BIG CYPRESS — Andre Jumper is the embodiment of his family’s legacy. Like his grandfather Jonah Cypress before him, Jumper was named Big Cypress cattle foreman in January.
“I’m a cowboy so I like to do what a cowboy does,” said Jumper, 23. “I come from a long line of cowboys; I was born into it.”
Jumper was raised around cattle in the pastures of BC and always wanted to be a cowboy. His grandfather, Moses Jumper Jr., his father Josh and uncle Naha Jumper have herds in BC. His great grandfather Junior Cypress was also a BC cattleman.
“I think it’s great,” said Moses Jumper. “His grandfather used to do this many years ago and Andre’s been around it all his life. He knows it pretty good.”
The life of a cowboy isn’t always a walk in the park; sometimes it’s a long hard ride in the saddle.
On days when the cows need vaccinations, pregnancy checks, booster shots, need to be moved for shipping or pasture maintenance, Jumper starts work at around 5 am. First he gets his dogs and horses ready and fills the coolers with ice. Then he meets his crew of six or seven cowboys and gets to work.
On days when there is just the normal workload, such as delivering feed and molasses supplements, making sure pastures are mowed and fertilized, Jumper gets to sleep late. Those days, he doesn’t start until 7 a.m.
“Ever since I was little, I always wanted to be a cowboy,” Jumper said. “The best part of the job is that I get to work with my grandfather [Jonah Cypress].”
Cypress served as cattle foreman for 27 years until 2000 and has served as BC Natural Resources Manager since 2008. He is Jumper’s boss and helps him learn the ropes of being foreman.
“He’ll do alright,” Cypress said. “There will be tough times, but he’ll get through it. He’s got about 20 bosses now and I tell him it’s good to keep on their good side.”
Jumper’s goal is to keep the 23 BC cattle owners happy. To do that, he is a fixture in the pastures as he tends to the animals and makes sure the owners’ needs are met.
“Even though I don’t have my own, I know their herds,” he said. “I’m very familiar with them.”
Jumper also knows the landscape, including its predators. He says panthers and buzzards do the most damage to the herds.
Panthers will take a calf, eat some, bury it and come back again to eat more. Although known for eating dead animals, buzzards will also kill and eat newly born calves in the pastures. They do about as much damage to herds as the panthers.
Both are protected species and cannot be killed.
For two weeks in April, Jumper and his crew gave booster shots to calves in the BC herds. On April 15 he gave the shots to his father’s 98 calves and his grandfather Moses’ 91 calves.
Jumper’s crew of seven was comprised of five Tribal members; Chris Green, Cat Tommie, Naha Jumper, Josh Jumper and Pauletta Bowers. Longtime cowboys Randy Rueda and Donnie Crawford completed the crew. Jonah Cypress monitored the process and kept a log of how many calves were vaccinated.
The process is straight forward, but isn’t simple. The entire herd, calves, cows and bulls, are gathered from the pastures and herded into holding pens. Then the work really begins; the calves must be sorted from the cows and the bulls separated from them all.
Groups of animals are led down a chute, where they are guided individually into the proper holding pen. A crew member, in this case Naha Jumper, moves the gate to direct each animal into the proper pen. It’s fast and dirty work; the animals don’t know what is going on so they resist and complain loudly.
It’s the job of Jumper and his crew to get the animals where they need to be safely. Only then do they lead the calves from the holding pen through the chute a second time so they can be vaccinated. On this day, the deed was done successfully and the crew loaded the bulls onto a trailer and took them to the bull pasture.
But the day wasn’t finished yet; Martha Jones’ herd had to be moved and readied for booster shots the following day. The site of eight people on horseback heading for the large herd at the far side of the pasture was reminiscent of a western cowboy movie without the mountainous desert locale.
Jumper was always destined to be a cowboy, whether on the ranch or in the rodeo arena. He used to do team roping- he was a heeler- but he loved watching the pick-up men during the rodeos. They are the ones on horseback who help cowboys get off the broncs if they aren’t thrown off.
Jumper admires his brother Blevyns, who is also a cowboy.
“Nothing gets under his skin,” he said. “He’s just a laid back cowboy who does what you ask. I’m the same way, but I like to laugh and have a good time.”
He said the job of cattle foreman is being a cowboy, but with a lot more responsibility.
“I have a lot more on my plate to deal with and I’m still learning,” Jumper said. “My Grandpa Jonah guides me, tells me what to do and what not to do. My dad’s in the field a lot, too.”
Jumper said he never had to clock in or out before, but that doesn’t keep him from being the cowboy he was born to be.