The Cattle Drive

Before the Civil War, Texas was the land of cattle. After the war that started to change, there were too many cattle. And the long drive became part of American history. The drives became a part of Americana for the next 15 years and later became the subject countless books, movies, and television productions. Cattle sales could yield another few dollars a head after the long drive and this was after paying the drovers and expenses.

Not all beef made it to the railroad terminals in Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska, some were sold to forts along the way. But most were moved north to the railroad and shipped east. A little-known fact is that some of the cattle were taken east and then exported to European markets. When the markets waned, the cattle were still marching north to supply ranches and farms in Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, and other points north and west.

So many herds were moving that in 1884 the Texas Cattleman at the National Stock Growers Convention talked about building a trail, six miles wide and fenced from Texas to Canada. The trail would have entered Wyoming at Pine Bluffs and followed the already well know Texas Trail north through Douglas and Sheridan and on into Montana. The idea went so far as to be introduced as a bill in Congress but went no further. Good thing – two years later the cattle boom went bust.

So many cattle marched north at about 15 miles a day that a few rules of the road or drive were honored, they included.

ü No passing the herd in front of you
ü Do not drive your cows onto range occupied by another herd
ü Don’t pick off another herds strays
ü Do not eat from another man’s herd

Git Along, Little Dogies (traditional trail ballad, first published 1910)
As I was walking one morning for pleasure
I spied a cowpuncher riding along
His hat was throwed back and his spurs were a-jingling
And as he approached he was singing this song

Whoopee ti yi yo, git along little dogies
It's your misfortune and none of my own
Whoopie ti yi yo, git along little dogies
You know that Wyoming will be your new home 
Needed many good horses to drive the herds north.
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