One of the iconic features of the Old West is the cattle drive. We’ve all watched movies showcasing the cowboys, the huge herds of cattle, the chuckwagon and “Cookie” as they made their way over sometimes hundreds of miles from ranch to railroad or stockyard. Long Hollow Ranch, until the early 1960s, moved herds from two or three ranches in the area to the Sisters mountains for summer pasture, and then back again in early fall. Cowboys and cattlemen worked together to move cattle on foot about thirty miles cross country, past the town of Sisters, and up into the foothills of the Three Sisters Mountains. It took several days to get the job done. Wives and daughters of the men would drive trucks with camp trailers to the points where they would be stopping for shelter, meals, and water for riders and animals.
There was a large corral near Sisters where the cattle were held for one night along the way. Once the herd reached a suitable location in the mountains where there was plenty of grass and water, the work was finished and all the people returned to their respective ranches to take care of their summer work. The cattle were on their own for the summer. In early fall the cattle drive was repeated, in reverse, to get all the animals back home. Older cows that had been through the process many times knew the routine so well they would sometimes start for home along the familiar trail before the cowboys got there. But there were still plenty of animals that needed to be found and rounded up.
In the early ’60s, the powers that be decided that cross country “on foot” drives were no longer appropriate and that the cattle should be hauled back and forth by truck. Unfortunately most of the ranchers could not afford the expense of the required large transport trucks, or hiring truckers to do the job for them, so the cattle drives to the mountains ended. Since then, Long Hollow Ranch has instead pastured cattle on the thousands of acres of government-owned public lands near the ranch. We pay a specific fee per animal unit to keep the cattle on public lands for a pre-determined length of time, based on the availability of grass.
These days Long Hollow Ranch conducts cattle drives three times each year; first to drive the cattle on foot to one huge pasture, later to move them to a second pasture, and last to bring them back home. These pastures are fenced to keep the animals confined to permitted areas. Since there is no natural water in these areas, we must haul water to tanks on a daily basis all through the summer. Of course the fences also must be maintained.
The cattle drive to head them out in spring takes only one day, with lunch on the range, where riders can enjoy amazing views of the Three Sisters mountains and other peaks. The two later cattle drives often take more than one day because the animals may have spread out all over the huge pastures, but riders still come back to the house for the night. Guests who want to participate in a cattle drive need to be at the ranch for a couple of days before the drive itself to be sure they are comfortable on their horse, and have also picked up an understanding of how cows “think” and how to move them in the right direction. These drives can be done by any confident rider, but obviously are not appropriate for small children.
Cattle drives at Long Hollow Ranch are very popular, so if you are interested in this “cowboy for a day” experience, be sure to contact Long Hollow Ranch soon to make a reservation. The initial drive is scheduled for the last weekend in April, and times for the remaining drives will be posted later. Call us to find out more.