Florida steers are working their way into a high-profile herd.
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Preacher, Frosty and V.R. aren't quite sure what to think about their 14 new partners.
They've been hanging out with them in the stockyards, and they seem to be getting along.
But they're not yet part of the gang.
It may take a while.
The three longhorn steers -- stranded after Hurricane Ivan's storms destroyed their home and flooded their Pensacola, Fla., farmland with saltwater -- have been donated to the Fort Worth Herd.
They won't become official herd members, however, until they can join the cattle on twice-daily drives through the Stockyards.
"We're working all three of them into the herd, to get acclimated," said Kristin Liggett, herd trail boss. "I think all three will work out very well.
"We just take it one day at a time, one step at a time."
The three steers were left homeless in September, when Hurricane Ivan cut a swath of destruction from Alabama to Florida.
Homes and businesses were destroyed, including the barn where the three steers sought shelter.
The steers weren't harmed, but their pasture at the Sidewinder Cattle Co. was flooded with saltwater, leaving them without food and water.
"It's very fortunate they weren't hurt," said Ed Shehee Jr., a Pensacola orthodontist who co-owned the steers with his father. "They had to stand in water for a few days because we couldn't get to them.
"But they're tough. They survived."
About that time, Larry Barker with the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association wrote to cattle ranchers saying that the Fort Worth Herd was looking for a few good steers.
Shehee and his father, known as "Papa Ed," decided to donate their steers.
Shehee met with herd officials in Beaumont and delivered three somewhat hungry steers.
"It's a good fit for them and for the herd," Barker said. "I hated to hear why -- because of his misfortune with his property and field being destroyed -- that he wanted to give them away. But they found a perfect home."
The three steers are Texas longhorns with "impressive" horns, around 10 years old and underweight, officials said. The animals weigh about 1,300 pounds, rather than the usual 1,500-1,800 pounds.
Who they are
Preacher is mostly red with white patches. Frosty is solid gray despite what his name might imply. V.R. -- nobody seems to know what the initials stand for -- is mostly brown.
V.R. has been fighting respiratory problems and weighs less than the other two. He is on antibiotics, but all three steers have been given clean bills of health.
The three are mingling with the 14 other steers who make up the herd, along with an unnamed 2-year-old steer recently donated by a Mississippi breeder.
Ultimately, they'll replace some aging, arthritic steers that will be retired.
For now, they're getting to know their future co-workers. When they're ready, they'll join the cowhands and steers in the historically accurate (although very small-scale) cattle drives through the Stockyards. More than 3,800 drives have been conducted since the herd was formed in 1999.
"They really get to be celebrities now -- all because of Hurricane Ivan," Shehee said. "It really changed their lives around."