Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Florida Cracker Culture:

Cracker in Florida
Although the cowboy is an icon of the American West many people don’t realize that the first American cowboys started out in Florida.  In fact, the largest privately-owned cattle ranch in the United States today is located in the heart of this semi-tropic state.
Before the States were even independent the Spanish brought cattle and horses to Florida where they settled. When the Spanish left this sunny state they turned these animals loose to fend for themselves. Not only did they survive they thrived.
As American’s settled the lush green state they collected these free-range animals and Cracker Cowboy Culture was born. 
The cowboys, known as Crackers would drive the brush cattle out of the thick palmetto forests using whips that cracked thus earning them the name “Crackers”. These hearty cow hunters worked long days in the sweltering heat accompanied by their dogs who helped to track down the crafty cows hidden in the undergrowth.

In my latest story, Meg: Book Three of the Cattleman’s Daughters, the hero Clayton Allen explains this to his new boss when he takes up residence on the Broken J ranch where he arrives with his Cracker horse Duke.  Here’s how he explained the cow hunters of Florida: 
           Clayton walked the horse to one of the stalls standing open n
ear the front of the barn slipped the ornate black bridle over the animal’s head and replaced it with a simple rope halter, then he turned and began unbuckling the saddle.
          “He’s a good looking horse, I’ll have to say. A stud I see. What breed is he? He’s got the look of a mustang but is bigger and more rounded.” (Joshua James)
          “He’s a Cracker horse sir.” The young man replied, his voice resonating with pride. “Bred and raised right there back home. He’s a pretty easy soul to work with but he does like the ladies.” He added with a wink.
“Florida Cracker horses descended from the horses the Spanish left behind when they gave up the place. We cow hunters just sorta’ picked ‘em up over time and through some careful breeding some families ended up with really fine stock like Duke here.”
          “Why, where I’m from the Parton’s and the Bronson’s are both well known for their Florida horses.” For a moment the punchers face clouded, but then it passed and he smiled again, swinging the heavy saddle up onto the railing beside the stall. “I sure was glad to be able to keep ol’ Duke when I left.”
          “Son, why do you call them cow hunters down in Florida instead of cowpokes like we use out west here?” Joshua was curious about the strange terminology and wasn't afraid to ask.
          “Most folk actually call us Crackers sir, just like our horses. The name comes from the cracking sound of our whips we use instead of lariats."
          To illustrate he pulled the coil from his belt and gave it a soft crack. The black horse perked its ears and nickered.
"Florida is so full of scrub and thick undergrowth that it’s harder than blue blazes to get a rope on a cow but you can drive ‘em easy enough using this bit of equipment.” He tapped the whip as he recoiled the long strand and fastened it on his saddle.
About Meg, Book Three in The Cattleman’s Daughers:
 Things aren’t always as they appear.

Clayton Allen is a man with a secret, one he clings to making it possible to control his rage. After being cheated out of his ancestral Florida home, he strikes out on his own hoping to find a place to start over and thinks the Broken J might just give him a chance. But how long can he hold his mask of teasing dandy in place before everyone knows him for who he truly is?
Muiread (Meg) James, romantic and dreamy, longs for the excitement of the big city. Her head is so full of thoughts of tall, dark and handsome heroes, that when confronted with the real thing her pride threatens to destroy them both. Her fiery temper and Penny Dreadful dreams of chivalry will toss her straight into a situation that might not only be her undoing but may demolish the trust of the Broken J.
Will two people determined to best the other finally hear the call of a wandering heart and be joined together or be shattered by the impact of their wills?

You can purchase Meg on Amazon by clicking HERE.
About the Author:


Andrea Downing said...

Very interesting Danni. When I wrote a post on my website about the 'oldest ranch in the US' started here on Long Island, NY, in Montauk in the 1600s, I received a comment from someone who claimed the oldest ranch in the US was actually in FLorida. And he had good credentials for that as well. Very different setting for a book.

Julie Lence said...

Interesting piece of history, Danni. I've never heard of them. Thank you for sharing.