Cracker Trail Ride replays Florida cowboy lore

Lake Okeechobee News/Katrina Elsken
About 150 horses and riders stopped at the Edna Pearce Lockett Estate on Thursday as they made their way from Bradenton to Fort Pierce on the Florida Cracker Trail.

OKEECHOBEE — A piece of history passed through Okeechobee County last week with the annual Florida Cracker Trail Ride.

Approximately 150 horses and riders participated in the 2020 Cracker Trail Ride. While most came from Florida, some came from Colorado, Washington state and even from England. Riders of all ages found camaraderie on the journey.

Lake Okeechobee News/Katrina Elsken
Butch Thompson greeted riders on the annual Florida Cracker Trail Ride as they arrived at the Edna Pearce Lockett Estate on Thursday.

On Thursday, the riders stopped for lunch at the Edna Pearce Lockett Estate on the Kissimmee River.

Suzanne Park is a 16-year veteran of the trail ride, and has been the trail boss for the past six years. She said the riders cover about 20 miles per day, on the 120-mile trek from Bradenton to Fort Pierce.

She said her favorite part about the annual event is the friendships she has developed with other riders, and the opportunity to meet others who love history, such as the owners of the Lockett estate.

Lake Okeechobee News/Katrina Elsken
Retired veteran Jim Tipton drove a buggy pulled by a mule named Duck. His dog, Cowboy, rode at his side.

The 2020 Florida Cracker Trail Ride marked the fourth time retired veteran Jim Tipton from Bradenton made the journey. He rode in a buggy pulled by a mule named Duck, and was accompanied by his little dog, Cowboy.

He said his involvement in the ride started with his daughter, Cathy Wolfe, whose business, Wolfe Born To Ride, offers trail rides in state parks.

Lake Okeechobee News/Katrina Elsken
Trail boss Suzanne Park (center) was ready for lunch at the Edna Pearce Lockett Estate on Thursday. The annual trail ride includes meals at prearranged stops along the way.

Seven-year-old Rylie Fail was a first-time rider on the Cracker Trail this year. She celebrated her birthday on Feb. 19. Her birthday present was her horse, Razzle. Her mom, Rachel, said Rylie started riding Razzle a few months ago in preparation for the Cracker Trail, but the horse officially became “hers” on her birthday. Rylie has been riding horses since the age of 3.

Rylie said her favorite part of the trail ride was when they were passed by an Amtrak train.

Lake Okeechobee News/Katrina Elsken
The Florida Cracker Trail Ride traveled 120 miles last week. This year approximately 150 horses and riders participated, along with some who rode in horse or mule-drawn wagons.

About the Cracker Trail Association
The Florida Cracker Trail Association is a nonprofit organization of volunteers dedicated to the mission of “Keeping History Alive” by educating through demonstration, the Old Florida Cracker Pioneer ways of agriculture, animal husbandry and respect for the land as well as the hardships and joys of life on the original frontier.

About the Cracker Trail
Markers on the Florida Cracker Trail state: “The Florida Cracker Trail follows an east/west route across the state of Florida that has existed since 1850. The trail was used by Florida’s early settlers to transverse the state. It was primarily used to drive cattle from Florida’s Heartland to the coastal ports for shipment to Key West and Cuba. The Confederate Army relied on cattle from the area and other Florida sites to feed its troops stationed throughout the South. The term ‘Cracker’ was derived from the sound of these early cow hunters’ cracking whips as they moved the cattle along the trail. Later the words ‘Florida Cracker’ came to indicate a Florida native. One of the last major cattle drives along this route was in 1937. The Florida Cracker Trail runs through five counties from Bradenton to Fort Pierce along portions of State Road 64, U.S. Highway 17, State Road 66, U.S. Highway 98, County Road 68 and U.S. Highway 441.”

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