The First American Cowboys

Excerpt from Craig Pittman:

On a steamy August morning, as the temperature rose with the sun, Jim Strickland stood on a raised cypress board in a rugged cow pen at Blackbeard’s Ranch near Myakka City, looking down on a series of brown, black and reddish cows scooting through a cattle chute. They flickered by like images in a clattering movie projector.

Strickland, the ranch’s managing partner, wore a sweat-stained cowboy hat, a once-white fishing shirt with the sleeves rolled up, rumpled jeans and old gray sneakers spattered with mud. As the cows trotted past him, the 66-year-old rancher kept count. On every second or third one, he squirted a spray that would keep away flies for a week or so. When some of the cows hesitated, he’d slap them on the rump or the back lightly, urging them to keep going.

“Go on, baby,” he said to one.

The fly spray and the gentle touch are just two of the ways he and his ranch hands try to relieve stress on their cattle to ensure they don’t worry off some of their weight. Think of it as New Age cowboying.

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