Apart from numerous feedlots fattening cattle for slaughter and a few wheat, corn, and beet farms fed by water diverted from the Arkansas River, there’s not much to see in the 120 miles of barren plains that stretch east from the Colorado border. On the western outskirts of Garden City, the region’s biggest town, US-50 runs through the meat-packing town of Holcomb, notorious as the site of the In Cold Blood murders documented by Truman Capote and in a pair of mid-2000s Hollywood bio-pics (Capote and Infamous). In 1959, Perry Smith and Richard Hickock ruthlessly killed all four members of the Clutter family during a robbery attempt. Both killers were eventually captured, convicted, and executed.
One of the biggest towns in this part of the Great Plains, Garden City (pop. 26,658) is perhaps best known for its huge public swimming pool: around 330 feet by 220 feet, with 2.6 million gallons of water. It’s south of US-50 at the end of 4th Street, near the Arkansas River in Finnup Park, and it only costs $2. Next to the swimming pool is a small historical museum and the nice Lee Richardson Zoo (620/276-1250), with rhinos, elephants, giraffes, and monkeys. The zoo is free for people on foot but costs $10 for a drive-through tour.
North of the zoo in the brick-paved downtown, which, unlike many places, shows few signs of businesses fleeing to the highway frontages, you can window-shop or even buy something at the department stores and antiques shops. Another notable downtown landmark is the Windsor Hotel, closed and awaiting refurbishment. After its construction in 1887, this “Waldorf of the Prairies” drew lots of cowpoke-luminaries, including Buffalo Bill Cody.
Garden City supports not only the usual gas stations, motels, and fast food, but also, best of all, the 3,760-acre Sandsage Bison Range and Wildlife Area, which may be viewed along the west side of Business US-83, around a half mile south of town.
The dividing line between the central and mountain time zones is 15 miles west of Garden City. Set your clocks and watches accordingly.