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Cattle Drive And Job Hierarchy And Definitions


The first large-scale effort to drive cattle from Texas to the nearest railhead for shipment to Chicago occurred in 1866, when many Texas ranchers banded together to drive their cattle to the closest point that railroad tracks reached, which at that time was in Sedalia, Missouri. Farmers in eastern Kansas, afraid that Longhorns would transmit cattle fever to local animals as well as trample crops, formed groups that threatened to beat or shoot cattlemen found on their lands. Therefore, the 1866 drive failed to reach the railroad, and the cattle herds were sold for low prices.[46] In 1867, a cattle shipping facility was built west of farm country around the railhead at Abilene, Kansas, and became a center of cattle shipping, loading over 36,000 head of cattle that year.[47] The route from Texas to Abilene became known as the Chisholm Trail, after Jesse Chisholm, who marked out the route. It ran through present-day Oklahoma, which then was Indian Territory. Later, other trails forked off to different railheads, including those at Dodge City and Wichita, Kansas.[48] By 1877, the largest of the cattle-shipping boom towns, Dodge City, Kansas, shipped out 500,000 head of cattle.[49]




cattle drive and job hierarchy and definitions


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Cattle drives had to strike a balance between speed and the weight of the cattle. While cattle could be driven as far as 25 miles (40 km) in a single day, they would lose so much weight that they would be hard to sell when they reached the end of the trail. Usually they were taken shorter distances each day, allowed periods to rest and graze both at midday and at night.[50] On average, a herd could maintain a healthy weight moving about 15 miles (25 km) per day. Such a pace meant that it would take as long as two months to travel from a home ranch to a railhead. The Chisholm trail, for example, was 1,000 miles (1,600 km) miles long.[51]


On average, a single herd of cattle on a drive numbered about 3,000 head. To herd the cattle, a crew of at least 10 cowboys was needed, with three horses per cowboy. Cowboys worked in shifts to watch the cattle 24 hours a day, herding them in the proper direction in the daytime and watching them at night to prevent stampedes and deter theft. The crew also included a cook, who drove a chuck wagon, usually pulled by oxen, and a horse wrangler to take charge of the remuda, or herd of spare horses. The wrangler on a cattle drive was often a very young cowboy or one of lower social status, but the cook was a particularly well-respected member of the crew, as not only was he in charge of the food, he also was in charge of medical supplies and had a working knowledge of practical medicine.[52]


Over time, the cowboys of the American West developed a personal culture of their own, a blend of frontier and Victorian values that even retained vestiges of chivalry. Such hazardous work in isolated conditions also bred a tradition of self-dependence and individualism, with great value put on personal honesty, exemplified in songs and poetry.[61] The cowboy often worked in an all-male environment, particularly on cattle drives, and in the frontier west, men often significantly outnumbered women.[62]


The timing of the cattle industry's growth meant that cowboy imagery grew to have extraordinary power. Entangled in the vicious politics of the postwar years, Democrats, especially those in the old Confederacy, imagined the West as a land untouched by Republican politicians they hated. They developed an image of the cowboys as men who worked hard, played hard, lived by a code of honor, protected themselves, and asked nothing of the government. In the hands of Democratic newspaper editors, the realities of cowboy life -- the poverty, the danger, the debilitating hours -- became romantic. Cowboys embodied virtues Democrats believed Republicans were destroying by creating a behemoth government catering to lazy ex-slaves. By the 1860s, cattle drives were a feature of the plains landscape, and Democrats had made cowboys a symbol of rugged individual independence, something they insisted Republicans were destroying.


Likewise, cowboys in movies were often shown fighting with American Indians. Most armed conflicts occurred between Native people and cavalry units of the U.S. Army. Relations between cowboys and Native Americans were varied but were generally unfriendly.[48][69] Native people usually allowed cattle herds to pass through for a toll of ten cents a head but raided cattle drives and ranches in times of active white-Native conflict or food shortages. In the 1860s, for example, the Comanche created problems in Western Texas.[70] Similar attacks also occurred with the Apache, Cheyenne and Ute Indians.[71] Cowboys were armed against both predators and human thieves, and often used their guns to drive away people of any race who attempted to rustle cattle.


There are few records mentioning girls or women working to drive cattle up the cattle trails of the Old West. Women performed considerable ranch work, and in some cases (especially when the men went to war or on embarked on long cattle drives) ran them. There is little doubt that women, particularly the wives and daughters of men who owned small ranches and could not afford to hire large numbers of outside laborers, worked side-by-side with men and thus needed to ride horses and perform related tasks. The largely undocumented contributions of women to the West were acknowledged in law; the Western states led the United States in granting women the right to vote, beginning with Wyoming in 1869.[72] Early photographers such as Evelyn Cameron documented the life of working ranch women during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


Following the American Civil War, vaquero culture combined with the cattle herding and drover traditions of the southeastern United States that evolved as settlers moved west. Additional influences developed out of Texas as cattle trails were created to meet up with the railroad lines of Kansas and Nebraska, in addition to expanding ranching opportunities in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain Front, east of the Continental Divide.[89] The new settlers required more horses, to be trained faster, and brought a bigger and heavier horse with them. This led to modifications in the bridling and bitting traditions used by the vaquero.[90] Thus, the Texas cowboy tradition arose from a combination of cultural influences, in addition to the need for adaptation to the geography and climate of west Texas and the need to conduct long cattle drives to get animals to market.


In the 18th century, Creek, Seminole, and other Indian people moved into the depopulated areas of Florida and started herding the cattle left from the Spanish ranches. In the 19th century, most tribes in the area were dispossessed of their land and cattle and pushed south or west by white settlers and the United States government. By the middle of the 19th century white ranchers were running large herds of cattle on the extensive open range of central and southern Florida. The hides and meat from Florida cattle became such a critical supply item for the Confederacy during the American Civil War that a unit of Cow Cavalry was organized to round up and protect the herds from Union raiders.[105] After the Civil War, and into the 20th Century, Florida cattle were periodically driven to ports on the Gulf of Mexico, such as Punta Rassa near Fort Myers, Florida, and shipped to market in Cuba.[106]


The most common motorized vehicle driven in modern ranch work is the pickup truck. Sturdy and roomy, with a high ground clearance, and often four-wheel drive capability, it has an open box, called a "bed", and can haul supplies from town or over rough trails on the ranch. It is used to pull stock trailers transporting cattle and livestock from one area to another and to market. With a horse trailer attached, it carries horses to distant areas where they may be needed. Motorcycles are sometimes used instead of horses for some tasks, but the most common smaller vehicle is the four-wheeler. It will carry a single cowboy quickly around the ranch for small chores. In areas with heavy snowfall, snowmobiles are also common. Some jobs remain, particularly working cattle in rough terrain or close quarters, that are best performed by cowboys on horseback.


The word "cowboy" is sometimes used pejoratively. Originally this derived from the behavior of some cowboys in the boomtowns of Kansas, at the end of the trail for long cattle drives, where cowboys developed a reputation for violence and wild behavior due to the inevitable impact of large numbers of cowboys, mostly young single men, receiving their pay in large lump sums upon arriving in communities with many drinking and gambling establishments.[129]


Early cattle drives headed west to the California gold fields after 1850, when cattle worth $5 to $10 a head in Texas would garner five to 20 times that amount in San Francisco. Most drives to California took five or six months.


Starting in the vicinity of San Antonio or Fredericksburg, many drives followed a southern route through El Paso to San Diego or Los Angeles and on north to San Francisco. These drives slowed by 1857, as the cattle market in California reached a glut. By 1859, only a trickle of cattle moved to the West Coast. After gold was discovered in the Rocky Mountains, some cattle were driven to the gold fields there, starting about 1858.


Cattle drives to northern and western markets, and later to railroad-loading facilities, started in earnest in 1866, when an estimated 260,000 head of cattle crossed the Red River. The drives were conducted for only about 20 years, becoming unnecessary with the advent of the railroads and refrigeration in the 1880s.


Cattle drives usually began in the spring after roundup, as grass was available then and the herd could be delivered to its destination in the north before cold weather set in. Livestock from several different owners was usually included in a trail herd. The trail boss obtained documentation from each rancher noting the owner's brand, earmark and number of cattle. Then all animals in the drive were branded with the same road brand, regardless of ownership. 350c69d7ab


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