Green River Valley, Green River, Albert Summers discussed on 60 Minutes

60 Minutes


Walk out. Move cows, but it's not quite as good as little shed swing, the son of Albert's ranching partner, tie. Jazz 5 years old? Yes. SHAD, if you can do this, I can do this, okay? SHAD got to do it with a sour apple lollipop in his mouth. All of us, with the help of some fearless herding dogs move cattle over hills across creeks. Through shimmering groves of Aspen, along what cowboys call driveways. And across highways, north toward those distant mountains. How long does it take you to get them to the summer feeding area? So it takes about 13 days from when we start to when we get up there where we want to be. We travel up to about 60 to 70 miles. Albert summers is one of 11 ranchers who work together to drive more than 7000 head of cattle on the green river drift. Those 11 ranches all lie in Wyoming's green river valley, south of Jackson hole. Here the Wyoming ranges to the west, the wind river range is to the east. The valley between is part bone dry high desert and verdant river drainage, where Native Americans once hunted buffalo. Today, the green river runs through Albert summers ranch. And your family's been doing this how long? My family's been doing this. Since mount 1903 Albert's neighbor, Jeannie lockwood's family has been at it even longer. This was my granddad's branch. He homesteaded this in 1889. Her ranch is about 20 miles south of Albert summer's place. We joined her on horseback before dawn, the day she started moving her cattle north. There's that sun. It's gonna pick up over the hill. Along the same path her family has trek for 125 years. So you're gonna be doing this for the next two weeks. Yes. Getting up at four o'clock in the morning or three or two 30 or two 30. Yeah. Those early starts barely compare to what old timers endured when cowboys stayed out under the stars all night and the sun all day until they got the herd to high pastures. Well I think we can go home. What do you think? Today, they go home after each day's drive. The next morning they trailer their horses back to where they'd left the cattle. Round up those that have strayed and move them out again before dawn. The old chuck wagon, it's been replaced by a cooler and the tailgate of a pickup truck. But compared to what you're grandfathering, yeah. This is easy. Yeah, we have it easy. Only ranchers would call this easy. Driving cattle is hot, dusty, demanding, and they'll be lucky to make a $50 profit per cow when they finally send them to market. Jeannie's daughter Hayley and son in law France help wrangle the herd. Her husband milford shuttles the horse trailers. They all left regular jobs and moved back to the ranch several years ago after Genie's brother who had been running the police died in an accident. It takes all of us to do it, it seems like. Jeannie was a librarian. So what is it about this place that makes you give up regular normal American jobs and come back here to do this really hard work? Well, first of all, it was home to me. And it was hard work for my parents and I know it was hard work for my grandparents and I just couldn't see letting it go. Labor of love, it's called. Yeah. Where's the emphasis? Labor or love? Love. Love might sustain the green river drift, but it was born in crisis. The winner of 1889 90 is really what started the drift. Clint gilchrist is in astorian who grew up in this valley and has written about that harsh winter. The vast majority of the cattle herds that were here because they weren't prepared for a bad winter. Nobody had prepared for a bad winter. White settlers were not prepared. Native tribes which the U.S. government drove off the land to make room for homesteaders knew that winters in the green river valley could be merciless. The shoshone Indians and the crew Indians were one of the dominant tribes in these areas. And they didn't win her here. They wintered over on the other side of the mountains where it was less elevation. After that brutal winter, ranchers realized they had to move their cattle out of the valley long enough to grow a crop of hay. So while the cattle are up in the uplands, you're able to grow, hey. And that feeds them all winter long. Right. And so that was the genesis of what we call the drift. The drift Albert somers says. Because when the first fall frost chills the mountains, the cows instinctively head for home. Just on their own, turn around and start coming back. Turn around and start. We opened gates, drift back, and they drift back. In the spring, we drive them in the fall they drift. When the drift began 125 years ago, there were no regulations, no subdivisions, just wide open range. Today, the 11 ranches drive their cattle to lands controlled by the U.S. forest service, the largest grazing allotment in the country, 127,000 acres of the bridger teton national forest. They pay the federal government 1.35 a month for every cow and her calf. 7. Right. Right on. How much each rancher will owe is tallied at a place called the counting gate. It's Jamie Burgess's job to read brands or ear tags and call out which cows belong to which ranch. Price. While his wife Rita adds up the totals. When the cows finally reach mountain pastures, they're handed off to range riders. Ring up. Like Brittany hesel time, whose job is to watch over them all summer. And you're up here by yourself? Yes. Just theme, my horses. Three dogs and a cat..

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