Fort Worth’s stockyards as tourist attraction? It didn’t sound like a bucket-list item, but we needed a road trip stopover, so we gave it a try. The historic tour set in turn-of-the-century brick cattle pens, turned out to be a real find. The prime rib and smoked catfish were also exceptional.
The cattle drive wasn’t so much — for good reason. Pushing a rambunctious herd of longhorns past a lineup of small children would be insanity. Still a half-dozen deadheaded longhorns escorted by shushing cowhands makes for a laughably lackluster spectacle. Indeed, the saddled photo-op steer on a street corner put on a better show, nodding emphatically when its handler asked if it was happy to see us.
More interesting is the longhorns’ history. My mind boggles at the thought of early explorers hauling even a couple of these gore-hazards across the Atlantic on a crowded sailing ship. Their offspring thrived untended on the West Texas prairies and, by way of the iconic cattle drives, provided much-needed meat to a country devastated by civil war. Later the longhorns were replaced by fattier breeds and might have gone the way of the dodo bird had history lovers not ridden in to save the day.