It seems natural that a place known for its history of cowboys and cattle should be home to, not one but, two large beef processing plants.
The first of these was opened by Tom Shirley, Art Ebener, and Sam Davis in 1961. They named the plant Hy-Plains Dressed Beef.
The owners of this facility advanced the art and history of the community when, in 1978, Davis commissioned a young artist to paint a mural for the outside of the plant.
Sam Herd painted the masterpiece in four foot by ten inch sections, which initially formed a 400 linear foot mural. When the plant expanded, he extended it to 600 feet.
Eleven scenes in the initial mural featured the Santa Fe Trail, starting with buffalo, Plains Native Americans, trappers, ox drawn wagons, Fort Dodge, the building of the railroad along with the arrival of trains, stockyards, cattle drives, cowboys and Front Street. Later came a stage coach, a school house, a sod cabin, a mule drawn plow, a boy reading under a cottonwood tree, a harvest scene and Coronado's expedition.
Herd has gone on to become an internationally acclaimed artist as he turned to an even larger medium called "Crop Art," which has large fields as it canvases and is best viewed from the air.
In 2004, Herd repainted the murals on composite wood which was more resistant to rust. The originals ended up in numerous locations around the country with the cattle and railroad sections remaining in Dodge City.
Meanwhile in 1992, National Beef and Farmland Industries purchased the Hy-Plains facility. It was the first plant owned by National Beef. National Beef is now a large multi-facility beef processing company that conducts business internationally. Here in Dodge City about 2,900 people work at the plant.
The other big beef processing facility in Dodge City came later. Owned by Cargill Meat Solutions, Excel opened first as a kill facility in 1980.
Cargill, an international company with numerous types of operations, started over 150 years ago in Iowa.
In 1983, Excel opened a fabrication floor at the Dodge City facility. A state-of-the-art hamburger grind portion was constructed in 2005. Around this time, they changed plant's name to reflect that of the parent company, Cargill.
Revenue-wise Cargill is now the largest privately held corporation in the United States. In 2015, it would have ranked 12th on the Fortune 500 just ahead of AT&T if it were a public company.
Cargill has given generously to the community as sponsors for many festivals and events in the Dodge City area.
The Dodge City Cargill plant employs around 2700 employees and process 5,800 to 6,000 cattle every day. Together Cargill and National Beef process about 11,000 head every day.
Other aspects of the cattle industry are very important to Dodge City. Numerous feedlots and ranches surround the area. Most of the farming in the region is for growing grain for cattle to eat.
Kathie Bell works at the Boot Hill Museum and is a history buff. Her column appears weekly in the Dodge City Daily Globe. She can be reached at 227-8188.