Cattle Drives

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This week Bill and I attended a B Movies and Bad History discussion at the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum. This ongoing series strives to set the record straight about Texas history as depicted in the movies. During this week’s hour-long installment, we viewed clips from old Westerns interspersed with Cattle Drive insights from two UT professors: Don Graham (American and English Literature) and Tom Schatz (Radio/Television/Film).

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Here’s what we learned during this very informative event:

  • After the Civil War ended, Cattle Drives were used by Texas ranchers to get their beef to the railroads. Within 20 years, Texas was criss-crossed with railroads and fences, and that was the end of Cattle Drives.
  • B movies didn’t include Cattle Drives because they couldn’t afford to rent herds of cattle (and therefore, our hosts were forced to discuss higher-quality movies). Even for higher-budget films, the cows were usually moved around for different shots to make the herd look larger.
  • Texas Longhorns were not typically used in old Westerns because they were rare and expensive to rent. (This is very important to know if you live in Austin.)
  • Except during stampedes (VERY BAD AND SCARY!), the animals did not run on Cattle Drives. They were walked to avoid injuries.
  • John Wayne was one heck of a cowboy, especially when leading a Cattle Drive in Red River.
  • Jimmy Stewart starred in quite a few Westerns, including The Rare Breed.
  • Heaven’s Gate was a terrible movie. The Lonesome Dove TV mini-series wasn’t all that great, either.

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