All he ever wanted to be was a cowboy

WICHITA EAGLE, January 25, 1981

Matched Pair, Wayne Rogler and the Great Outdoors, Jon Roe

There was something, always, about the land that captured the young. Lawrence and James lived with the Indians. Henry ran wild among the animal life on the hills, and Wayne . . .

From his earliest memories, he was a captive of the cowboys.

The routine, farm type chores like milking the cows and putting the milk through the hand turned separator . . . the routine games, such as arming yourself with a handful of buckbush and seeing who could stand under the bumblebee nest the longest.

These were nothing compared to the cowboy’s life. And a cowboy was all he ever wanted to be.

It began when – as a baby – he rode in the saddle with Henry when he checked the cattle. When he was 6, he rode behind Henry on his own Shetland pony, Old Jack. Each year Henry would give him a calf to raise, and let him sell it and keep the money.

Then he was riding daily to the giant Crocker spread to the east where 17 or 18 cowboys ran more than 25,000 cattle on pasture. That was the life that fascinated him. Farming did not.

Wayne got his first pair of handmade boots when he was 10 . . . and promptly got milk on them when doing the chores. That almost killed him. A cowboy never milked.

The only thing more embarrassing was his first big stock drive. He herded hogs from Matfield to Bazaar. A cowboy herding pigs! Wayne was mortified.

He was 10, too when he got his first felt hat, and promptly used a string to pucker it just like those cowboys. The schoolhouse was built a few yards south and across the road from home in 1911, the year Wayne started school. He was a good student, which was a bit surprising, since he had nothing on his mind but getting back to the cowboys.

Not a day went by when he wasn’t with his heroes, or roping the family dog, carving a pistol from a tree branch, dreaming of chewing tobacco, rolling his own, playing poker, the mouth organ, a Jew’s harp and herding cattle. When he was 13, his father encouraged him to enter a calf in Kansas’ first 4-H club contest. His Hereford heifer, Viola, was chosen best in the state.

Viola was auctioned off at a Red Cross sale (where the buyer contributed a percentage to the Red Cross) and she brought a whopping total of $850. She also won Wayne a trip to Kansas State in 1918 and a place of honor at the state 4-H banquet.

Viola proved his success at feeding cattle, and she proved a good deal more. Because, it was Wayne Rogler (and his dream of being a cowboy) that the Rogler land began the important shift from predominantly farm land to predominately ranch land, and the Roglers from farmers to cowboys.


Rogler Growing Up (and Acting Up) at K-State

Wayne Rogler was a little disappointed. William Allen White wasn’t an electrifying speaker. The man whose writing thrilled him spoke in a wooden manner that was graceless compared to his written prose.

But the Kansas State student cheered him none the less, because he was running against the Klan.

In Wayne’s mind, White showed the same kind of courage he saw in his father. And – like his dad – Wayne was active in the progressive wing on the Campus Republican Party.

And so he concentrated on going beneath the surface of the speech and listening for the meaning. And he found that – when he did that _ White was electrifying after all.

A junior at K-State, he was deeply involved in every aspect of life on campus . . . but spent most of his time in animal husbandry.

A Sigma Alpha Epsilon member, he was active in Block and Bridle, and increased his appetite for travel on the widely traveled Livestock Judging Team. He was business manager of both the Agricultural Student and the Royal Purple yearbook.

On week ends home, he’d tell his parents about his political maneuverings and Henry was impressed – if not amazed – by the practical political skills his son possessed. He certainly hadn’t inherited them from his idealistic father.

Indeed, he did enjoy politics more than his father. While Henry seemed to view politics as a responsibility, a service to perform, Wayne just naturally saw it as a means toward ends.

For instance, there was his complicated scheme to become business manager of the Royal Purple. Wayne worked it out with his boyhood friend and neighbor, Eugene Wiebrecht.

As freshmen, they planned a takeover of the yearbook their senior year that would make Gene president and Wayne business manager.

Gene was Catholic, and so belonged to a Catholic fraternity. Wayne was a Greek – Sigma alpha Epsilon.

In campus elections, the frats generally ran a candidate against the BARBS (unaffiliated) candidate. And – since hey were better organized – the frats almost always won overwhelmingly.

It was nearly impossible to gain control of the big, unwieldy fraternity party . . . until the two carried out their plan.

Gradually, but inexorably, they fermented interest in two different frat parties, and – by their senior year – succeeded in splitting that big party into two nicely manageable smaller ones . . . the Kalikacks (controlled by Gene) and the Aggies (which Wayne controlled). Each managed the campaign of his party’s candidate and asked only one thing in return for victory. That the winner name him yearbook editor.

The Kalibacks won. Gene was named editor, and he named Wayne business manager . . . exactly as planned. There was a payoff to all this maneuvering. Not only did they both need the money those jobs paid, but they gained the inside track to wangle the job of selling graduation invitations, and each made about $500 extra on the deal.

Henry listened to Wayne explain the Byzantine ways of it all, and marveled. If Wayne ever tired of being a cowboy, Henry thought, he could have a bright future in politics.

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