September 05, 2016
We arrived at Crooked Lake Ranch in the dark, early morning, greeted by the headlights streaming out of a collection of trucks hooked up to trailers, their exhaust creating small clouds in the damp early morning air. The ranchers and their help had the horses loaded and ready to ride. We followed the trucks down the road a ways, watching the sun rise to our east, slowly shining a light on the native beauty that is Central Florida. We crossed over the Kissimmee River and pulled into the drive of the land where the cattle were waiting. As we followed the trucks again, this time along the river and through the thick brush and vegetation the sun broke through the horizon. As the light got brighter I had the pleasure of meeting Shayla, Dave, Scarlett, Mariah, and Dakota - the McCullers family.
You could sense the nervous energy as they prepped for a morning of driving cattle. A morning that everything needs to go just so. Our RFD-TV crew climbed high up into a Swamp Buggy that was ready and waiting to drive us with the cattle crew riding horseback. As the cattle crew rode out into the golden early morning light through the pasture we bumped and crawled along behind them, waiting for the first sighting of the herd. Today’s goal for the crew was to find the herd of Brangus (Brahman and Angus mix) cattle and drive all of them up to the pens where they would be sorted and sprayed with insect repellent.
The crew rode their horses further and further back on the land, a few of them splitting off to make sure they were ready when the cattle started running. We sat and waiting, staring at the thick of trees where the riders had last entered. All of a sudden the cattle burst through the clearing with the crew riding herd behind them. Scarlett, who had stayed with our RFD-TV team explained the goal was to keep the herd calm and moving slowly forward towards the pens. We followed along at a safe distance as to not spook the cattle. The cattle crew slowly and surely drove the cattle through the beautiful landscape, down through a boggy area, with our swamp buggy crawling behind.
Once at the pens, we met back up with the cattle crew and I could sense the tension was eased. The drive had gone well, everyone made it back safe and sound. The cattle were waiting at the entrance of the shoot. The cattle crew and the RFD crew climbed to safety atop a small platform to watch the action. Everyone had a job. Dave (dad) and a helper let the cows in, yelling as they rammed their way through whether to keep or sell. All of the male calves were sorted off to go to market to be sold. The mother cows and female calves were kept. Uncle Rusty ran the first shoot, sorting off the males. Mariah, the youngest of the McCullers crew with a huge love of ag, sprayed them with fly repellant as they ran through. Shayla ran the final shoot, making sure the keepers made it back out to pasture. The sorting was a wild experience with some of the young calves bucking their way through with their wild eyes and thick fur.
As the morning wrapped to a close, Shayla passed around homemade cookies, showing off her many roles as a FarmHer. See, a FarmHer isn’t just a farm mom who brings cookies to feed her crew, but she’s also a farm wife, watching as her husband worked close to the wild calves, and a FarmHer herself, driving the cattle steadily over the Florida land.
Watch the video clips of Shayla here.
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