Riding Flank on a Cattle Drive

As a self-confessed dreamer, I had always hoped to be born when cattle drives on the Chisholm Trail were still an everyday occurence.

Cattle Drive





















While working on this drawing, I started reading a book that I found quite wonderful. Here is an excerpt from the book, The American Past: A Survey of American History, by Joseph R. Conlin:

“It took 3 to 4 months to drive a herd of cattle from the vicinity of San Antonio to a railhead town in Kansas.  For a young man to be asked to join a trail crew was a great honor.

The crew for a long drive consisted of a foreman, or a trail boss; a Segundo, who took over when the trail boss was absent, a cook (who was an older man), a wrangler who was in charge of the remuda (the herd of spare horses that accompanied the expedition) that consisted of ten to twelve mounts for each hand.

A herd, mostly consisting of steers moved 10 to 15 miles a day. The cattle grazed while the herd was halted specifically to keep the weight on the cattle, and for lunch and dinner breaks. Two cowboys rode “lead” or “point”, carefully staying to either side of the milling herd so as to be out of the way if the cattle should spook into a stampede. Four rode “swing” and “flank” in pairs alongside the herd. Two or three cowboys rode “drag” behind the herd to keep it moving and to ride after any stragglers.

Each position had its own peculiarities. Riding point was considered the most prestigious and pleasant in terms of dust and odors, but it was also the most dangerous. Riding drag was the safest and most undesirable, due to the dust and odors. Riding flank and swing were the easiest and safest on the horses.”

And with that, I wipe my face from the dust and dirt, and sit back to enjoy the ride… until next time.


About Geri Dunn

Western Graphite Artist
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