And that’s all she wrote!
The 2017 Chisholm Trail Cattle Drive was a huge success!
We loved being a part of this experience. As filmmakers, we tried to stay back and not influence the actions of the participants. We tried to capture the legitimate experience on camera.
The drovers embraced us. They treated us as “one of the family”. I think that – for all of us – this experience is one that enhances and enriches one’s life, in ways that cannot be imagined.
I know that I, personally, have been affected by this cattle drive in profound ways. I have made friendships. I didn’t expect that. As one drover said, “When you make a friend out here, you’ve made a friend for life.”
Things I learned:
- When you just know you have the perfect shot – don’t gloat or pat your own back or congratulate yourself too soon. Someone will come up and ruin your shot.
- People really, really like horses and cattle and cowboys and wagons. Hollywood may have determined that it is not worth the investment to make a western movie, anymore. I will tell you this: Hollywood is wrong. There is a HUGE market for people who like westerns.
- The tops of your ears can get sunburned! The first week, I wore my cowboy hat(s), which cover a lot more area. Therefore your ears are fine! This second week, the wind was up a lot more. I could not keep my cowboy hats on. I switched to a white ball cap – which I could scrunch down on my head. (Even at that – it still blew off more times than I could count.) And how many times did complete strangers go run after my hat? More times than I can count! Lesson learned: people have a lot more courtesy about chasing your hat – than about coming to stand in your shot/driving into your shot/talking during your shot.
- My movie partner, Don, carried me through this movie. I always knew he was an amazing actor. In that configuration – he is in front of the camera, and I am behind it. That works. But when we agreed to take on this project – it is two of us behind the camera(s). His innate talent at cinematography blew me away. The thing is – he does it automatically. He makes all these decisions and computations fast. And he gets the shot. (And when I have the occasional artistic complete and total meltdown – he has been the strong and stable one who carries me through it.)
- Filming this movie was four times more intense than I had anticipated.
- Fatigue has kicked my ass. It started in Oklahoma and it kicked it all the way to Wichita!
- If you have a low wind day (which is a miracle) someone will fly a drone and ruin your audio!
- If you ask a drover what they most liked about the cattle drive – the most common answer you’d get is: “I get to ride my horse!”
What is my takeaway from the experience?
For starters – how did the pioneers do this? How did the drovers on the Chisholm Trail do this?
How did they forge their way into territory with only their horse or only their horses and wagons? In the olden days, there were no grocery stores, nor convenience stores, nor motels, nor feed stores.
What gave a person enough courage to hitch up a wagon and travel to the great unknown?
If I want to go somewhere, I hop in a vehicle, I turn the key and I go. A lot of times, if I have to stop and open a garage door, I resent that level of “slow down”.
What happens when your main mode of travel is equine? If you have to saddle a horse before you go anywhere – that takes time. If you have to hitch a wagon – that takes time.
You always have to take care of your animals first. It doesn’t matter if you are thirsty or tired. You take care of your horse before you take care of yourself.
I am in awe of those men and women – one hundred and fifty years ago – who made this journey up the Chisholm Trail. For months, they worked hard, in brutal weather with no shelter. I don’t know about you – but if there is a storm coming, I find the nearest roof. Those old time trail riders – if there was hail, they’d put their saddles over their shoulders to protect themselves.
If the ground was wet and if there was no way to avoid the muck – they would sleep in a triangle configuration – resting one’s head on another’s knees or lower legs – in order to be able to sleep without having your head in the mud.
Each night of this 2017 cattle drive, I came home. I rested my head on my pillow. I slept in my soft, comfortable bed. Under my own roof. After eating food…a lot of which other people cooked! I did a lot of takeout. Cooking was too much work for the duration of this cattle drive. Every day I’d come home with my brain fried from the level of thinking that doing this gig entails.
The whole time I was coming home to my own bed each night (while driving or riding in a vehicle with the air conditioner on high), those drovers were out there – sleeping on the ground. They had no respite from the heat/wind/bugs.
They ate a lot better than the pioneers did. Those meals cooked over the fire looked wonderful!
But the level of work involved in preparing those meals was astounding!
These drovers taught me what fortitude is. I learned so much about history. I learned a lot about humanity on this drive.
My life is sooo much richer – for having had this experience!
At virtually every corner – observers, crowds, families and friends gathered to watch the cattle drive pass by.
It is such a joy to see the kids out and about – learning about history. Every single one of these drovers took the time to share, to teach, to interact. That’s why they did this.
This cattle drive was more than a ceremonial experience. It connected people.
It connected people.
People from all walks of life would come to see the cattle, the horses, the drovers and the wagons.
Many, many times, I’d film a parade in a town, and when I’d turn around, the people would have a look of awe on their faces.
Imagine the joy, of watching a child get to pet a horse for the first time.
From the past – to the present – to the future, friendships are born. Connections are established.
Joy is shared!