Tall in the saddle

Colt Gordon, 10, of Comanche, stays on his horse, Diamond, even after reaching the Marlow campsite, following a long day of cattle driving. The day started early that morning and the drive reached the campsite nearly 12 hours later.

Colt Gordon might have been the littlest cowboy on the Chisholm Trail Cattle Drive 2007 as it traversed three southern Oklahoma counties during Week 1, and he also might have been the toughest.

Gordon, 10, of Comanche, rode his horse and never was heard to complain during the historical adventure that will end in Caldwell, Kan., on Oct. 5. He was just one of four Gordon family members who rode the trail. His father, Andy, grandfather, James (Andy’s father), and his brother, Dylan, 12, can all claim the drover title. Dylan, a junior high student, divided his time between the drive and school and football, while Colt had more opportunity to stay on the trail because he’s in fourth grade. The boys attend school in Comanche and were excused for their days on the trail.

Andy helped load cattle for the haul to the first campsite at Fleetwood, said his wife, Krissie.

And unlike the days of the 1880s where cowboys were just doing their job, probably not thinking of its historical importance, the cowboys of the 2007 drive were well aware they were helping shape history.

The cattle drive was one of Oklahoma’s state Centennial events, significant to its history. At times, it followed the exact path of the historical cattle drive along the Chisholm Trail, and the riverbanks of Claridy, Cow and Wildhorse creeks.

And for the Gordon clan, sharing that experience has already become a treasured memory.

“It was great and a big deal to me, being able to do that with my son and grandsons,” James, 60, said Thursday, nearly a week after the last day on the trail. The best part for him were the first two days and the time spent on the trail with his son, he said.

The herd and cowboys left Fleetwood in Jefferson County on Sept. 10. By the time they reached Duncan on Sept. 13, many were already tired. That day was the longest day of the week.

James said the fortitude of his youngest grandson was not surprising.

“He’s got that same fortitude with everything he does, but that day was really grueling,” James said. Krissie, the boys’ mom, said she wasn’t surprised either at Colt’s determination.

“I don’t think he could have worn out. He absolutely loved it,” she said. “My kids eat, sleep and breathe anything to do with rodeo. They team rope and calf rope.”

Both boys belong to similar associations. They are both members of the US Team Roping Championships association. Colt belongs to the Heart of Oklahoma Youth Rodeo Association and Dylan is a member of the National (Oklahoma chapter) High School Rodeo Association in the Junior High Wrangler division. Dylan’s roping partner and friend, Gage Williams, was also on the drive as a drover.

So, what did the Gordons do to prepare for the drive?

Krissie said her boys ride every day so they really didn’t have to do much to get ready.

Colt did get a new canteen, she said.

But for grandpa James, it was a slightly different story.

“I rode every day for a month, not all day, but every day, so I could stay in the saddle,” he said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

James and Mike Smith invited the boys to join in the cattle drive for the experience that included campfire stories each night.

“We told lots of stories and the boys just enjoyed being out there, sleeping under the stars,” James said.

At one point during the drive through and past Duncan, Colt was seen using a cell phone, something cowboys of the 1800s did not have. He was talking on it as the cattle drive went under the Osage Road overpass on Duncan Bypass and some of the cowboys’ wives teased him and yelled for him to put away the phone.

Turns out, he was calling his mom.

“He only called me a couple times, but that was a long day and he was worried his horse would give out on him. He called and told me, ‘I need a new horse,’” she said. On the last day of the cattle drive, souvenir belt buckles were awarded at the Rush Springs campsite after the crew had turned the cattle over to the next group of drovers.

When it came time for Colt to get his buckle, he was described as being a “little, tough cowboy.”

To hear his grandpa and mom tell it, the description fits.

“Colt loved camping out and sleeping on his bedroll. He did everything just like the big guys,” Krissie said.

The family plans to head up to Caldwell and ride in the last two days with the herd for the arrival and big party that will be hosted for everyone involved.

James said he mentioned to the boys that they might have to get excused from school. Colt’s determination was in his reply.

“If you’re going, I’m going,” he said. James said he plans to journal his experience and is encouraging his grandsons to do the same.

“I told them to write a report for school and to put it up so they’d have it when they get older. They might not have had as much fun with me as I did with them, but they will remember it when they get older.”

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