BRIGHTON — The fourth annual Smith Family Cattle Drive & Ranch Rodeo went off with only a minor hitch Feb. 20 in Brighton: Saturated pastures forced 68 cattle and herders to instead move along roads parallel to the soggy fields.
About 100 family members and friends rode horses, all-terrain vehicles, pickup trucks and swamp buggies and helped herd the cattle from the marsh pens to the Fred Smith Rodeo Arena about 6 miles away. A few hard-working dogs kept the cattle in line with barks and nips if they broke from the herd.
The event honors the Smith family patriarchs’ contributions in the cattle industry and their lives of public service.
The sons of Jack Smith Sr., a pioneer of the cattle industry, followed him into the cattle business. Fred, Richard, Jack Jr. and Roger were all cattlemen and served the Tribe as elected officials.
Jack Sr. left his herd to his four daughters: Nellie Smith, Oneva Baxley, Linda Tommie and Mahala Madrigal, who keep it in Nellie’s pasture. Roger’s pasture is right next door and his widow, Diane Smith; daughter Amanda Julian; and son-in-law John Julian take care of the herds.
“We are blessed to be able to carry on his legacy,” Amanda Julian said about her late father, Roger. “He always loved his cattle.”
Julian aspires to be a cattlewoman; her application is pending approval.
Nellie Smith, who was afraid of cows as a child, remembers going into the pastures to round up cattle.
“We used to go out and help my dad mark the calves,” Mahala Madrigal said. “We had to gather them up and make sure they didn’t get away.”
The younger generation of Smiths is proud of the family legacy and hopes to make its own mark on the Tribe. Trisha Osceola, Roger’s daughter, remembers her father working the pastures every day. She said each brother contributed to the Tribe in his own way.
“They were a great group of guys that a lot of people looked up to,” said Osceola, of Hollywood. “It’s nice to be part of the bloodline and hopefully carry on what they started.”
Fred’s daughter Camellia Smith Osceola, who manages her father’s herd, is also proud of her lineage. She said the cattle drive respects and honors her grandfather and uncles, and it helps pass on their legacy to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“We want to make sure they know the story so they can carry it on when we aren’t here,” she said. “We share this event with the community because they were all community leaders and well respected. They set a good example for the family.”
Some of the grandchildren are starting to take on leadership positions of their own. Jarrid Smith, Camellia Smith Osceola’s son, teaches at Hollywood Hills High School and serves on the Gaming Commission. He said he did not realize the significance of his family until he was old enough to see it from an outside perspective.
“This is just the people they were and the role they played in the community,” said Smith, 30. “The younger kids probably think this is a normal family, which is a good thing.”
Smith made a conscious decision to follow in his family’s footsteps. He has a strong relationship with his wife, Desiree; family; and God. He attends church regularly. A graduate of Florida Atlantic University, Smith formerly taught at the Ahfachkee School and believes in serving the community.
“At the inauguration last year, as I was sitting there, the thought occurred to me that I could put myself in those shoes,” he said. “I want to be in leadership. Right now I’m a teacher and would like to one day be an administrator, which is still leadership.”
To lead the cattle drive, the family chose Paul Bowers Sr. as trail boss. His brother Richard had the honor last year and both were friends of the Smith brothers.
“I was surprised but honored,” Bowers said. “It was rough when you haven’t ridden for three years; I was glad when it was over.”
After three hours on the hot and dusty trail, the cattle were led into a shady pen at the rodeo arena. Then the men, women and children enjoyed a hearty lunch and paid tribute to the Smith family.
“The brothers were all athletic and competitive,” said Norman “Skeeter” Bowers. “Richard wasn’t shy about telling us to work harder and Roger was like a brother; he was a dear friend.”
A few hours later, ranch hands showed their skills with cattle. Five teams from area ranches competed in team sorting, roping and branding, team tying, relay race and bronc riding events.
Plans for next year’s cattle drive are already in the works.
Diane Smith said she wants the cattle drive to be an overnighter with camping along the way.