OSCEOLA COUNTY – The Great Florida Cattle Drive, held Dec. 4-10 in Osceola County, included about 350 riders, 14 wagons and one man on foot.
Bennett Lloyd, museum coordinator for Seminole County, spent the week hiking the trail, which covered 7 to 18 miles per day, dressed in clothing appropriate for 1520s Spanish explorers. Along the way, he picked up trash.
“The idea came about because I really like hiking Florida’s natural areas,” explained Lloyd. As a historian, he sat in on discussions about the Great Florida Cattle Drive and decided he’d like to participate.
“There was no way to get vehicles in to pick up trash and refuse after the drive,” he continued. “So I proposed to walk behind the drive to make sure we left it nicer than we found it.”
Lloyd said the Spanish conducted the very first cattle drives in Florida. They would drive cattle along side military expeditions and butcher cattle as needed along the way to feed the soldiers. “I tried to capture a little of that history,” he said.
He said he has walked alongside horses at the Cattle Drive reunion rides for the last four to five years. Historic cattle drive re-enactments were held in 1995, 2006, 2016 and 2022. In between the cattle drives, reunion trail rides were organized for those who wanted to get together.
Lloyd said those on the cattle drive were very conscientious about picking up after themselves and he found very little debris left by the group. “I am finding trash, but not from this drive,” he explained. “It’s older.” He said he found some bits of leather that may have fallen off a saddle, some water bottles and soda cans. He added the water bottles he found were not the brand supplied to the 2022 cattle drive,
Lloyd also found items – such as a pair of glasses – that he turned over to the “lost and found” trailer.
He said he hopes the cattle drive draws attention to the importance of preserving Florida’s natural areas.
“I hope it builds appreciation and encourages people to do that kind of cleanup,” he said.