by CRAIG PITTMAN
OCTOBER 18, 2021
Florida cattle ranchers hold fast to a 500-year-old American tradition that began in our state and is helping to save its remaining green spaces.
On a steamy August morning, as the temperature rose with the sun, Jim Strickland stood on a raised cypress board in a rugged cow pen at Blackbeard’s Ranch near Myakka City, looking down on a series of brown, black and reddish cows scooting through a cattle chute. They flickered by like images in a clattering movie projector.
Strickland, the ranch’s managing partner, wore a sweat-stained cowboy hat, a once-white fishing shirt with the sleeves rolled up, rumpled jeans and old gray sneakers spattered with mud. As the cows trotted past him, the 66-year-old rancher kept count. On every second or third one, he squirted a spray that would keep away flies for a week or so. When some of the cows hesitated, he’d slap them on the rump or the back lightly, urging them to keep going.