By JUDY SHERARD
ELLIS -- It's a scene right out of an old Western movie -- a man on horseback, his dog at his side and cattle grazing on the nearby grass.
But it wasn't. It was cattle owner Greg Wiesner's solution to the summer's drought.
It wasn't unusual this summer for residents out for an evening stroll or walking the dog on the eastern edge of town to see the mixed herd of red Angus, shorthorns and part longhorns munching away in the pair of vacant lots across the street from St. Mary Catholic Church.
With rain scarce this spring and early summer, the grass in Wiesner's pasture quickly was depleted, so the cattle ambled the block or so to town.
"The cattle doesn't care (that the lots are in town) -- just so they have something to eat," Wiesner said.
In addition to providing a meal for them, the vacant lots get "mowed."
Once in a while, he uses a traditional lawn mower to trim the lots.
"They're trained to come to this lot," Wiesner said of the 10 head of cattle.
Just as in the old West, Wiesner kept an eye on his herd from atop Spirit, a 23-year-old quarter horse, who's 10 percent thoroughbred.
Wiesner bought the bay, a reddish brown horse with black mane and tail, "for my grandson. He didn't take onto it," he said.
That's clearly not the case with Wiesner, who sat comfortably in the saddle.
Residents of the houses adjacent to the vacant lots on Monroe and Walnut streets don't mind the unusual neighborhood visitors. They even bring guests out to take a look.
Wiesner said children occasionally come for a ride on Spirit.
"It's a PR thing," he said with a smile.
After the herd picks among the vegetation for a few hours, Wiesner herds the cattle along Sixth Street to their pasture for the night.
"He just does this," Wiesner said of Spirit loping around the lot when it was time to round up the herd.
"All you got to do is stay on him."
Wiesner's dog, Oceta, a schnauzer-beagle mix, trots along after.
Taking care of his animals is a hobby for Wiesner, who works in maintenance at Fort Hays State University in Hays.
"This is golf," he said.