Another Cattle Drive era is needed
By Trent Loos
Oh, how things have changed, and without a doubt the average American consumer has no idea how much. I am actually writing this from the Land Down Under in South Australia. The LambEx 2014 Convention is well underway and quite inspiring, but more about that next week. It was the 12-hour layover at DFW and the time spent in the Fort Worth Stockyards that I want to spend a little time on today.
It is no secret to anyone who knows me that the Cattle Drive Era from 1865 to 1880 is without question my favorite period in our nation’s history. So to spend any time walking around Fort Worth with its history and facts about how it all began is quite a thrill for me.
A couple of things really jumped out at me this time for some reason. First of all, they have the always impressive Texas Longhorns that take a “Cattle Drive” down the street twice daily. These beasts are nothing short of amazing.
Second, they have two old Longhorn steers that are present and willing to stand motionless for countless people to climb on board to take a picture. I saw a lady hand the feller managing the steer $2, and I couldn’t help but think that back in the day that Longhorn steer would need to be gathered from the Texas brush and trailed 500 miles north. That life-threatening journey could not have been any piece of cake. All of the effort, sweat and toil would yield them $4 per head for any critter that survived. Six million actually did during that time period. It is just a little tough to get your mind around the fact that in today’s world people would be willing to pay nearly the same for a 60-second photo shoot as the beast was worth 140 years ago.
Of course, there is more. Right next to the steer photo op is a pen full of animals including sheep, goats and couple of llamas that people have the opportunity to see and feed. Someone in their infinite wisdom thought maybe people (especially kids) would like to feed those animals. Yup! They sell a cup full of feed for $3 that gives you the right to then feed their animals. How clever is that? I sell you the feed that you then feed to my animals. Genius!
I am not naÃ¯ve enough to think that this type of thing doesn’t happen all around the nation every day, but it certainly tells me a couple of things. Even in what is considered tough economic times, people are willing to pay to get closer to nature. Secondly, there must be more we can do in a very simple way to reach out and let people know what really goes on in food production.
We were there on the Saturday after Independence Day 2014, and I was actually taking pictures of the people who were taking pictures of the Cattle Drive. I don’t honestly know if they are most enthralled with the whole experience because they saw “Lonesome Dove” or they simply have a hunger to be more in touch with something that has a meaning.
I was making the assumption that most love the movie concept instead of truly appreciating the efforts those vaqueros put forth to really rebuild the nation after the Civil War. Honestly, I believe there is such a parallel in how important the Cattle Drive era was in bringing hooved beasts to feed the people and how animals again hold the potential to connect our nation between those who feed and those who consume.
Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.