The Western Kansas Saloon & Grill in Downtown WaKeeney is well known for its great food and friendly service, but did you know it’s also home to six beautiful paintings depicting pioneer life on our beautiful unsettled prairie?
Six oversized scenes, painted by local artist Madeline Musick and commissioned by the WaKeeney Art Council, bring to life the many facets of life in a wild land, when there were more buffalo than people and cowboys roamed as free as the four winds. The paintings are unnamed, but I’ve come to know them as—
The Buffalo Herd
The iconic animal of the prairie and our famous Kansas sunset are the subject of this painting. A family of buffalo and the large expanse of deep blue sky and sunlit clouds convey the coolness of dawn on the prairie. You can almost hear the meadowlarks singing.
In this painting dark colors against a white background and the sparseness of vegetation found in the landscape suggest the harshness of native life lived outside. Native Americans were a common sight when the first settlers staked their claims in Trego County.
Windmill at Sunrise
Our big beautiful sky is famous around the world for it’s beautiful sunsets and sunrises, and Musick’s third painting captures this majestic sight as a backdrop to a windmill that’s been cast into the shadows in this painting.
The hard work of a cowboy and the vastness of the prairie is illustrated in the Cattle Drive. Days spent outside on the hot and dusty prairie moving the wealth of the land towards the railroads was an important part of economic growth in the early days of settlement in Northwest Kansas.
Pioneer Woman at Her Cabin
The image of a pioneer woman and her child in search of a wild bouquet to decorate her simple home is my favorite of the six canvases. Holding onto her scissors, a tool that was surely quite precious to her, she faces the wind to make her family’s cabin more beautiful.
Cowboys Sharing a Drink at the Saloon
There’s something pretty familiar about those men at the bar in the final painting. Could it be the elaborate facial hair, or maybe the long gray ponytail? More likely it’s the comradery of the group enjoying a beer together. Whatever you attribute it to, the easygoing nature of these four ombres is what I see in this painting.
Next time you’re in WaKeeney stop in at the Western Kansas Saloon & Grill to enjoy the art of Madeline Musick. The Saloon has a place at the bar ready for you and your friends to enjoy an ice-cold beer and a tasty plate of great food, too!