Kenny Muller was and is my hero. He was a cowboy.
Muller was a cowboy’s cowboy. Perhaps calling one by his last name might seem disrespectful to some. Yet when the name Muller is said, most people first think of Kenny Muller, the cowboy, entirely with respect and admiration.
It’s most humbling and heartfelt appreciated to remember and honor Kenny for all he did for me and for so many. I had 40 minutes of reflections but I’ve left most of them out here. You can find them all on my website or the funeral home memorial. Muller was always sharp as a tack readily known for his perfectly shaped silver belly hat, neat fitting shirt, tight Levis. I’m leaving my hat on in Kenny’s respect and memory.
First memory of Kenny Muller was about 1958 when I was walking to the old swimming pool for lessons. Muller would pass me every morning with his pickup and horse going to work cattle someplace. He’d always wave and smile at the little grocery store carryout boy wannabe cowboy in sandal thongs.
All I ever wanted was to be was a cowboy and have a horse. Finally when I was 11-years-old Dad bought me a spotted mare named Spot. It was only a year later; we decided to raise a colt out of Spot. Kenny Muller owned Peppy Creek with Richard Reed. The popular, heavy muscled, chunky, shiny golden buckskin Peppy Creek was standing for public service at Kenny and Donna’s place. I rode Spot out to Kenny’s and left her there to be bred to Peppy Creek.
Sure enough, 11 months, 11 days, 11 hours, 11 minutes, 11 seconds later Spot gave birth to a bay filly named Missy Creek.
Later I even stood my own black stallion named Dennis Good out of Peppy Creek. We still have several granddaughters of Peppy Creek, so that famous stallion Muller owned remains part of our operation.
In those days, the horse show was a big deal at the county fair with the biggest competition between horses raised and shown by Kenny Muller and Ted Wilkerson. They were also responsible for building horse stalls and developed show classes similar to the way they are now.
After Spot had her second foal, Buchman’s Queen, I talked my Dad into letting me show my horses at the fair. They all got last in their classes, but I was happy just to be beside real cowboys Kenny Muller and Ted Wilkerson. Kenny won at least three championships that day. Grinning broadly, Kenny tossed the ribbons to Donna with summer dress on seated in her lawn chair watching and smiling
After Kenny and Donna sold their share of Peppy Creek, they bought a sorrel stallion named Rambeleo and took him to the county fair. It was raining cats and dogs that Thursday afternoon when Richard Reed led out Peppy Creek and Kenny showed Rambeleo. The show judge knew he was in trouble however he placed the class. Finally Peppy Creek was placed first over Rambeleo and Kenny wasn’t smiling.
Donna had “Kenneth and Donny Muller, Council Grove, Kansas,” painted on the sides of their blue two-horse tandem trailer. They showed Muller Quarter Horses successfully throughout the Midwest collecting many awards.
Dean Smith trained several horses for Kenny and Donna and at least one was highpoint in the Kansas Quarter Horse Association winning a trophy saddle Kenny rode working cattle for many years.
One year, we bred a sorrel mare called Nellie Belle to Rambeleo and showed her colt Ramblin’ Cowboys Bell known as RCB at the fair. Charlie White was the judge and placed the colt first above the Kenny Muller and Ted Wilkerson entries. It was the first blue ribbon my horses had ever won and we still have a picture of the colt that day with Margaret Mary holding him.
Suzanne and Richard had the champion 4-H horses at the county fair many years. Suzanne showed champion 4-H horses at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson several times including a bay gelding I remember that had a fistula. Suzanne had at least two outstanding performance horses, palomino and roan mares. A very sad day for Kenny was when that great palomino mare’s halter caught in the fence and choked her. Kenny cried hard and tears always came to his eyes years later remembering it.
Humility and sentimentality are in short supply today. Even with his many successes Kenny Muller was the most humble and as sentimental as anybody I’ve known. “Always too busy” to attend church years ago, Kenny was very devout as apparent in concerns for family, livestock and land. However, Kenny was deliberant to never miss church in recent times.
While Suzanne showed more Morris County 4-H champion horses than anybody, county 4-H project championships are determined by record books. In 1968, Frankie Buchman, who’d never had a blue ribbon horse, was the county 4-H horse champion. Kenny Muller just shook his head in disbelief: “Really.”
Early to rise makes a cowboy healthy, wealthy and wise. Kenny Muller wasn’t so concerned about financial status but was always an early riser because there was work to be done. He was definitely one of the wisest people I’ve had the privilege to call a friend.
Hogs used to be known as mortgage lifters, and Kenny Muller was in the hog business big time. Every morning Kenny was at Western Grain before it opened ready to get a load of hog feed.
The native stone barn at Kenny and Donna’s ranch had feeder pigs in stalls next to show horses. Kenny and Richard showed champion entries at the Kansas Feeder Pig Show several years. Kenny was president of the Morris and Lyon County Swine Association and barbecued pork chops for their annual meeting at Emporia.
Serving as the county fair swine superintendent Kenny is always remembered calling for the next class of “Durocs” in his high pitched excited shrilled voice. Kenny and Richard had a top Chester White operation as well an annual pig sales offering their production for sale throughout the Midwest. Richard was the state 4-H swine project winner making Kenny very proud.
Kenny and Donna Muller served many years as project and community leaders of the Four Mile 4-H Club. One of their biggest projects was the Four Mile 4-H Park along Highway 177 near Four Mile Creek.
Kenny Muller was instrumental in forming the Morris County Youth Rodeo Association. He served as president many terms and announced the annual Youth Rodeo. Kenny ramrodded the club to sponsor the first ranch rodeo in the state and it continues as the longest continuing ranch rodeo in the country.
Especially important to Kenny was that the Muller Ranch with him, Richard, Jack Gieswein and Lee Hart as members won the Morris County Ranch Rodeo one year. Special recognition was made at a recent Morris County Fall Ranch Rodeo honoring Kenny and Jack. Both had tears in their eyes. Lee Hart got his start with horses working for Kenny Muller and now is a top cowboy in his own right and world renowned horse trainer.
Kenny roped a few times at the Santa Fe Trail Riders every other Thursday night practices and a was deadeye header. In his younger days, he was a calf roper and was proud that Richard won some youth calf roping events.
Muller was demanded as a judge at fairs and shows throughout the area, not only horse shows but every other livestock species. Kenny and county agent Brian Murphy were the judging contest officials at the first of our ranch field days. Kenny bought a horse at one sale and brought it back two years later with Connie Wilkerson riding to win the champion horse award. For many years, Kenny, always wearing a four-in-hand-tie in place like at every show he judged, served as the ring steward for the field day judging classes many years. We even had the opportunity to train a horse for Kenny one time.
It was a sad day for Kenny Muller when he was forced to use a four wheeler to check cattle. People around town commented, “I can’t believe Muller has a four wheeler, where’s his horse?”
Cowboy foremost, Kenny Muller was a farmer and cowman too; one of the first to use Simmental bulls, often bought from my old college classmate Joe Mertz at River Creek Farms. Kenny and Richard also developed a fencing business constructing many miles of fence.
Maturity forced Kenny off the ranch to live in town with his wife Eleanor. A morning coffee regular, people always warned others to watch out for Muller’s green flatbed pickup. His driving wasn’t the safest. Eleanor gave Muller heck for watching all the cowboy shows on TV, especially Gunsmoke. It wasn’t Matt on the buckskin Muller liked as much as looking at Kitty I’m sure.
It was stressful for Kenny and Donna caring for their son Todd but their love and diligence never ceased and his passing caused them even greater heartbreak.
Kenny was always especially pleased about the many achievements of both Suzanne and Richard and their children and felt fortuante that Richard would carry on the family ranching operations.
Stories can go on and on about The Real Cowboy, a true hero for past present and future generations. The world needs more like Kenny Muller. He was a great cowboy and a greater man.