Cattle Drives

There were cattle drives here in Griggs County years ago.  Some were for moving cattle to a summer pasture, and then home again in the fall.  Most of these drives moved cattle to be marketed to a town, where there was a small stockyard especially built by the railway company, right along the tracks, where the farmer (or a group of farmers) could hold the cattle for a day or so until they could be loaded on a railway stock car for shipment to a large terminal livestock market.  The market where we shipped our cattle was the one at South St. Paul, Minnesota.

I first remember these cattle drives from the Osmundson farm in the early 1930s.  Most of us in this family, with the help of several neighbors, drove the cattle to be marketed on the road that leads the five miles south to Jessie.  A horse-drawn hayrack wagon, with some hay in it, would go ahead of the herd to "lead" it, while horseback riders, and some of us afoot, would follow behind to keep the cattle together.  Along the way this herd might be joined by cattle from other farms, if a joint shipment of cattle had been planned in order to fill a cattle car.  At that time there was little or no gravel on that road, so the herd could be driven along the roadbed, with no danger of sore feet.  There was very little automobile traffic in those days.

When the herd arrived at Jessie it was penned in that siding stockyard, owned by the Northern Pacific Railway Company, and was fed and tended by the herd owners until time to load on the stock car for shipment.

When arrangements were first made with the depot agent to obtain a livestock ear, one passenger pass would also be issued, so that one of the livestock owners could accompany that particular train to the market destination in order to see that the animals were cared for properly, and also complete the sale.

I remember that my father, Aslak Osmundson, took a shipment of cattle to South St. Paul, and I remember my uncle Ole Osmundson going also.  Likely they made a number of such trips before I was born.

Emil Wurst, of rural Jessie, told me several years ago that he also had accompanied a stock car of cattle to South St. Paul, and that my family also had some cattle on that car.  He went on to say that, as the animals were being unloaded, he noticed that one of our steers was lying as though dead in the corner of the car.  Emil said he went over and prodded the animal, and it then jumped up and left the car like a shot.  -Allen Osmundson

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial Page 129

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