearend Rider 18 and Over Division, PRCA Buckle Winner in barrel racing, and Money Winner barrel racing Midwest Major Amateur Rodeos. Faye with her lifelong friend, Rosie Clymer and roper Merle Flinn were among those instrumental in forming the EKHA. Faye was an officer in both the Junction City Saddle Club and Herington Riding Club. She held memberships in numerous clubs and associations including Kansas Cowgirl Barrel Racing Assn., Kansas Western Horseman's Assn., American Quarter Horse Assn., and the Hope Saddle Club. Faye was not only a rodeo cowgirl, but she took care of her horses from every angle from birth taming, haltering, leading, tying, doctoring, farrier work and loading them into the trailer - sometimes for other people. Faye Louise (Peck) Heath passed from this life on January 3, 2020, but her kind, gentle and joyful spirit will not be forgotten.
Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame connection: Her brother, Jerry, was inducted in 2015 as the Working Cowboy. One time while competing in an all-girl rodeo steer undecorating event she borrowed 2012 KCHF Rodeo Cowboy Ernie Love's bulldogging horse and won the contest in 1½ seconds.
"There was nothing like riding a good horse over new country."
Keith L. Downer
In 1933, Burl and Alta May Downer traded a 1929 Chevy truck for a farm in Leach, Oklahoma where Keith was born in 1935. Grandpa “Dat'' Downer came in 1936 and moved Burl and his family back to the Garden City area and Keith graduated from Garden City High School in 1953. Keith grew up around horses and cattle. He got his first cowboy job working at the Garden City Sale Barn for Pat Springer when he was 15. He worked all the odd jobs of the sale barn and corrals learning the cattle business every step of the way. Sorting, doctoring, pen riding, selling, and loading. This would be the foundation for his future. Earl Brookover and Jerry Chmelka bought the sale barn in 1957. This would be the beginning of a lifetime bond between these men. Keith became Order buyer for cattle at the GC Sale Barn in 1964. He met every cattleman and knew every sale barn for a 200-mile radius. In 1963 a horse fell on Keith’s left leg and shattered his ankle and leg bones. His bones were reset but he lay in traction, and casts for 15 months. This gave Keith a permanent “Hitch in his giddyup.” Keith’s next job was head cowboy for Brookover Feed Yards where he started in 1965 and worked in that capacity for 25 years. Along the way he also found time to train and ride a huge steer named “Big George”. Keith and Big George appeared in parades, grand openings, fairs, and rodeos around the Midwest promoting Beef and Brookover Feed Yards. His favorite horse was “Katy” who he rode for many years and kept after his retirement in 1990. He continued to work as a cattle buyer, owner, and feeder. He then worked for Elanco Chemical as a liver checker for several years in beef packing plants in Holcomb, Dodge City, and Liberal recording the condition of thousands of livers along the way. Keith took up poetry after his retirement and began to perform with a group of four old Western Kansas Cowboys called the “Partners of the Prairie”. They performed at shows and banquets, schools, and expos across the Midwest while singing old western songs and reading their poetry to dazzle the crowds from near and far. In 2000 they were invited to perform for the U.S. Troops in Illesheim, Germany where they met the troops and had a grand experience. Keith published his own book of poetry in 2017 titled “Cowboy Memories.” He serves on the Board of Directors for the Finney County Historical Society assisting with the many projects, demonstrations, and fundraisers they have. He recently was instrumental in getting access to and completing the purchase of the original guns of “Fleagle Gang” of Finney County. These guns were used in the robbery and killing spree that occurred in Colorado and Kansas back in 1928. Keith is a member of the Community Congregational Church and Choir. He is happily married to “Candy” his lovely wife of 37 years. He will leave behind 5 generations of descendants. Keith is small in stature but large in Compassion, Honesty, and Character. He has a sharp wit with an ever-engaging personality. He has a million friends.
“Rein ‘em up tight boys.”
John E. "Cowboy Jack" steinmitz
John E. "Cowboy Jack" Steinmitz was born in Hertha, Kansas to John E. and Anna Elizabeth (Torreyson) Steinmitz on October 21, 1920. At the age of 12 he began his career in the cattle industry as a check-in boy after school at the Parsons auction market. In 1945, he moved on to the Kansas City stockyards. A year after going to Kansas City, Jack began traveling the State with Walter Jarbo. Two of the auction markets he found most intriguing were those of Amarillo, Texas and Dodge City. In 1943, he married Virginia Marie Graham in Parsons, Kansas. They had two children John Steinmitz, Los Angeles and Lana Ross, Dodge City. At the age of 27 in 1947, he started as a sales manager of Winter Livestock in Dodge City. Since that day he was known as "Cowboy Jack." Over his 42 years with Winter, he oversaw marketing of over 11½ million cattle which represents $2½ billion in gross sales. However, most people knew Jack from his popular daily 7:30am radio show on KGNO-AM, "Cowboy Jack's Market News and Views." Even after he retired, he wrote "Cowboy Jack Sez" for the regional High Plains Journal agricultural newspaper. Cowboy Jack was a member of the Kansas Livestock Association and, in the 1950s, was a strong advocate in the effort to have the National Cowboy Hall of Fame located in Dodge City. Cowboy Jack was truly an ambassador for Dodge City He served as a member of the "Marshal's Posse" which rode in President John F. Kennedy's inaugural parade in 1961. In the early 1970s Jack was named an Honorary Marshal of Dodge City. Jack was known for his kindness and contributions to the community. Neighborhood kids knew him as Santa Claus and he bought coats and shoes for children in need. John E. Steinmitz died on June 6, 1999 in Dodge City and is buried at Maple Grove Cemetery in Dodge City.
"I remember growing up on a farm, and me and my dad always made a point of listening to Cowboy Jack on the radio." - Friend, Tom Stanley
Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame
A division of Boot Hill Museum, Inc. of Dodge City, Kansas | A 501(c)(3) Not For Profit Corporation