Sail on, Cowman
|March 5, 2012||Posted by Chris under Agriculture|
I was channel surfing last night when I noticed cattle, whips, blue skies and puffy cumulonimbus clouds flash onto the screen. The moment I saw the barge, I knew the exact location.
Larry the Cable Guy is the host of Only in America on the History Channel. Episode 7 – “Larry’s Favorite Stuff” chronicles Larry working cattle on one of the Lightsey Cattle Company ranches in Polk County. What makes this drive different than any other is the fact that part of it takes place over water. Not a swollen creek or the famed Red River, but a three-quarter mile ferry ride across Lake Kissimmee to Brahma Island – (Pronounced Bra-mer Island in Imperial Polk County English).
Brahma Island is a 3,000 acre ranch that is home to 28 protected species, wildlife, cattle and the only cattle barge in the world. Records aren’t kept on cattle barges since you have to build them yourself so I feel confident in writing that it’s the only cattle barge anyway, and I’ve never seen another.
Growing up in Polk County in the 1960’s -80’s, my family owned a cabin on land that was part of a ranch on the southern shore of Lake Kissimmee. It was more of a screened in porch than a cabin with a stocking rate of 3.1 wolf spiders per square foot rolled up in the oilcloth curtains.
My brothers and I climbed onto that barge many times growing up wondering what it would be like to take a load of cows across and drive the herd onto mysterious Brahma Island visible from our cabin. Like it was a different world ¾ mile away. I thought everybody had this growing up.
It wasn’t until my family sold the cabin that my brothers and I began to realize just how rare this place really was. And how much we would miss it.
Today the road to the ranch is gated, the fish camp is gone and the 70’s, well let’s all be thankful I don’t have those striped pants anymore. But the barge is still there as well as several inches of skin from my knees left on that barge. (My apologies to the Lightsey family, but the Mr. Taylor’s fish camp only had a tire swing and the fish weren’t biting.)
A little piece of my heart resides there, too.
I think maybe when you die, if you’ve been good enough all your life, and just maybe if you have the option, you get to cross not a river, but Lake Kissimmee to Brahma Island on that barge to the next world.
So as long as there are still cattle on Brahma Island and a barge to take them there, well I guess I there’s still a part of me on Lake Kissimmee.