CHEYENNE – The 123rd annual “Daddy of ’em All” can’t start until the guests of honor arrive.
No, not the cowboys, rodeo royalty or government officials. We’re talking about the 550 Corriente steers that made their way through north Cheyenne bright and early Sunday morning.
The cattle drive is one of the traditional kickoff events for Cheyenne Frontier Days. Cowboys led the herd from pastures just north of Interstate 25 and Horse Creek Road to Frontier Park, where they’ll await the official start of the festivities Friday.
“This is the traditional way cows are moved,” said Mike Martin, CFD Public Relations Committee chairman. “If you go up and down the highway, you will see cowboys working cattle.
“It’s really a celebration. We want to run them through the streets. We have a lot of people that come out from the community, and, honestly, out of state, to come and look at it. It’s just so much fun.”
Dick Paul came to Cheyenne for Frontier Days from Abilene, Kansas. For him, seeing this cattle drive is a rare treat. Unlike so many drives where the cattle are used to the journey, these are fresh cattle that haven’t been trained into a routine.
Those fresh cattle also mean more excitement when the rodeo kicks off.
“You don’t see this number of cattle driven and fresh cattle. There’s a whole difference with fresh cattle and ones that have a routine,” Paul said. “It makes it tough. Nobody knows what the steer is going to do, what the calf is going to do.”
A large majority of the spectators lining the streets Sunday were children hoping to glimpse the cows, horses and cowboys as they worked their way toward Frontier Park. Tyler Thieme and his daughter Koralee, 4, moved to Cheyenne two years ago, and have decided to make the cattle drive a father/daughter tradition.
“I think it’s just really cool in this day and age to see the Old West stuff with a cattle drive. How often do you see a cattle drive going along the interstate,” Thieme said. “It’s one of those quintessential Cheyenne things.”
For Koralee, who was decked out in full cowgirl regalia, it was clear the excitement of seeing horses and cattle run by that close was one of the best parts of the day. And she said it was a potential look at what she will be doing as she gets older.
“Maybe me when I get really tall, like (when I’m) 15,” Koralee said.
The cattle drive isn’t just for the spectators’ enjoyment, though. It’s a rodeo tradition that goes back to the very first event, said Chad Mathews, CFD Rodeo Committee chairman.
While those first rodeos didn’t have pickups running ahead of the pack and police cruisers cordoning off the streets, the spirit of the cattle drive is just the same.
“The event itself is originally out of necessity,” Mathews said. “Back in 1897, when we started this whole thing, the trucks and trailers we have today weren’t available at the time. So they had to actually drive the cattle from the ranch to town to be able to out on the show.
“We make a little bigger show of it now with our wagons and stuff like that. In the old days, it was just cowboys moving cattle from point A to point B.”
Keeping those traditions alive is what Frontier Days is all about, Mathews said. It isn’t just about the excitement of seeing a rodeo, it’s about being connected to everyone that’s ever taken part in the “Daddy of 'em All.”
“We’ve got generations that have been involved in this event,” Mathews said. “This is my first year as rodeo chairman, and to be chosen to be able to participate in the tradition that is Cheyenne Frontier Days is an awesome honor.”