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Mission and History - Heifer's Cowboys
Have you ever heard of a seagoing cowboy? In the years following World War II, more than 7,000 cowboys and cowgirls accompanied shipments of cattle, pigs, goats and other livestock across land, sea and air to deliver them to Heifer project participants in Europe. (At this time Heifer was shipping livestock from the United States, a practice not generally used now.)
For most of them, this trip was a series of firsts: The first time to sail on a ship, to cross the ocean, to visit another land and culture, to see war’s devastation and to test their faith in a secular setting.
Now you can experience what they did through this collection of recollections and journal entries, first published in 1994 in Cowboy Memories, which was edited by Bill Beck and Mel West.
Wayne Hostetler, Cowboy, 1944
Almost everyone at Pier C South, Alabama State Docks, Mobile, Ala., was on hand to witness the loading of the 17 relief heifers on the liberty ship William D. Bloxham, the morning of July 13, 1944. These heifers were the first shipment of cattle from this port in 15 years.
While on the voyage the heifers had their home on deck in two shed-shaped barns, one on each side of No. 4 hatch. A 13-day feed supply of alfalfa and Johnson grass hay and grain was carried on the hatch between the two barns. The feed was covered with a tarpaulin at all times to protect it from the sea and rain. The heifers were fed and watered and the stables were cleaned three times a day.
On Sunday, July 16, part of the ship’s crew witnessed the birth of the first calf born during the trip. There were three births on our eight-day sea voyage.
Newton S. Goodridge, Cowboy, 1954
From his journal at that time:
The buzzing of bees, the bleating of goats, the silent but visible quivering of white rabbits and the clamorous confusion of much ceremony marked the take-off for Korea yesterday of a ‘Noah’s Ark’ airliner.
A chartered four-engine DC4 plane of Transocean Air Lines, stripped of all but two of its passenger seats, was the Ark. It carried 100 goats, 600 rabbits and an estimated 1,500,000 bees, along with a goat-tender and a beekeeper.
Bill E. Beck, Cowboy
In 1964, Beck accompanied a shipment of 20 polled Hereford heifers and one bull along with 20 pigs on board the SS President Tyler bound for Japan.
A highlight of the trip was traveling to the Iwate Prefecture to meet the farmers receiving the cattle for this cooperative project. Kentara Buma, Japan Church World Service director, met me at the ship and took me to Iwate. We entered a great hall set for a banquet with tables in a half circle.
Representing HPI, I was given a seat of honor. What a humbling experience when all you have done is feed and care for the animals generously given by others. They graciously presented me with gifts and words of gratitude. I responded by telling them about farmers who had given animals and churches that had collected money to provide these livestock. It was a wonderful party! But the highlight for me was when Kentara Buma turned to me in the car as we drove away and said, ‘You need to know that most of these farmers walked all morning to come and say, Thank you!’ The emotions of that moment have lasted me a lifetime.
E.G. Carper, Cowboy, 1966
I accompanied a load of heifers and bees from Miami to Peru during the time I lived in Boston. I no longer know the date. It must have been 25 years ago. This was the first time they decided to go south via the east coast rather than the west.
It was almost a disaster. We stayed overnight on one of the islands, at which time I hired a couple of young native boys to carry and give water to the cattle. The young fellows took their work seriously and carried water all night long, saturating the straw bedding with so much extra weight that we barely were able to get off the ground the next day.
We got lost going across the jungle. The pilot put out an SOS and only New York answered. For about three hours we flew around trying to find our small airport. At a desperation point we saw a small light in the distance which we followed. It was our destination airport, but we didn’t know it. We flew around it twice trying to get a response in order to land. No answer. The pilot said we must land for we didn’t have enough gasoline to make another trip around. When we landed and inquired about the lack of radio response, we were told that they guy decided to take the day off.
After the cattle were unloaded and taken to their destination I left on a regular airline to go further south to check on and write an article about a previous shipment.
When I got back to Boston, I learned that the pilot and co-pilot purchased a lot of parrots somewhere, hoping to make a lot of money selling them. Much to their surprise, the plane, the parrots and the crew were quarantined in Miami for three days. They lost the birds.
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