Cattle Drive!

"Driving cattle into a corral, Nebraska"

"Driving cattle into a corral, Nebraska," Illustrated London News, Aug. 21, 1875

If you missed “Beef State,” a co-production of NET Television and the Nebraska State Historical Society, you’re not too late. You can order it from our Landmark Stores or watch it online.

But there’s more to the story than what would fit in an hour-long video. Nebraskastudies.org (which we co-sponsor with NET and the Nebraska Department of Education) has a new six-part online exhibit called “The Story of Beef.” Here’s a bit of the first part, “Beef Moves to Nebraska”:

Trail drives were hard work and required tough men to work them. James H. Cook trailed Texas cattle in the 1870s and later established a ranch at Agate Springs, Nebraska.

“Slight things threw the cattle into confusion and then a hurly burly scene followed. A horse wearing his saddle lies down to roll; when he rises the stirrups fall, and striking him in the sides give him fright; he springs to the length of his tether, snaps it and dashes into the herd. Up jump the steers in alarm; every one that comes to his feet causes a dozen others to bound to theirs; and now, as if by electric impulse — quick as lightning — the whole herd shaken with terror, plunges in one direction…

James Cook, trail boss, circa 1887. NSHS RG3484-1

James Cook, trail boss, circa 1887. NSHS RG3484-1

“The alarm has brought every man to his feet. Stopping for nothing, caring for nothing but the one supreme object of overtaking, following, and at the first practicable moment turning and controlling the stampede, those quickest to think and act, seizing their saddled horses . . . The flight is so swift that some of the riders lose the herd entirely. Others overtake them; and then these begin that slow, soothing, reassuring wordless song with its long sustained notes peculiar in quality of sound, known to every cowboy on the Texas trail….”

—James H. Cook as told to Eli S. Ricker, May 23, 1907

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