Great State: One Man’s 25 Year Campaign to Mark the Chisholm Trail Goes National

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ENID, OKLAHOMA -- You don't just drive the streets of End if Bob Klemme is riding shotgun.

You get a history lesson around every corner.

A field we stop beside conceals hundreds of old buffalo wallows.

"In this 15 acre patch," he says, "there are 209 of them."

The old Chisholm Trail shoots right through town.

He knows because he marked it with concrete posts.

From the Red River border with Texas to the Kansas state line there are 400 posts, placed by Klemme, along every section line of the trail.

Klemme recalls, "I set my first post on November 3, 1990."

"I used the old government surveys and they told me exactly where it was across every section line."

It's been twenty years since we documented part of that heroic personal effort to mark history.

In 1997 the last post went in north of Yukon with a big ceremony complete with its own cattle drive and wagon train.

An Enid center visitor remarks, "You've been protecting this trail longer than it was active."

"Well, I guess that's right," he smiles. "I hadn't thought of it that way."

His un-official title now is 'guardian of the Chisholm Trail'.

The old building where Bob keeps a small office is on the trail, as is the Enid welcome center.

At 89 Bob figures he has one more marker to place, this one in Washington D.C.

Once again he's leading an effort to place the Chisholm and Great Western Cattle Trails on a list of National historic trails administered by the Park Service.

Visitor Center director Marcy Jarret, along with several other towns along the Oklahoma leg of the trail, are helping too.

Jarret says, "As we approach 2017 (the 150th anniversary of the first cattle drives) we really felt a sense of urgency. So we have to get the word out there."

Klemme says, "We're trying to get as many people as possible to write a letter to the Park Service."

The old Skeleton Creek Ranch has more people living around it than cattle, but there is a marker here too thanks to Klemme.

So much history traveled past this spot, so much of the Old West is roped around the old ruts that are still visible if, like Klemme, you know where to look.

The National Park Service has been studying the issue of whether to put the Chisholm and Great Western Trails on their officially recognized list.

The study is soliciting public comments for the next several weeks. If you have something to say on the subject please go to http://www.okhistory.org and follow the links to offer your two cents.