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!”
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.
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!
Eleven years ago – I decided: “I want to direct movies!”
But why limit yourself to just one goal? That expanded to, “I want to be involved in all aspects of the film business.”
I didn’t know it, but my friend Don was always interested in this, too. Who knew? Over beers at the bar one night, we agreed to get into the movie business together.
Well, why not? It’s fun. We enjoy it.
We started acting. We got our own home video cameras and started shooting. We started with Windows Movie Maker editing software.
Over the years, we have upgraded technology. We have learned and learned and learned, and all of this was like a giant leap of faith: jump off a cliff and see where you land!
But…when we were just starting out – if you think about getting into the movie business, you think of having your own private trailer and someone knocking on the door saying, “Five minutes, Miss Johnson.”
You think of those black and white movies of the forties where the women wore the glamorous satin dressing gowns.
You think of how it is to have someone do your hair. Someone else does your makeup.
Film sets have catering crews.
They provide those canvas chairs for you to sit in when you are not on camera – and sometimes they stencil your name on the back. When you are awaiting your turn, they have a green room, almost always an indoor, climate controlled comfortable place – with snacks!
When you think about it – you think about the fun stuff.
But what is the reality?
Well, for one – we have really comfortable chairs!
I was standing on the side of the highway waiting for the cattle drive to come by. Lucky there was this chunk of concrete. You better believe I sat down. Think I was out there for over 45 minutes on that one shot. And I was lucky to have this sitable apparatus there. Because on this set – there ain’t no chairs! I have stood more this week, than in the past three months all put together!
While I sat there, I was enjoying…My Own Green Room:
Well, it was green! Does that count?
It was green there. It just wasn’t a room. I achieved 50% of the goal anyway. 🙂
I even made a new friend:
When you are on someone else’s set – it is polite not to be destructive. I tried not to intrude on his home too much.
One day, when Don and I had pulled a 12 hour day – out in the heat and bugs and sweat and heat and pollen and sun and heat…I said, “We need a crew!”
Don looked at me, and pointed to himself. He said, “I’m your crew!”
To that job description you can add: cinematographer, director, producer, driver, camera operator, location scout, movie consultant, and historical consultant (I didn’t know it until we agreed to this gig, but Don went on the ’93 cattle drive as a drover. I am always asking him for knowledge about cattle drives and cowboyin’.)
When you think of a film set, you think of a big warehouse with sets inside, and people wait outside while the red light goes round and round and round.
In our world, the set is mobile. You find yourself in places you never dreamed you’d be:
These grasses are taller than the hood of my pickup. The trail boss’ husband has been so kind to help and he has helped me a lot. On this location, he called out, “Amanda, after we leave here, you’d better check for ticks.”
I was glad for the warning.
But wow…you can say one thing: This reality of movie making ain’t like what you see in the movies.
On this set – what else do you have to contend with?
Well, that’d be:
And I mean that literally!
“You know what we get to do today…?”
5:30am out on the trail. Cowboys are awake. Bedrolls have been packed. Cooks have been up and working hard since 3:30am. French toast is on the grill. Two coffee pots keep getting a lot of action.
It’s truly dark. You can see the moon. You can see stars. How did the cowboys of old manage to function in the complete darkness? The fire provides a source of light.
But not much:
Cowboys bow their heads in prayer. A big breakfast is served to the drovers who won’t get to stop for lunch.
Lightning crackles in the west.
Then…all of a sudden, the darkness is a little less.
You can see objects. Walking around camp gets a little easier.
Breakfast is over. The chuckwagon gang is packing up. Cowboys are saddling horses. Those who have saddled first go off to round up the herd.
Chaps are strapped on. Picket lines come down.
Drovers get a snack for the noontime that they can eat in the saddle.
Cow camp is over. The cattle drive has moved on.
One cowboy comes up to another. He says, “You know what we get to do today…?”
“We get to cowboy!”
It is Day 4 of the Chisholm Trail Ceremonial Cattle Drive!
Not a shade tree in sight!
Three or four participants pitch tents. Most drovers sleep on the ground.
It’s hot being out in the open. It’s even hotter standing over this fire.
The best thing to do: find a bit of shade – wherever you can.
The thing that has most surprised me about this whole cattle drive experience:
The sense of community. I didn’t expect that. I thought that people participated in these things for their own reasons: to play cowboy; for a lark; for a vacation; to get to ride your horse.
But this experience – it’s more than that. I have witnessed people working together in the spirit of creating something good. People are not isolated. They are together – sharing an experience that none of us will ever forget.
I am only a moviemaker. I am not a full time participant. I am not riding a horse or riding a wagon. I take my own vehicle and drive (with my air conditioner ON) to the trail.
Even at that, the people involved have welcomed me and treated me as part of the team.
The sense of community and friendship has been extraordinary.
It was an early start to the cattle drive. Drovers packed their bedrolls before dawn.
Chuckwagon cooks made breakfast before dawn.
Cowboys ate before dawn.
Then the cattle were rounded up, ready to start the day’s drive.
And me…standing there on my feet on the dirt road – I wish I had a horse so I could go on with them.
This is what it looks like when they drive away.