Christmas allows big wishes. They don’t always come true. But sometimes they do. So I’m going to make one. I wish for a wealthy, thoughtful and fun-loving Santa Claus to create for us a Northland version of Benjamin Ranch. Come on Santa, you’re out there somewhere, and don’t you share an affinity for the “Days of ’49” when folks went to dig out the gold? Or perhaps the various pioneers who went to Santa Fe, Salt Lake City, California and Oregon – only to return to Platte County and take up farming or shop keeping because they were broke in the West or homesick or lonely. Ah, but the stories they told around the old pot-bellied wood stoves that could be as much a draw for visitors at a crossroads store this time of year as crackers and candy. Adventure – you crave it when you’re young and savor memories when you’re old. The West held romance and Platte County was once the gateway to the Great Plains and the Missouri River highway toward vast open country – freedom. Today just climbing onto a saddle of a horse is an adventure for most of us. Benjamin Ranch was a Kansas City iconic landmark for many decades in southeast Jackson County. Just a week or so ago the final sale was held for mementos like standup cutouts of Roy Rogers or tack for horses. It lingers on the net: benjaminranch.com. Once upon a time Benjamin Ranch was out in the country with a pretty big acreage. Then the city grew up around it in the old Bannister Mall area. The ranch became an island of old 1800s Kansas City in the modern world. Now, the Cerner company is building yet another campus there as they encircle the metro. But Benjamin Ranch is remembered with fondness. Most people recall it for honest, true-blue rodeos and horse shows. The ranch had a stagecoach and wagons for rides. Cowboys and cowgirls kept their horses at stables there and rode on trails across the farm. Equestrians kept their horses over at fancy places in Johnson County. But those who felt their lives somewhat a continuation of the path set by cowhands and explorers hung out at Benjamin Ranch. A café there was famed for serving real country breakfasts at a working-folks price. The ranch was a private, money-making business. Weddings and parties were held in one barn. Horses are big business yet today. There are a few stables around Platte County. Our apple orchard and pumpkin patch businesses offer a return to the countryside enjoyed by city folk, primarily in autumn. Platte County is lucky to host some very progressive farmers serving the growing local foods market. Wisps of the county’s 1800s and early 1900s sodbuster farm tradition lives on. But what I want is someone with enough long-term cash and the willingness to stubbornly pursue a gateway to the West theme. The old Campfire Boys and Girls summer camp site on the river bluffs near Parkville would have been perfect, especially if bottom ground could have been added so history ties could be made. But the former is now in private hands and the latter too valuable in today’s farm economy. However, a Benjamin Ranch copy could be located anywhere in the County. Though the bluffs are extra ripe with history and look westward across the river. But the Edgerton, New Market and Iatan areas have more undeveloped land. This could have been done in Kansas City North, if the right Santa was willing. Maybe it still could be. But those lands are shrinking. Yet it is stunning how pockets of really wild, scenic lands have remained as green space in Kansas City west of the Line Creek valley. It took stubborn cowboys and cowgirls to venture into the West. Making a western-themed ranch work here would require a person with long-term commitment and a mule-headed attitude. Our parks could not do it, too many hoops to jump through. But putting a guest ranch next to a big park where trails are made available and ecosystems can intertwine makes sense. I was at Benjamin Ranch a few times for news events. But my main memories are from when the ranch hosted bluegrass festivals a few years in a row back in the 1990s. I played music onstage one year with the Bluegrass Tornadoes. What I remember was a warm, old-timey, down-home, country feel to everything from the parking lot to the corral to the big barn with a stage and meeting rooms. The place felt like a homecoming to people from all walks of life. The Kansas City metro is poorer without living, breathing, get-outdoors tie to horses and our western heritage. Someplace is needed that feels like a community crossroads on the way West, where a little manure or dirt on your boots is scraped off without worry. Oh cowboy Santa, please step forth. Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area with his family, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.