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‘The Great Florida Cattle Drive: Unbroken Circles’ Highlighting a Dying Breed of Man and Beast

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Father/son filmmakers Elam & Nic Stoltzfus take America on the journey of a lifetime in the companion book and documentary called “The Great Florida Cattle Drive: Unbroken Circles.” The story of a contemporary cattle drive organized by the Florida Cow Culture Preservation Committee in 2016, the documentary (which has been featured on PBS, and will be in national distribution on their channels this October and November – check local listings) covers the passion of its riders, the pleasures and pitfalls of the organizers, and the amazing re-enactment of a cattle drive of yesteryear, celebrating Florida’s rich ranching history. From atop a horse, the week-long ride from historic Whaley Ranch (south of St. Cloud) to Silver Spurs Arena in Kenansville (south of Kissimmee,) looks like a cattleman’s dream. The film makers manage to glean the best of humanity out of conditions many would shy away from. The riders traveled through the flatwoods in parts of Florida the average resident and tourist will never see, in the sunshine and monsoon-like rains, through alligator and snake-infested swamps, all the time laughing, learning, and growing close together while they drove 500 head of Florida Cracker cattle over 50 miles.

‘The Great Florida Cattle Drive: Unbroken Circles’ Highlighting a Dying Breed of Man and Beast

Photo: Facebook/The Great Florida Cattle Drive: Unbroken Circles Via Nic Stoltzfus

Along with cattle drive stories, the documentary and coffee table book teach you about Florida’s ranching history in how it was the first American state to have cattle approximately half a century ago, which originated from Spain and Puerto Rico, shipped over by Columbus and Ponce de León. Once the largest American exporter of cows, Florida coined the term “cow hunter,” referencing settlers that combed palmettos, cypress swamps, and piney woods searching for the remains of unclaimed cattle herds following the forced removal of the Seminole – one of the first Native American nations to populate the area and maintain the cattle herds after failed Spanish colonization attempts. The term “cracker” in reference to the cow itself, is unclear in its derivation. Based on research by the writer and documentarists it could pertain to the Scot-Irish homesteaders that became the first cow hunters, or it could be in regard to the sound of the whips cracking, which Spanish vaqueros used to help herd the cattle. However it developed, it became the name of the type of cow or cattle which were originally ranched in Florida.

‘The Great Florida Cattle Drive: Unbroken Circles’ Highlighting a Dying Breed of Man and Beast
Photo: The Great Florida Cattle Drive: Unbroken Circles

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