Albert Summers, Green River, Wyoming discussed on 60 Minutes

60 Minutes


Come to them. Where's she here? We're here. What's wrong with that bull right there? Today, all Americans are being asked to prepare for the grievous wounds. Oh, my God. Of high velocity rounds. The cattle drive is an enduring symbol of the American West. The image of tough cowboys pushing huge herds of cows across the open range is stamped on our imaginations. But by the 21st century with western states growing and changing fast, most horseback cattle drives have been run off the range by suburban sprawl, government regulation, lower beef consumption, and the return of protected predators. But there is a group of stubborn men and women in Wyoming, who every spring push thousands of cows along the same 70 mile route, their ancestors pioneered 125 years ago. As we first reported last fall, this throwback to the old west is called the green river drift. And it's the longest running cattle drive left in America. Just after dawn, one Saturday in June of 2021. I'm trying to help Wyoming rancher Albert summers. And his team move hundreds of cows. Most of them mothers with new calves in a cloud of dust toward high green pastures where they'll graze all summer. And if you feel inclined Bill, you can whistle, you can yell. I do anything. This is like cowboys therapy. You get to voice everything out. Come on, Indy. I do the best I can. Come on, cows. Move cows. But it's not quite as good as little SHAD swain, the son of Albert's ranching partner, tye. Jazz 5 years old? Yes. Chad, 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 called 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. What do we want to be? We travel up to about 60 to 70 months. 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 range is 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 summer's 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 going to peak up over the hill. Along the same path, her family has trekked for 125 years. So you're going to be doing this for the next two weeks. Yes. Getting up at 4 o'clock in the morning. Or three or two 30. Or two 30. Yeah. Those early starts barely compared 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 your grandfather did. 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 Haley 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 Jeannie's brother, who had been running the place, died in an accident. It takes all of us to do it, it seems like so. Jeannie was a librarian. So what is it about this place? It 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 a story and who grew up in this valley and has written about that harsh winter. And it killed off 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 croy Indians were one of the dominant tribes in these areas. And they didn't win her here. They went 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 were up in the uplands, you're able to grow, hey. Right. And that feeds them all winter long. Right. And so that was the genesis of what we call the drift. The drift Albert summer 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 open 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.

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