We have long-horned cattle on our farm in New Hampshire, but our Scottish Highlanders don't look like the Texas Longhorns. Highlanders come in tasteful solid colors; Longhorns are jazzier with speckled and spotted hides in black, brown or red. Their hair is much shorter, and their horns are much longer. But like my Highlanders, the Texas steers are rideable. Two Longhorns, each wearing a western saddle, were tethered to a sturdy gate along the main street. For $5 and a signature on a waiver, I could sit on one of these outlandish creatures.
Even though we own a few Highlander riding steers, I wanted to sit on a Longhorn. Who wouldn't (except for Bruce.) Holding Rudy-dillo to enhance a photo-op, I climbed a set of wooden steps and swung onto the back of a steer named Shooter. Well, it wasn't much of a ride; Shooter didn't go anywhere. Sitting on his back, I wondered if Curious Bleu, my favorite steed back home, would be jealous. But what happens in Cowtown stays in Cowtown, right?
Then we stood on the curb with a crowd of other tourists to watch a dozen Longhorns saunter down the street. Flanked by mounted cowboys to keep the docile critters from straying into the crowd, the steers walked with horns swaying in rhythm with their strides. The cattle seemed bored by this cattle drive (one of two daily), but I was thrilled.
As the cattle strolled back to their paddock, two horses pulled a stagecoach down the street. It made us Granite Staters stand a little taller. The Concord Coach is named after the New Hampshire town where the Albert & Downing Co. built sixteen to seventeen hundred. It carried people and goods all over the frontier and is as iconic as the Conestoga wagon or the Colt .45. (Not the malt liquor.)
Later, during a walking tour, our guide, Nate, brought us into the Fort Worth Stock Exchange which still sells, not shares in corporations, but livestock...as in cattle. In the auction room filled with desks and computer screens (but no cows), an auctioneer's voice droned as he took bids for a handsome bull located in Oklahoma. Nate warned us not to gesticulate, or we might end up top bidder for a $10,000 bull. I'm always on the lookout for new blood, but they do expect money. So unreasonable!
Nate explained to us that in the Stockyard district, the cowboy and his horse are more welcome than cars. It's common to see a horse and his rider, beer in hand, clip-clopping down the street. While it is legal to drink in public, if a drunken cowboy is imperiling the public safety, his horse will be sequestered for the night – sort of like having a drunk driver's car impounded.
We left that afternoon for the second leg of our trip back to New Hampshire. Next destination: Hot Springs, Arkansas.