Cowboys to the Rescue
by Christina Cole
The glory days of cattle drives and cowboys ended long ago. Those of us who love the legend and lore of "the old west" are probably familiar with the economic factors that changed the lives of ranchers and cowboys.
The use of barbed wire, the expansion of rail lines throughout the Great Plains states, and stricter enforcement of federal land laws all contributed to the decline of the open-range cattle ranching, the huge drives to market, the great trails, and the hard-working, hard-riding cowboys.
In The Reader's Companion to American History, co-edited by Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, we learn that "by the mid-1880's prudent cattlemen realized that the industry was overexpanded, the Great Plains overgrazed, and the price of beef declining."
The summer of 1886 was exceptionally dry. It was followed by one of the worst winters ever recorded. The frightful weather all but destroyed anything that had remained of the original cattle industry. The open range was a thing of the past, and the only work for a cowboy was often mending fences and tending to sick cattle.
Yet while the American cowboy may be a "dying breed", he still exists, and he still possesses important skills for handling both his horse and cattle. And as in the past, there are still times when the only man for the job is, indeed, a cowboy.
Here in the midwest, we recently had one of those times. Spring always brings a lot of rain and thunderstorms, and sometimes driving becomes hazardous. That was the situation last week when a truck hauling 60 head of cattle from Hutchinson to Eureka crashed northwest of Wichita -- once one of the best-known "cattle towns" in America. Kansas Highway 96 was closed down as the cattle escaped from the truck and began roaming around.
What to do? Call a cowboy, of course. Working alongside animal control officers, a crew of cowboys were able to "head 'em off, round 'em up" and get them loaded onto a new truck.
The driver of the truck was not hurt, and the highway was soon reopened, thanks to the efforts of a few modern-day cowboys.
Just as in days gone by... you can always count on a cowboy to come to the rescue when called.