Newell’s Last, Great Cattle Drive Sparks the Legend of Trail Boss and Cookie.

Growing up, did you want to be a cowboy or a cowgirl?

Saturday morning’s TV western line-up was a sacred time at our house. My sisters and I would sit on the floor in front the black and white TV with bowls of cereal filled to overflowing. We waited impatiently for the rugged Marlboro Man cigarette commercial to end and our shows to begin.

In the Old West, good triumphed over bad.  Right overcame wrong. There was no middle ground in Gunsmoke, the Roy Rogers Show, or Bonanza. Every Saturday morning, we were exposed to gun-totin’ good guys, outlaws, bank robberies, shoot-outs, and fist fights in Miss Kitty’s saloon. We’d imagine wearing the worn, dusty boots, and the broad, curled brim hat while sitting in the saddle, waiting to “ride out.”

To us, our cowboy heroes were as real as real could be.

Marshal Matt Dillion could break up a saloon brawl single handedly and never pull his gun. Remember Rawhide?  I had no idea who Clint Eastwood was, but I certainly knew Rowdy Yates. I travelled from Missouri through the Rockies on Wagon Train. Little Joe, Hoss and Adam were weekly family visitors here on the Ponderosa.

Fast forward some 40 years later.  Most certainly, you’d think the appeal of those childhood heroes had faded like Miss Kitty’s wallpaper. That we’d left the fascination with the Old West and cattle drives had been left in the dust.  

Think again.  

At Newell Lodge, we had the horses.  We had the cattle. We had a buckboard wagon, also known as “The Chuck Wagon.”  Most importantly, we had my husband Harvin’s imagination, creativity, and love for a crowd of people.

What comes next now, in retrospect, seems inevitable.

Word of the cattle drive spread quickly in our community.  Despite south Georgia’s scorching July heat, we turned horse and rider teams away. When time came to hit the trail, the ratio of horses and riders to the cattle was two to one.

The plan was to “drive” the outnumbered cattle a short distance to an adjacent property. There, a hearty cowboy repast would be prepared and served at the Chuck Wagon.  Our lunchtime layover would allow the cows to water and guests to enjoy a reprieve from the browbeating sun.

My husband, Harvin was the trail boss and I was “Cookie”.  Cookie was not a term of endearment. I was the cook. As in food preparation.    On cattle drives, it was common for the “cookie” to be second in authority only to the “trail boss”.   


The air was scented with dust, saddle leather and excitement as the cowboys and cowgirls readied their horses for the drive.  We burned daylight and then some. Turned out Trail Boss was experiencing few coordination issues. Everyone had a different approach to “driving cattle,” complicated by the fact that there was no one amongst us who had ever actually done so.  

Finally, Trail Boss said we were ready to go.

“Head ‘em up, move ‘em out.  Keep them doggies rollin’.”

He actually said, “Open the gates.”  

The cattle were a little confused by the open gate. They stood there looking at their horse counterparts, wondering what they should do and in need of a little encouragement.

Trail Boss and his horse worked their way inside the holding pen with an impressive cowboy whoop and a downward swipe of his hat.  In hindsight, Trail Boss should have maintained his lead position.

Cattle bolted from the pen in one direction, a blur of brown and white. Horses and riders scattered with pounding hooves as they quickly moved out of the way of the stampede.  

“Close the front gates”, shouted Trail Boss over the chaos.  Luckily, Cookie heard the call and quickly ran to close the front gates.  

If only it had ended there.  But alas, it did not.

The more experienced riders rounded up the strays and quickly had the livestock huddled together. Then, the front gates were re-opened and we made our way through with a sense of freedom, accompanied by high spirits.

Once the steers stepped through the front gates, they left us all in a dead run.  Several ran straight ahead. A few turned around and went back through the front gate. The remainder dispersed in every direction through the woods.  

As second in command, Cookie decided to turn the chuck wagon around and set up camp.  For the next several hours, riders searched for the cows. By sundown, the riders had long since eaten their hearty meals at the Chuck Wagon and headed home. Full on darkness approached and several of the livestock were still missing in action.

Trail Boss and Cookie took the pickup truck and a flashlight to search the dirt roads for stragglers.  We’d counted heads and come up two steers short. After hearing distressed bellows in a thicket, we parked and trekked into the woods.  With only a flashlight and sheer determination, we found the last two cows. Surprisingly, they seemed happy to see us and walked docilely back to the dirt road. Wiser now, we used the truck to guide them safely home.  

Nigh onto midnight, the gates were finally closed for the day.  The cows, at least, were fed and contented.

As we returned to the truck, Trail Boss said to Cookie, “I think everything went pretty well, don’t you?”  

My husband, the Trail Boss and eternal optimist.  

Happy Trails.