“The cowboy is not the dying breed he is said to be by those that drive down the highway looking for him. As Lee Marvin told Jack Palance in the 1970’s movie, ‘Monte Walsh‘: ‘As long as there is one man on one horse pushing one cow, there will always be cowboys’.”– Robert Ray Smith, Owner
Hardee County Livestock Market, Wauchula, Florida
The true Legacies of Florida’s “cow hunters” who tamed the last frontier is recorded in their historic lessons and lifestyle, working the land as they knew it, and learning its ways. The pioneers respected the land and wildlife that gave them spiritual and economic sustenance; the gift of a unique lifestyle in an era that will never return, yet their heritage continues.
“Would Do, Could Do and Made Do,” was a way of life as the cow hunters lived through struggle and forbearance. As told in their own words and pictures, this book is a living tribute and memorial to the lessons they inscribe for future generations.
“Although we came here during hard times,” recalls pioneer Moore Haven rancher Tommy Bronson, “was a time when you could shake a man’s hand on an agreement and your word was the same as a contract.”
“We worked every day, said Bobby Roberts of Immokalee, “there wasn’t a day off except for Sunday when we all went to church. There was no book of guidelines and little law enforcement, leaving the families to protect their own.”
Like other adventurers who came before, building a ranch on thousands of acres of native Florida prairie and in the swamp in the middle of nowhere was a physical, mental and financial challenge. But as Nokomis rancher Al Johnson’s granddaddy told him, “Son, you don’t get to know the needs of the land until you walk it.”
Florida was a wild frontier in the 1800s when Willard Redditt’s great granddaddy picked up stakes to homestead in Conway, part of Orange County. In the 1870s, Dewey Fussell, Polk County rancher said that “this part of the county had only a few settlers. Cows cost $8 to $12 per head. During those times, families drove cattle together, everybody knew everybody, and their cows.”
“Cattlemen have always operated on the fringes,” said Ft. Pierce pioneer Bud Adams, “they have made money, lost fortunes, and endured hardships; they would not have wanted it any other way.” In the words of Kenansville rancher, Doug Partin, “I’ve spent my whole life on a horse and my grandchildren won’t see it the way it was,” except through the vision of their words as told in this book.