By Frank J. Buchman
“A cowboy’s worth in life can best be measured in death.”
One of the best known cowboys in the Flint Hills and throughout the Midwest has gone to His Great Beyond.
Recognized by an always well-shaped silver belly hat, Kenneth D. Muller, 91, passed away at Council Grove on December 21, 2020.
Acknowledged by most as Kenny, he was foremost a cowboy yet with lifetime service in many livestock and youth endeavors.
Verification of one’s respect and appreciation from others becomes most apparent with participation in their memorial services.
Despite cold rain, neighbors and distant acquaintances stood attentive as the horse drawn wagon brought Kenny into Four Mile Cemetery.
Kenny’s widely-recognized green flatbed exhaust puffing followed behind with his last personal horse in the pasture up the country road. Just days earlier locals waved at Kenny driving the pickup for regular morning coffee catching up on cowboy gossip.
Born in Abilene, January 3, 1929, Kenny moved to Morris County early-on, soon locating in the Four Mile community. Appropriate lifetime ranch headquarters for a cowboy in heart of the nation’s largest remaining native grassland.
Always heartfelt grateful for freedoms America provided, Kenny proudly interrupted dedicated cowboy profession to serve in the United States Army. Marrying the neighbor farm girl, Kenny and Donna Muller were acknowledged statewide leaders in both Quarter Horse and youth activities.
Standing stallions while raising and showing their production, Muller collected numerous Kansas Quarter Horse Association awards. Among these were highpoint trophy saddles collected when trainer Dean Smith presented Muller horses in the show ring. Kenny put them to use on his working ranch horses.
These were not just some of the best show horses, but everyone earned their keep on the ranch. Kenny was mounted daily looking after custom grazing cattle readily upon call for cattle day work in a 30-mile radius. Many area ranchers rode horses Kenny raised.
Spring going-to-grass was most exhausting as ranchers lined up Kenny’s help well in advance yet he couldn’t assist everyone. When cattle got out or needed doctoring, Kenny was the first called always well-mounted with deadeye rope in hand. He was also successful competing in local rodeos.
Devoted in leadership to 4-H club work, Kenny was on Extension and fair boards developing facilities and organizing events. Initially Kenny personally showed championship horses locally and the Muller children Suzanne and Richard followed in family tradition.
Combined they showed county fair horse winners for more than a decade. Suzanne dominated the state fair 4-H show having both the champion and reserve champion horses one year.
Of course, the Muller children were also winners mounted on home-raised horses in numerous performance events, rail and cattle classes. Kenny was diligent as well coaching other youth horsemanship skills.
With their parents as Four Mile 4-H Club community leaders, Suzanne and Richard Muller excelled in all 4-H work. They collected cattle, swine, public speaking and leadership recognition among additional 4-H accomplishments.
Under Kenny and Donna Muller’s brainchild guidance, the Four Mile 4-H Club Park was developed along Four Mile Creek on Highway 177. Well-maintained for many years the park was frequent stop for travelers to enjoy wholesome natural feeling of the Flint Hills.
“I always like to get up early because there’s plenty of work to get done,” Kenny often said. Owning a cow herd and raising hogs, Kenny was at the elevator every morning before it opened to get feed.
Extensive swine operations found Kenny sought for Kansas Pork Producers Council leadership. He sold Chester White seed stock and youth show feeder pig projects throughout the Midwest.
Several years Kenny had the champion entry at the Kansas Feeder Pig Show in Hutchinson. He was president of the Morris-Lyon County Pork Producers smiling while barbecuing park chops for the annual meeting.
Most proficient evaluating livestock, Kenny was called on to judge many livestock shows throughout central Kansas. While association horse shows may have been his specialty, Kenny judged all species of livestock at many county fairs. He also helped train several winning youth judging teams.
With other local horse and youth activity enthusiasts, Kenny was instrumental in forming the Morris County Youth Rodeo Association. Initial group project was sponsoring a youth rodeo with low entry cost for contestants yet memorable recognition tokens. That rodeo has continued more then 30 years attracting young cowboys and cowgirls from many miles around.
Kenny was announcer for the youth rodeo and served as president of the association. When he first heard about ranch rodeos, Kenny encouraged the association to sponsor a ranch rodeo at Council Grove. The first one was most successful and there are now two ranch rodeos annually drawing teams from afar.
It was especially important to Kenny that his Muller Ranch team won the ranch rodeo one year. Always humble and quite sentimental, Kenny was most gratified to be recognized for service to several horse and youth groups.
A sad day for Kenny Muller when he matured such he couldn’t ride his horse to look after cattle. Yet he remained the dedicated cowboy riding a four-wheeler.
Forever an entrepreneur, Kenny and his son developed a fence construction business building many miles of pasture fence. Knowing the value of quality horse equipment, Kenny also had a leather shop making ranch horse tack. Kenny established a fireworks enterprise which son Richard and his wife Tammy continue every Fourth of July.
Lifelong devout apparent by his care for people, livestock and nature, Kenny never missed Sunday church in recent times.
His first wife had passed away and Kenny was married to Eleanor who also preceded him in death a few weeks before his passing. While age forced living in town, Kenny kept Western lifestyle ties sometimes only possible watching television cowboy shows.
Most pleasing to Kenny, his son Richard is continuing the cowboy tradition on the family ranch.
Kenneth Muller of Council Grove was recognized throughout the Midwest as a cowboy and leader in many agriculture endeavors. A horse drawn box wagon carried Kenny Muller to his final resting place in Four Mile Cemetery. Kenny’s widely-recognized green flatbed exhaust puffing followed behind with his last personal horse in the pasture up the country road.
Cold rain poured down as cowboy friends serving as bearers followed the casket carrying Kenny Muller to his grave. Winner of the annual Morris County Ranch Rodeo one year was the Muller Ranch team of Lee Hart, Jack Gieswein, Kenny Muller (with grandson Ty Muller) and Richard Muller.
In his cowboy lifetime Kenny Muller looked after thousands of cattle on Flint Hills pastures gathered from grazing for shipment to feedlots. Producing and using quality registered Quarter Horses was important to Kenny Muller as a lifelong cowboy. (Photos provided by family and Rev. Brenda Davids.)