Howdy, partners. My name is Don, and I'm a Fort Worth Herd Drover. This is my first blog for Visit Fort Worth. I am elated to be part of all the wonderful things Visit Fort Worth has in store for our community and visitors to our great city.
Speaking of visitors, one of the many highlights of my day is seeing the amazement on their faces as they gather along East Exchange Avenue in the Historic Fort Worth Stockyards to watch the drovers move Texas Longhorns up the street.
I delight in helping recreate the culture of the Cattle Drive Era, which spanned from 1866 to about the late 1880s. I ride for the Fort Worth Herd, and we’re in the edutainment business. In other words, we share Texas history through educational programs while also entertaining our audiences with demonstrations centering on who the drovers of that time period were, what they did and why they did it.
The term “drover” is the former name for cowboys. Those adventurous individuals were referred to as drovers because they drove cattle. Our role as drovers for the Fort Worth Herd is to bring authenticity to the job. It's of the utmost importance that we create an atmosphere that allows visitors to visualize what life was like in the 1800s. From head to toe we wear replicas of what the drovers wore on those drives. Every item of clothing served a specific purpose back then. I wasn’t about making a fashion statement; it was about wearing something that could be beneficial to them on the drives, which would take three to four months to complete.
We wear wide-brimmed felt hats that serve as protection from the elements. At the height of the cattle drive period, the hats provided shade from a beaming hot sun and they kept rain from beating the drovers’ faces. Today, we’re still using them for protection for much of the same reasons.
Wild rags also hang loosely from our necks or are wrapped around them snugly, depending on the weather. The wild rags, better known today as bandanas, are the most versatile item of clothing the drovers wore. On cold days, they could tie them around their necks, providing a degree of warmth. When it was hot and humid out on the trails, the drovers would take the wild rags off, soak them in water and either put them back around their necks or inside their hats to cool themselves off. When a drover sprained his wrist after being thrown from his horse, for instance, he would then use the wild rag as a sling. Wild rags were also used as masks to protect the drovers from clouds of dust. Today, the wild rags continue to serve multiple functions.
The cotton shirts that we wear are all long-sleeved, just like the ones back then. The sleeves protected the drovers’ arms from getting sunburned. Fort Worth Herd drovers also wear vests, which were important on the cattle drives. Back then, pants didn’t come with pockets. And when they did, those pockets were too small for a drover to comfortably put his hands in them. Vests, on the other hand, had multiple pockets that drovers could carry items in. Today, the vests continue to be good for easily accessing anything we might have put in them.
The drovers’ pants in the 1800s didn’t have belts. Therefore, they wore suspenders, which we also wear. Their boots were mainly high tops and were surplus left over from the Civil War. We wear replicas of them. When Fort Worth Stockyards visitors see us, they get an authentic look at what the drovers of the 19th century looked like.
Watch Don and his partners drive a herd of longhorn cattle down East Exchange Avenue daily at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.