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2013-08-29

Longhorns on Main - 'Head 'em up, move 'em out'

Special to the Courier

One of the must-sees of the "Celebrate Bandera" experience is the authentic longhorn cattle drive up Bandera's Main Street during the annual parade, which kicks off at 11 am, Saturday, Sept. 28.

The iconic scene recalls Bandera's rich cowboy history. After witnessing this slice of the Old West, both visitors and locals will understand why the Texas Legislature recently designated Bandera as the official "Cowboy Capital of the World!" Title sponsor of the 2013 Celebrate Bandera Longhorn Cattle Drive is the Ranch Radio, FM 93.5.

During the 1870s, herds of cattle were staged on the banks of the Medina River. From there, hired cowboys drove them northward. Along the trail, herds were combined and collectively driven to railway towns in Kansas and feedlots in Illinois and Nebraska.

Of course, cowboys - lots of cowboys - were needed for the drives, and to ensure those needs were met, trail bosses would set up shop in local banks and mercantiles in dusty Texas towns to hire willing men and boys for the trail.

In Texas, the term "trail" has been used to designate routes used by Indians, buffalo hunters, military expeditions, immigration movements, and cattle drives. Cattle drives to northern markets started soon after the rise of spring grasses and continued through the summer. A herd of 2,500 to 3,000 head of cattle was considered the most favorable size for long drives.

Daily travel distances were governed by the availability of grass and water. The object was to fatten the cattle - or at least hold their weight steady - during the northward trek. A typical trail driving outfit consisted of a trail boss; 10 to 15 hands, each of whom had a string of horses; a wrangler, who drove and herded the extra horses; and a chuck wagon cook, who oversaw the vittles. Ten or 12 miles was a good day's drive and the pay was about $35 a month.

Today, the Longhorn Cattle Drive is one of Celebrate Bandera's most popular spectacles. Crowds gather along Main Street to see the impressive and iconic Texas longhorns. This year's cattle drive features the impressive, award-winning Thurmond Longhorns.

The Thurmond family started raising Registered Texas Longhorns in 2005 when their daughters, Emily Ann and Thera Hope, each wanted a heifer to start showing. Since their inaugural San Antonio Livestock Texas Longhorn Show, the Thurmonds have shown their animals all around Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and at the World Champion Texas Longhorn Show. Along the way, they've won numerous Grand Champions buckles, banners and award ribbons.

The Thurmond girls now breed their own show animals, combining different bloodlines to ensure longhorns with bigger body size and horns. After beginning with two heifers, they now have a herd of over 100 Registered Texas Longhorns. Currently, the Thurmonds raise and sell longhorns in Adkins, emphasizing the family motto: "If it's not a Registered Texas Longhorn, it's just another beef cow."

This year marks Bandera's 11th annual longhorn cattle drive, honoring Bandera's history as a staging area for the over 7 million head of longhorns that traveled up the Western Trail.

"We thank the Ranch Radio 93.5 for bringing this wonderful piece of history to life," said a Celebrate Bandera spokesman. "Tune into The Ranch!"