Normally, I see animals on hikes in the middle of the wilderness, but this time (maybe the first), I was pleasantly surprised by a different kind of animal. Walking through downtown Dallas, I found myself in the last place I thought I'd see in the middle of a city, a Texas Longhorn cattle drive. Yet, there I was in disbelief, eyeball to eyeball, staring at a line of cattle emerging from a ridge top, descending down a small cliff, crossing a stream and walking past me. And, to top it off, three cowboys on horseback accompanied the steers to make sure they didn’t stray.
For a moment, I thought I was in another "What'd you get yourself into this time?" moment. But trust me, I hadn't taken the last swig from the bottle of tequila and swallowed the worm.
Papa Kritter (my dad), Lady Kritter and I decided to take a road trip out west to visit and hike the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico and Colorado. After two days of driving, we stopped in Dallas to relax and visit with relatives. This also broke up the long, tedious four-day drive into manageable sections.
One of the pleasures of taking a road trip is finding the unexpected in the most unusual places. When my cousin Craig asked if we wanted to do 'the tourist thing' downtown, the last thing I expected was to be surrounded by cowboys and cattle.
The cattle drive is the work of artist Robert Summers of Glen Rose, Texas. Consisting of seventy bronze steers and three trail riders it is the largest bronze monument of its kind in the world. The steers stand at a larger-than life height of six feet. Each sculpture has some type of action, or movement that gives the effect of the complete herd in fluid motion. Part of the herd crosses a real stream where some stop to drink while others continue following the steer ahead. There is even one steer swatting a fly with his tail.
Three cowboys ride with the herd. One sat on his horse on top of the cliff overlooking the procession. Another rode alongside the steers keeping them in line and a third, was in the middle of cutting a break-away steer, back into the herd. Created by the scene depicts nineteenth century cattle drives that took place along the Shawnee Trail where part of the route went through Dallas on the way to northern railheads.
I kept telling myself the herd was stationary, bronze works of art. Yet, the artist’s detail to the men and animals fooled my senses. I thought I could smell the distinct odor of horses and cows. I could almost see the dust rising above the herd. And the sense of hearing really played mind games with me. I thought I was really in the wild. Instead of the sounds of a big city were ringing in my ears while I heard the cowboys yelling and whistling above the moos of the steers and baying of the horses. I am sure the countless hours of watching westerns as a boy helped scene come alive in my mind, but it was a tribute to the artist’s work that I could see his sculptures come to life individually and move as a group.
If you ever want to experience the sensation of standing in the middle of a cattle drive, without actually having your life immediately threatened, go to Pioneer Plaza in downtown Dallas and tell the drovers KrispyKritter sent ya.