Immokalee Cattle Drive runs smoothly | Events
Local cowboys and their Florida Cracker Cur dogs led a very cooperative herd of around 80 cattle down Main Street in Immokalee on a beautifully cool spring morning on Saturday. The dogs circled continuously around the herd, keeping them tight, as they passed within feet of the men, women and children of Immokalee, who loved every minute.
The Cattle Drive is part of the Immokalee Cattle Drive and Jamboree, held annually at Robert’s Ranch.
Preston Stokes fosters two of his Florida Cur dogs, who he says are half-brothers.
“I just help them get the cattle down,” Stokes said. “I work every day for some of these ranches. I’ve helped the Roberts family, I’ve helped the Hilliard brothers, the Alicos, some of these places. They’re some of the biggest ranches in the Southern Division here. Today “today was great. We had great weather and lots of great people, great horses, great dogs. I’m just blessed to be able to do what we love.
Sometimes the cattle get a little unruly and the Florida Cracker Cur dogs have to take action.
“We said a prayer this morning and the good Lord was with us,” Stokes said. “He kept the cattle together and did well. And the dogs did well. And we have very good help here.”
The Florida Cracker Cur dog was introduced to Florida in 1539 by Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. They are known as loyal and reliable companions to Florida breeders.
“They’re just a Florida Cur dog we found,” Stokes said. “They’re bred specifically for cows. What you do is say I have a good dog and Buck Henry has a good dog, we breed them. Then we take the pups in with the older dogs and they show them the route and what to do. And it goes on from there. It’s just something they’re bred for. I’ve had some of these dogs for 15-20 years. The bloodline continues. I hope I can pass it on to my children in the future.”
Cur dogs are a big part of cattle herding. Sometimes the dogs have the livestock so well managed that they make their job easy.
“Like here, we haven’t had to use them much,” Stokes said. “Just in the morning to set up the cattle. In the woods, when you’re in tough spots, they round them up and stand them up for you. They locate them for you and start barking and going around them. Most cattle who are mowed down by the dogs gather and stay in a group for them. If they are running fast or trotting, the dogs know to stop it, because it is about to go western most of the time.” So , they kind of shut it down before it got really bad. Dogs are a big part of it all. “
The popular Cattle Drive and Jamboree has been sidelined for two years. Collier County Museums Director Amanda Townsend was thrilled the event was back for 2022.
“Of course the pandemic canceled our 2020 campaign just one day before the event,” said Amanda Townsend. “We were devastated. And 2021 just wasn’t the time yet. We’re so happy to bring this back to the community. It’s just a fun celebration of Immokalee’s legacy. That includes, of course, our cattle industry, but also the Seminoles and their presence here. Billie Walker just did her alligator fight demo. The dancing horses will be here soon. It’s a wonderful Hispanic heritage and tradition. We really like to celebrate multiculturalism of this community and bring it together.”
Of course, without the legendary Roberts family, the event would not be possible.
“Roberts Ranch was the Roberts family farm,” Townsend said. “Robert and Sarah Roberts moved here with their nine children in the early 1900s and their Red Cattle Company became one of the largest cattle operations in all of Southwest Florida. The Roberts family donated the house and part of the acreage to the Collier County Museums in the 1990s. We purchased another property next door to have all of these 13 acres, which is listed on the National Register and also locally designated as historically important.