Dee and Phyllis Scherich look at the past 40 years working on Comanche County’s open range as just living their life.
That life dedicated to the cattle and prairie landscape of the historic Merrill Ranch has put the two in the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame.
The Scherichs will be inducted during a ceremony Nov. 11 at Guymon Petro Bar and Grill in Dodge City.
“I did what I knew to do and tried to improve things as time went along,” Dee Scherich said.
Four other couples will be honored for their roles in the American West culture, said Kathie Bell, curator of collections and education with the Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City, which is home to the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Honorees and the category in which they are being inducted, include:
Lem and Blanche McKenney Hunter, formerly of Haddam in Washington County - Cowboy entertainers;
Merritt and Elizabeth Beeson, formerly of Dodge City - Cowboy historians;
Andy and Helen Ebbutt Olson, formerly of Council Grove - Cowboy ranchers;
Pete and Elease “Boots” Tucker - Elkhart, Kansas, Rodeo cowboys.
The Scherichs are being inducted into the category of working cowboys. They, along with Elease Tucker, are the only living inductees.
“It’s an honor to do the job that you endeavored to do for years and years,” Dee said.
The 17,500-acre Merrill ranch is deep in western history - going back to the Comanche Pool days of the 1880s. The pool was the largest cattle-ranching spread in Kansas history, and the Merrill, the site of the ghost town of Evansville, was its headquarters.
As ranchers fenced the land, the pool dissolved. Evansville ceased to exist as a town, but the area continued to serve a small population as the headquarters for Mortimor Platt’s Ranch, followed by the John Arrington Ranch and then the West Ranch of Davis, Nolan and Merrill Grain Co.
Dee grew up on the Merrill, helping his father, Virgil, ride the range and check cattle. His father started working on the ranch in the 1940s and eventually became its manager.
Dee attended Ottawa University and met Phyllis Uhrig of McPherson. After college, Dee taught for 14 years. The couple returned to the ranch in 1976 to manage it for the H.A. Merrill trust, taking over the reins from his father.
The couple retired in July 2016, moving to McPherson.
“It wasn’t a hard 40 years,” said Dee of he and Phyllis' love of the rolling landscape.
Dee was the "cowboy" who managed the ranch, but Phyllis cooked meals, performed administrative chores and did repairs and maintenance, as well as played an integral role in making sure the ranch ran smoothly.
On the board of the Kansas Native Plant Society, the couple have identified many of the ranch's wildflowers, as well as led tours on the ranch. And from 1995-2003, the Scherichs hosted an annual trail ride for the Comanche County Medical Foundation, which averaged more than 200 riders each year. Funds from the ride built a dental and health clinic in Coldwater.
The couple also worked to preserve the history of the ranch.
“An interesting thing about the whole ranching operation here, we had the old town of Evansville. We were the center of the Comanche Pool," said Dee. "The history of the place was significant."
Phyllis said they are humbled by the honor.
“You don’t feel you’ve done anything,” she said. “You just did your life.”
“We had a good run,” Dee added.