The cattle drive was a misadventure from the moment we got up. About the only thing that went perfectly was the alarm clock that rolled us out of bed on time. Thus, this is how our day began on the Great Florida Cattle Drive, 2016.
I spent time to dress in period clothing. I wanted to think about Elizabeth Walker and her 400 mile walk from South Carolina. What was it like for her to follow her husband all that way behind a foundation herd and dragging along their five children.
As I put on each garment, I tried to imagine what her mornings might have been like. Did she dress quickly and get cooking right away, or did she pick up and feed the baby first. Did Jesse get up first and make her a fire?
I tried to dress quickly, not just because I thought she probably did it that way but also because it was cold. I could see my breathe. I quickly slipped on a pair of pantaloons, a long under slip, chemise, ruffled petticoat and finally over all this a full-length brown skirt and white blouse.
I have to admit that I fudged though. For the low temperatures I added a white turtleneck under the blouse–one that I had worn the day before. Lord, I was tired before I even stepped out of the tent.
Breakfast was standing in a long line for a long time; but the grits, bacon, eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy were wonderful.
Breaking camp was an adventure in itself. The tent was soaking wet. It was 36 degrees when we got up with a heavy dew. On the positive side, the waning full moon was wonderful. It was like sleeping under a spotlight in the tent. I never had to have a flashlight to go to the port-a-potty, three trips in one night. geesh!
On three different occasions runaway horses flew near our campsite. All three were already saddled, and one ran through with another unsaddled and unbridled horse following her. One of the horses caused another man’s horse to get a little crazy, and I felt in danger while rolling up the tent of being stepped on by the whirling horse. I jumped up and almost ran over a very surprised Chuck. All the horses were frisky and competitive with so many other horses so close by.
We were required to load our two 60-pound duffel bags and deliver them to an assigned stock trailer. Everyone was throwing theirs in, but the glut of duffels at the door were stacked too high for us to do the same. So Chuck being the Good Samaritan that he is, got up in there and began moving them farther back. People started bringing theirs in and throwing them to Chuck. He spent a good 20 extra minutes there, too nice to let them know that we were not the hired hands.
So that is how we missed the wagons, which we were supposed to walk beside. We looked up and they were almost out of sight. We thought it wouldn’t be a problem, since there were still hundreds of horses and riders milling around waiting for their turn to go. We set out on foot and began our journey.
We thought we were walking eight to ten miles today. We were wrong. It turned out to be 13, eight before lunch.
There has been a lot of rain here; and all the ditches, streams, and wet prairies are full. Within an hour, our feet were soaking wet. Waterproof doesn’t mean a thing when the water is over your shoe tops.
Chuck slid partially into a stream once. By then the temperatures had risen considerably. It dropped to 36 last night but by the time we finished it was in the low 70s.
Riders kept passing us. A lady named Edith from Gainesville joined us. She was walking by herself and caught up with us when we were looking for a way to cross a swollen stream.
Together the three of us kept moving along. Finally, I began to get a blister after about six miles of walking in wet socks. An EMT truck stopped to help and that was the last we seen of anyone else.
We walked from field to field, through unimproved pastures and improved pastures, following tree lines, crossing into gated fields, and all we had to guide us were tracks and fresh horse manure. We took several wrong turns and had to backtrack.
One time we walked over a quarter mile not knowing if we were exactly on the trail or not until we stumbled across a family in a broken down covered wagon, waiting for for the forest service to come pull them out. They offered water and cookies, and I would survive to regret not taking them up on the offer.
The countryside was beautiful though.
Lunch came and went. We knew that they were stopping for lunch, but we had no idea how far we had fallen behind.
About 12:30 pm the Johnelle in me revolted and refused to go any further without rest and some food. We stopped under some pine trees and dined quickly on water and peanuts. Thank goodness Chuck brought a large zip-lock bag of nuts.
In the meantime Edith called her daughter to see how far ahead of us the group had stopped for lunch. They were over two and a half miles away. We asked for a rescue, and two young men came back in a four-wheeler to pick us up.
We caught up with the group and called it a day.
Edith’s daughter was holding two lunches for us, but her horse ran away and she was out chasing after it. We didn’t dare let the drive’s wagons and chow wagons leave without catching a ride, so we came into the evening camp around 3 pm without lunch.
I remembered Maple Nuts that we had bought at Bass Pro Shop; and we drank more water and shared these, too. So that was lunch–Maple nuts and water
What a day. We are discussing just how we should do the drive tomorrow.
Hopefully, we’ll make it; but we’re thinking that we may try to only do a half day, if we can get a ride again.
Also, we never saw the cattle all day long, except until they came in for the evening. They left before we finished breakfast this morning, and they left lunch before we got there. Not exactly the experience I expected, but what a misadventure!
I also realized that I had not thought about Elizabeth since we left the morning camp.
There is a little of everything out here. People dressed in western or in period costumes. One young cowboy dressed like Rowdy Yates. Some look like they’ve been rode hard and put up wet.
We have men who dressed like saloon card sharks and ladies dressed like pioneer women. One woman dressed like a soiled dove, and she’s quite popular. Very interesting group. These are pictures from one of the two earlier drives.