Located off the beaten path, one doesn't just pass through Pretty Prairie like they do other tiny hamlets along major Kansas highways.

They have to make an effort to get there.

But now that the Pretty Prairie Steakhouse and Lil' Rascals Lounge has reopened, people from all over central Kansas are making it their dinner or lunch destination, said Kim Bontrager, a Pretty Prairie resident and supporter of the restaurant. It's the go-to place for steaks and Saturday night prime rib.

The steakhouse, located on this town's wide Main Street, reopened for business in August 2015 after being closed for about a year. Jon Leadstrom, the former chef at Hutchinson's Town Club, is now managing the kitchen. His brother, Steve Leadstrom, is the restaurant's manager.

"I like the small-town community," said Jon Leadstrom. "Everybody is welcomed here."

A local businessman, Ed Markel, financed the reopening of the restaurant for the community to have a place to eat. And people like Bontrager help wherever needed, because they want to see the business succeed for the community.

"People come here. It's their second home," Bontrager said. "Some have lunch here every day. It's a place where everybody knows your name. It's family here."

At about 11:30 a.m. a man named Bill strolled through the door to tell Bontrager that those inside forgot to turn on the open sign.

"I'm a red-meat survivor," said Bill, who wouldn't give his last name, as he sat at a chair at the bar.

"That's Bill's seat," Bontrager said. Every weekday he is there for his noon meal.

There also was a large party of residents from Prairie Sunset Home, a local assisted-living community. They arrived like clockwork for their monthly lunch date. Among the crowd was Marilyn Stucky, who lives in one of the Prairie Sunset Home cottages. Along with the monthly lunch, she comes to the steakhouse for the Sunday buffet. She moved to Pretty Prairie from a bigger town in Ohio.

"I love the peacefulness," she said.

Like the rest of the town, the steakhouse was developed by survivors and continues to evolve.

Pretty Prairie's 690 residents might not have a police force or a grocery store, but the town has kept its school doors open and boasts 263 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

One of the town's survival tactics is to keep the annual Pretty Prairie rodeo alive. The rodeo began during the Great Depression as a diversion for some of the community. According to its history, back in 1934 a few farmers got together and hosted a Thanksgiving Day rodeo on the farm of Henry Graber.

Eighty-two years later, you can still find many Grabers helping at the rodeo arena located just behind the high school football field. It beckons thousands every July for four nights of competition. The entire town comes together to host what they call the largest night rodeo in Kansas.

While driving for groceries might be considered a hardship for some, these hardy souls consider it a trade-off for living in Pretty Prairie. Kingman, 14 miles away, is the closest town, followed by Hutchinson (22 miles). The west side of Wichita is 35 miles away.

Going out of town for supplies isn't a problem for people like Kim Bontrager, who moved here from Hutchinson 10 years ago.

"I wanted a quiet, peaceful place. I have loved it ever since," said Bontrager. She recalled the huge welcome basket she received from the community when she moved to town. People honked and waved as she worked in her yard, they stopped by with meals.

"They were welcoming immediately," Bontrager said. "Everybody takes care of everybody."  She loved the town so much, her mother has moved here from Hutchinson.

Hardy stock

Pretty Prairie was built by people who had survival instincts. Pioneer women like Mary Collingwood came to what is now the town in 1872. The widow traveled from Indiana with eight of her nine children. Attracted by the free land, she supposedly said, "My, what a pretty prairie," when she claimed her homestead on the southern side of what is today Pretty Prairie.

Collingwood's mother gave her $250 so she could build a house of wood rather than live in a "soddie" or dugout in the ground. However, a sod house would have been warmer. The first winter, the prairie winds whistled through the wood boards, which had no insulation or plaster. According to the Hutchinson Gazette, the family huddled next to the stove. And when buffalo hunters rode up to the house to get warm, they reportedly paid the youngest children to give them their places by the stove. Then the kids climbed into bed together to stay warm.

There were many hardships, but Collingwood supposedly was discouraged only once, during her first Christmas on the prairie. The family had exhausted its fuel supply and everyone had to go to bed to keep from freezing. However, she read her Bible for encouragement and, come spring, her faith was renewed when she saw the fertile soil.

Collingwood was a survivor and saw hope as far as the eye could see in the prairie she referred to as "fields of fortune."

By the spring of 1873, a stage route was established between Hutchinson and Medicine Lodge. Collingwood had a post office in her home, where travelers would stop for food, shelter and conversation. She bought 14 oxen and had her boys begin breaking prairie. The family knew only hard work. Some of her progeny went on to create Collingwood Grain Co., and others went into banking and farming.

Small-town life

While a group of volunteer citizens currently patrols the streets to keep the town safe, inside a former hardware store there is a community group known as Ubuntu, founded by Liz Shepherd and Therese Ketchem, which is also focused on the community's needs.

Ubuntu is an idea from South Africa which is translated as humanity toward others, Ketchem said.

"That's what it's about," Ketchem said.

The two women started Ubuntu as a thrift shop and were immediately overwhelmed with donations of clothing, so they changed their focus to used furniture. But they also are using the building on Main Street as a community center. They offer art and yoga classes. This is where people can come and play bunco on the first Tuesday of every month.

"Everything we do goes back in the community," Ketchem said. "Liz wrote a grant for three AEDs to have around town. We also have fundraisers and street dances to raise money."

Ketchem said the community is so supportive.

"The four churches work together and people take care of each other," Ketchem said. "If we see a need and can't take care of it, we contact a representative at the bank or the food bank."

Now, for the first time a group in the community is planning to start an economic development group.

"They are planning to get people together with a vision for Pretty Prairie," Ketchem said.

All these years later, Mary Collingwood's pretty prairie is still a reality.