His family has raised cattle “since the beginning of time,” Mark Burkdoll said.
In 1858 — six years before Ottawa was chartered — Francis Burkdoll started Burkdoll Brothers in Kansas. Since then, the family has passed the cattle raising operation, which runs through the middle of Rantoul, Lane, Richmond and Princeton, down from generation to generation, Burkdoll said.
“My grandpa’s grandpa, near as we can tell, moved here about 1858 and we have been doing the same thing ever since,” Mark Burkdoll said.
“We farm, but just to feed the cattle. We don’t sell many crops because everything goes to feeding the cattle.”
Now, Mark and his brothers, Trent, Scott and Tim, are using their cattle expertise to sponsor Saturday’s Cowboy Days cattle drive, along with the Plaza Cinema and Les McGhee, Anderson County commissioner.
The Burkdolls became involved in the Cowboy Days event to help out Ernie Rodina, the event’s original founder, during the cowboy celebration’s original run from 2004 to 2009, Mark Burkdoll said.
“I helped him to get started with the original [event] and anytime Ernie needs something, I help him, and any time I need something, he helps me so it works good,” Mark Burkdoll said.
But the Burkdolls won’t be furnishing the cattle for the drive, Mark Burkdoll said. They’re only there for moral support at this point.
“They wanted us to supply the cattle, but we decided our cattle were too wild to run down through town and we would probably never see them again, so we opted for some tamer ones,” Mark Burkdoll said with a laugh.
That’s where McGhee comes in.
McGhee plans to ride into town with a trailer of 35 head of longhorn cattle, he said.
“I think it will be a chance for people to see something they don’t normally see,” McGhee said. “I’m hoping it will go well and I’m pretty sure it will.
“These old cows have been handled a lot,” he continued. “They’re pretty gentle. I don’t foresee any problems.”
McGhee will have to round up the cows from his land near Bush City, in rural Anderson County, to bring them to Ottawa, he said.
“We basically have to gather them up out of the pasture. They’ve got calves on them. We will not bring the calves,” McGheee said. “The calves will be trouble, so we will leave them penned off at home. We will haul [the longhorns] up there. We will have to take a Wilson wheel corral, a portable corral, and we will have to have a place to unload them. When we start up Main Street, I’ll have a couple of guys that will move that corral around to where we are going to finish at. Then we will reload them and put them back on the truck.”
Mounted on quarter horses, McGhee, along with several others, will drive the cattle at 10 a.m. Saturday through Ottawa’s historic downtown from Fifth Street to First Street where they will be penned in a mobile corral, McGhee said.
Alongside McGhee, the Burkdolls and other helping hands, Ernie Rodina is set to be the drive’s honorary trail boss. A trail boss’ job is to oversee the entire cattle drive and guide the herd as well as keep cowboys in their positions.
After the cattle drive, the one-day festival is expected to include performances by the Travis Marvin Band and Rusty Rierson, western movies, carriage rides, a shooting presentation, vendors and exhibits, and more.