by Carlton Ward Jr. | December 13, 2017

Florida Wild: Seminole Cowboys

Photographs and Field Notes

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Seminole Tribe of Florida cattle ranching, Brighton; Photography by Carlton Ward Jr.

I was standing in the back of a truck parked in the middle of a pasture, waiting for the sun to rise over the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Brighton Reservation, just northwest of Lake Okeechobee. A group of cowboys had just trotted past in the dark, dogs at their heels. They were riding to gather the herd of cattle they would later drive past me on the way to the pens.

I readied my cameras and waited. The fog was still so thick that I could hardly see beyond the front bumper of the truck when I heard an escalating rumble moving towards me from the right. As I lifted my camera to the empty horizon, a column of galloping horses, not cattle, materialized in my viewfinder for a few seconds and then vanished like a ghost train into the fog, the muffled thunder of their hooves a lingering reminder of what I had seen.

The few frames I captured from this surprise encounter in the pre-dawn light were gifts from the hidden wild of Florida’s heartland. I later learned that the Seminoles raise quarter horses as well as cattle.