Reliving childhood dreams and fantasies have become big business in our pop culture-driven society and has tremendous impact on the travel industry as well. Just take a look at the myriad collection of reality television shows that have flooded cable television over the last few years.
You could be an Indiana Jones type and get on Survivor the TV Series, or The Greatest Race Adventure. Perhaps you always dreamed of being an interior decorator, a chef or a pop Diva; maybe even a super hero. here’s a reality show and travel itinerary out there for everyone to fulfill their dreams.
For example, what young boy or girl never dreamed of being an honest-to-goodness cowboy or cowgirl, and yes, there is a reality show for that too, called Cowboy U.
But what if you don’t care about being on television and just want to have the genuine “Cowboy” experience?
Well you’re in luck. For the past decade the real thing has been taking place just outside the West Texas city of Presidio. It’s called The Big Bend State Park Longhorn Cattle Drive and the whole adventure will have you sitting tall in the saddle and calling yourself a true Texan before it’s all said and done.
Now mind you, this is no sissified travel package where you get to gently ride along and pretend to be a cowboy. Though no experience is required, you must be physically fit enough to ride a horse and be willing to learn quickly, work hard, have team spirit, bring plenty of padded jeans (just kidding), and most of all, a sense of adventure. And a good sense of humor is always welcome as you may land smack on your backside a few times.
The park staff came up with the idea of making the cattle drive a bi-annual event after the popularity of the film City Slickers hit the mainstream, and a local ranch had success at conducting a cattle drive as well.
For the past ten plus years Linda Walker, a true Texas Cattlewoman, and the staff at Big Bend State Park have been introducing experienced riders and greenhorns alike to the most amazing cattle on the planet,the Texas Longhorn. In addition, participants get the chance to experience the big sky country and open spaces of this remarkable and pristine region.
The purpose of this three day event is to actually go out and find the spring season’s newest Longhorn calves and round them up for tagging, inoculation and branding, and then drive them back out to pasture.
Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, finding the stray steers in West Texas amid thousands of rugged acres is not as easy as you might think. While the Texas Longhorn is one of the largest cattle species in the world, their size pales in comparison to the wild majestic and immense landscape you must cover in order to find them.
But you will never forget the feeling of riding along and seeing a countryside that you know probably hasn’t changed much in the last 20,000 years.
Adding to the excitement of the adventure is the animals enormous size. Let’s just say the animal you’ll be rounding up is about a ton in weight (2,000 lbs.) and has a horn breadth of six feet or more. It’s this horn breadth that longhorn breeders are looking for — even more than weight. Thus the name, the Longhorns!
Actually, longhorns are among the easiest and hardiest to drive, according to Charles Goodnight (the Texas cowman credited with inventing the chuck wagon).
“As trail cattle, their equal never has been known. Their hoofs are superior to those of any other cattle. In stampedes, they hold together better, are easier to circle during a run, and rarely split off when you commence to turn the front. No animal of the cow kind will shift and take care of itself under all conditions as do the longhorn breed. They can go farther without water and endure more suffering than others,” he reports.
Can you imagine the adrenaline lrush you get at the sight of a herd of stampeding longhorns?
The admiration of the longhorn breed in Texas goes far beyond some iconic symbol of the state. History gives credit to the longhorn for bringing the Texas economy along after the civil war and creating a lasting image of Texans around the world as a hardy breed.
The Big Bend Ranch was among the first to regions of Texas to give birth to the longhorn Industry. In the 1850’s, it was cattleman Milton Faver who brought ranching to Big Bend region. In 1908, Big Bend Ranch was called Sauceda Ranch. It wasn’t until the mid 1950’s that it officially became the Big Bend Ranch.
Robert O. Anderson, the ranch’s last private owner, began stocking the land with registered longhorn cattle in the early 1960s. When the state of Texas acquired Big Bend Ranch from Anderson in 1988, some 200 herd of longhorns came with the deal. Decades of geographic isolation and careful breeding preserved the cattle’s bloodline, resulting in one of the nations most genetically pure herds of longhorns. For land conservation purposes, the herd is kept to about the same size.
Annually, the yearlings are sold — primarily for their history and bloodline, not their meat. The funds raised from these sales help continue state park programs.
Today Big Bend Ranch State Park covers nearly 300,000 acres — about one third the size of Big Bend National Park (which covers over 800,000 acres). Let’s just say you’ll never run out of room to explore and hunt for the lost longhorns!
The Cattle drive is staged twice a year and is a great way to fulfill your “cowboy” dreams.
After all, there’s nothing like eating a hardy meal chuck wagon style.
The trail drive evenings bring a sense of real camaraderie as everyone shares the tales of the days events. Every evening the campfire is graced with the outstanding performances of authentic western entertainers. The sunrises and sunsets will live in your memory forever.
If you opt to sleep out on the range with the herd and the real cowboys instead of back at the bunkhouse, you’ll witness the most magnificent starry sky you’ve ever seen.
After the three days are up you’ll look back in amazement at the things you accomplished, the friends you made, and a piece of Texas history you really became a part of – if only briefly. Now you can sit tall in the saddle and call yourself a true Texan and a cowboy or cowgirl.
Participants should contact Lajitas Stables as they organize the drives each year. There are only 25 slots available for each drive, so hurry.
For those who don’t want to cowboy up but would like to see some longhorns up close, be sure to check out these Texas State Parks that have longhorn herds for visitors to view.