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The finish line

The cattle drive arrives in Wichita!

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.”

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Things I learned:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)
  5. Filming this movie was four times more intense than I had anticipated.
  6. Fatigue has kicked my ass. It started in Oklahoma and it kicked it all the way to Wichita!
  7. If you have a low wind day (which is a miracle) someone will fly a drone and ruin your audio!
  8. 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.

They have herded the cattle for the last time.

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!

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News article from KAKE about the Chisholm Trail ride.

News article from Sunup Oklahoma about the Chisholm Trail ride.

 

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Modern conveniences

We are lucky, in 2017 to have a lot of modern conveniences to make this journey much easier.

We are so lucky to have escorts along the trail. These law enforcement and highway crews keep us safe.

I personally saw one incident where a driver was not going to obey the law. This driver was going to go around an emergency vehicle and drive – way too fast – into the cattle. That officer stopped that driver and protected us! These good people escorting us have kept us safe! Thank you!

What else do you need for a modern cattle drive?

Food!

The cowboys of old ate beans and biscuits, and maybe some dried beef jerky.

But in 2017, we are lucky. One of the support vehicles is a trailer with a refrigerator and freezer. It is powered by a generator. The drovers have had wonderful meals prepared in the open air over a campfire.

No day old beans and stale biscuits here!

What is another essential?

Down in the middle of the picture, you can see porta potties and blue stock tanks.

Each campsite has had these provided on site. They have hauled in hay and feed for the horses, cubes for the cattle and firewood for the fire.

Every single detail on this drive has been planned for and executed. There are a whole bunch of people – behind the scenes – who have made this once-in-a-lifetime event possible.

But who pulls this together, and keeps us all going? Who is the one out there taking care of business?

That’d be the cow boss:

Carmen Schultz.

Friend. Neighbor. A True Horsewoman!

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On the Trail

Monday night from the trail.

We had such a beautiful sunset!

Then Tuesday morning – on the move:

For most of the drive – two of the wagons drive ahead. Then comes the cattle drive (top of the hill). The rest of the wagons follow behind.

Can I take a moment to give a shout out to the law enforcement and highway workers who have provided escorts to the cattle drive? I have spoken to many, many of these people out on the road (“Hi! I’m the camera crew. I’m following the drive and making a movie!”) Every one has been so helpful. They have provided such a level of safety and assistance. Without this, this cattle drive would not have been possible.

Who are the other unsung heroes of the cattle drive?

The hosts. Property owners, farmers, and ranchers all along the route have allowed the cattle and the drovers to stay on their property. It can be a lot of disruption to have so much traffic on your road. At each stop, cow camp is open from 3 to 6. It is wonderful to have members of the public come out to share in this cattle drive experience. The property owners who have allowed us to stay on their property have been amazing.

I met the owners where the cattle drive camped on Tuesday night, and you could not find more helpful, gracious people. That has been my experience along the whole route.

The owners allowed me to access their private property to go get some amazing footage. And it was nice that the cattle had such a pleasant, comfortable place to stay!

I have had a couple of questions that go, “Where did these cattle…come from?” “Did people volunteer to let their cattle be a part of the drive?”

The answer is: The cattle are rented!

In 2017, for a ceremonial cattle drive – you have to rent cattle.

I’m sure that in the 1870’s, those drovers would have laughed at the concept!

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Where we’ve been – and where we’re going

Imagine standing in the middle of the lone prairie.

The only sounds are the wind through the grasses, the bellow of the cattle, and the neigh of the horses.

You see the bright blue sky, and you marvel at the majesty of the vista that is before you.

Imagine the cowboys, on the trail for all those weeks – no shelter, no roof, no bed.

It’s easy to fly by things in the world at seventy miles per hour.

But truly, how many of us have ever slowed down enough to walk – at a horse’s walking pace, and observe the world around us?

History is right in front of us.

That’s why we do this: to show the way that things were.

Much like the passage of time, memories can be erased.

Where were we yesterday? Who can remember?

Much like these tracks that link today’s starting point to today’s ending point…

we ride this trail to stay connected.

Not just to the past – but to the future. Along the way, we connect with each other. We have made friends. One of the riders on the cattle drive said it best, “When you make a friend out here, then you have made a friend for life!”

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Visit the cattle drive!

Come visit the cattle drive!

This is a rare opportunity to see how things were and how things used to be.

The purpose of the 2017 Chisholm Trail Cattle Drive is to educate, celebrate, and commemorate the Chisholm Trail.

This is a chance to see history – live – right before your eyes.

This is the schedule of the Cattle Drive.

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Cow Patty Bingo

Say what?

I saw those words and…well…I didn’t know what to make of it.

The Cattle Drive made it to Caldwell, Kansas on Saturday. In the olden days, Caldwell was a railhead. It was the destination (or one of the destinations depending on the year).

Downtown Caldwell had the whole of the main street marked off into a grid.

Caldwell is rich in history and proud of its heritage.

The trail riders had a wonderful turnout as they paraded through Caldwell.

Cow camp is on the north side of Caldwell. Cowboys are camping on the near side of this pond. The cattle have a great pasture on the other side of this pond.

The sky gave us some sprinkles now and again.

I asked Keith Hawkins, one of the wagon drivers, “What happens if it rains?” He said, “We keep on driving.”

So what, you ask, is cow patty bingo?

After the parade…if your rectangle on the grid had a cow patty dropped on it during the parade…you won a prize.

Looks like more than one prize was given out.

Maybe a whole lot of prizes!

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