You’ve heard of cowboys in the wild, wild west — but you’ve probably never heard of “cowhunters” in the state of Florida.
It’s exactly this hidden history of the Sunshine State that filmmakers from Live Oak Production Group Elam and Nic Stoltzfus explore in their documentary The Great Florida Cattle Drive: Unbroken Circles, which was produced in partnership with PBS and aired earlier this year.
In the film, the father-son duo from Blountstown tag along on the Great Florida Cattle Drive of 2016 to tell a history of Florida that is largely unknown and to explore how Florida’s cattle culture is being preserved for generations to come.
The Great Florida Cattle Drive, which occurs roughly every 10 years (1995, 2006 and 2016) invites people to dress up as cow hunters (basically the same thing as cowboys) and essentially reenact what workers during the 1800s would have done.
The cows, specifically “cracker cattle” with horns that turn upwards and come in a variety of colors, are provided by various ranches in the state, according to this interview with the Stoltzfus team, and the participants on the drive came from all over the world, including Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Canada, Taiwan, Germany, England and elsewhere.
The 2016 drive started out around St. Cloud, lasted six days and ended in Kenansville. Around 400 riders and 500 cracker cattle were involved, all for the sake of preserving the “traditions of Florida’s cattle culture and heritage” as detailed in the same video interview.
For screenwriter and co-producer Nic, “It’s one thing to read about a cattle drive, but to actually go on the drive and interact with the people, and feel it, and smell it … that brought history to life for me.”
The documentary is narrated by famous cowboy poet, Baxter Black and scored by Marco Island musician J. Robert Houghtaling; The Studio @620 is hosting a film-screening and book-signing event with Elam and Nic Stoltzfus on Sunday, July 23, at 3 p.m.; tickets are $10 at the door.
Round up your family and friends for this fascinating look into this unknown yonder of Florida history.