Sunday, November 04, 2007
The Florida Cracker Cattle Auction
I missed it last year, but this year I made it to the Florida Cracker Cattle Association's annual sale. I didn't go by Cracker pony like this cowboy, I went by JEEP. My adventure went something like this ...
I dallied a little yesterday morning, lingering over hot coffee and soaking in the 43 degree temperatures here in Pure Florida. Eventually, I realized it was past time to go and I dashed out and hopped into the almost topless, open JEEP for the ride down to Brooksville. The most efficient route would have been to head to I-75 through Williston, but that is SO not my way.
Efficiency, I mean.
Instead, I just headed south on US-19, knowing that if I just headed east somewhere between Crystal River and Weeki Wachee, I should get to the ranch where the auction was being held.
How to describe a Fall Florida day ? ... perfectly blue sky, chilly air, and best of all ... no humidity. The crisp air was blasting through the JEEP as I rocketed through Crystal River and east on SR-44. Delicious.
A quick stop in Inverness at the Wally World to get a western cut denim shirt ... when in Rome, y'all ... and then I was back on the road.
The auction started at 1:00 pm and by the time I got to I-75, it was pretty clear I was going to arrive either late or right on time. This IS my way, sadly. I'm rarely early anywhere.
Near Wildwood, I turned off of the main road onto a tiny road that paralleled the Withlacoochee State Trail, a fine rails to trails project. Like the sandhill cranes, beautiful lakes, and streams I had passed that morning, I had to keep going if I was going to make it on time. I passed the trailhead with only a side glance.
A sign, "Cracker Sale", told me I was there and I turned off the pavement into a long gravel drive that took me deep into a beautiful ranch.
12:55 pm ... I was actually early for something!
Of course if I had been there earlier, I could have had some of the lunch everyone was finishing, but food could wait ... in front of me were hundreds of cracker cows.
Just in front of the auction arena, I met Barbara Cairns, an artist and writer. She was very nice and we chatted about her painting and book, "Cracker Cow".
You can learn more about that at crackercow.com.
Here are two typical cracker cows. I think the auctioneer said the calf was from this heifer, but I may have interpreted it that way. They were sticking pretty close to each other. I'm not set up for cattle yet back at Pure Florida Headquarters, so I was looking and learning on this trip, not buying.
Watching the auction, I was relieved to see that the calves were going for anywhere from $250 - $500, with lots of $300ish sales. I was afraid a rare breed might fetch ridiculous prices, but these seemed attainable.
(Note to self, switch Harley fund to Cow fund)
It was mostly, but not all cattle at the auction. There were a few Cracker Ponies in the mix too. This beauty was out on tether in the parking lot.
I was impressed by how mellow most of these FC cattle were, but occasionally one would get feisty and toss some dirt. This one butted his head through the gate bars and got stuck. Immediately these 4 hands gently, but firmly turned his head and backed the struggling cow out of harm's way.
Above are a few scenes from the auction. The auctioneer is the guy on the left, and the guy on the right with the excellent Sam Elliot style moustache is the master of ceremonies. They did a great job.
A few of you requested cow portraits. I had to shoot over and through bars, but the collage above is for you.
These Cracker cows have wonderful genetics. The colors are amazing ... chocolate, black, brown, white, brindle, spotted, ridgebacks ... just amazing variety.
The cow in the bottom right photo had enough and made an attempt to climb into the auction box, but thought better of it. I was kind of partial to the artwork on the Florida Cracker Cattle Association banner ...
After missing lunch and watching cows for a couple of hours, I was ready to eat one. I'm not much of a fastfood eater anymore, but I hit this Wendys as soon as I got back on the main highway.
With the auction over, I was ready to poke my way home on back roads. I told myself I'd go west on SR-50 only until I saw the first county road that headed west or north. I had not gone more than 5 miles when I saw the sign above and ... well, you know I had to pull in there. I needed chicken feed anyway.
I walked into the feed store to find a lady, a teen, and a man going over some old coins at the counter. They had a coin guide book and were trying to ID the coins. I grabbed the bag of chicken feed and walked up to the counter.
The lady was very pleasant. I told her about PF and that I wanted to photograph her sign outside. She thought that was great and as it turned out she's a fan of Cracker Architecture, so we talked about Cracker Houses a bit.
Hanging on the wall behind her was a Florida Cracker T-shirt for sale, so I had to buy one of those to go with my chicken feed. After a nice conversation, I headed back out.
I swear I met the friendliest people on this road trip.
I wound my way back to PFHQ very slowly through beautiful rolling hills and mostly woods and farm scenery.
It's so nice to go with no schedule, I didn't have to be home at any particular time or at all if I chose. Mrs. FC was at the UF Gator game with her brother and Junior was at the movies with friends, ... nobody was depending on me to be anywhere.
I stopped at every trailhead and park that I passed and gathered a few more photos for future posts as I stretched an hour and a half drive into 5 hours.
At one of those trailhead kiosks, I think I caught a glimpse of a future cattle baron.