Midmorning at the Stockyards National Historic District in Fort Worth. A crowd gathers along Exchange Avenue. Ron Sitton, a seasoned cowboy in boots and broad-brimmed hat, hitches his pet Longhorn, Shiloh, to a shade tree and invites youngsters to climb up on the patient animal’s back. Parents snap photos. Other cowhands lean down from their saddles and chat with folks in the crowd.
Suddenly, a piercing whistle announces the imminent arrival of the historic Tarantula train from Grapevine. The cowhands head back across the track to round up their herd of corralled cattle. The engine pulls its string of open-air cars into the Stockyards Station, and several hundred passengers climb down and join the growing crowd. They’re about to witness living history, for as soon as the train pulls out, 15 Texas Longhorns will lumber down Exchange Avenue—just like in the old days.
“These are the best-kept steers in Texas,” says top hand Chester Stidham. He should know. He has dealt with cattle just about all his life.
These Longhorns certainly enjoy easy work and reasonable hours. Around 11:30 every morning of the week, weather permitting, the Herd moseys down the main street of Fort Worth’s Stockyards National Historic District to the Running FW Ranch, east of the Exchange Building, which has a convenient observation deck. At 4:00 in the afternoon, the cowhands round them up again and drive them back to the original corral. The twice-a-day parade delights folks of all ages, from old-time ranchers enjoying a bit of nostalgia to youngsters who have never seen a cow.
It is the only daily urban cattle drive in the world.
From the December 2000 issue.