Snow forces Kay County ranchers to move cattle on horseback - - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - |

Snow forces Kay County ranchers to move cattle on horseback


BLACKWELL, Okla. (AP) _ After more than 10 inches of snow buried the wheat their cattle were munching on, three Kay County cattlemen were forced to block a road and herd their cattle 11 miles to the nearest feed lot.

``I said, 'Holy cow, there hasn't been a cattle drive around here since the Chisholm Trail,''' said Marie McCollam, wife of Lyle McCollam, one of the cattlemen who embarked on the trek.

``I'm sure there has been, but it's not something you see anymore.''

This week's winter weather has caused traffic snarls, auto accidents and other headaches for many Oklahomans. For the McCollams and their partner, Kent Gleason, the heavy snow threatened the 100 head of cattle that they've been hired to care for in northern Oklahoma.

They'd been keeping the animals on a wheat pasture south of Blackwell for the owner of the cattle who lives in Kansas.

Deep snow blanketed much of northern Oklahoma on Sunday. The thickness of the snow made it hard for cattle to reach food, and digging though the cold snowpack can cause illnesses, said Jim McKee, who helped McCollam and Gleason in their cattle drive.

Added pressure came from weather forecasts which predicted more snow this week.

Lyle McCollam said he and Gleason feared the cattle would be so desperate for food they might break through their fences and scatter. This would be a disaster, as the herd is to be shipped to Nebraska within a week.

``The snow was too deep,'' Lyle McCollam said. ``We couldn't get trucks in there.

``We couldn't feed them or take care of them where they were at.''

That left them with one alternative. They had to drive the cattle the way cowboys did in the days before fences, interstate highways and livestock trucks.

Using a bale of hay on the back of a truck like bait, the ranchers led the cattle to their destination.

Lyle McCollam, Gleason and McKee kept the herd together and spurred them forward on horseback.

Drivers who encountered the herd saw an odd site, even for an area accustomed to livestock.

Steam from the hot breath of the livestock almost looked like dust being kicked up underfoot. Exhausted from slogging through the snow, the cattle moved slowly and stayed close together, taking up both lanes of the icy, snowpacked pavement.

Eleven miles later, the herd made it to its pen, slurping down fresh water and gnawing on the hay bale that had been just beyond their reach moments before.
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