Cheyenne residents got their first taste of the rodeo to come Sunday morning as cowboys on horseback drove hundreds of steers from the plains north of town to Frontier Park.
The annual cattle drive marked the unofficial start of the 122nd annual Cheyenne Frontier Days.
It took some time to get started north of Horse Creek Road on a chilly morning that eventually brought light rain. An estimated start time of 7:30 a.m. went by without a hint of the Corriente steers specially bred for rodeo.
But around 8 a.m., Shawn McKee, 55, saw a dust cloud over the horizon and alerted his granddaughters, Anna and Sophia Harrington, ages 12 and 8, respectively.
“Here they come,” he said.
Seconds later, the bovines and their horns became visible as they massed on the hill like an invading army.
As they made their way toward the road and wheeled onto the pavement, the girls beamed with excitement.
“This is so cool,” Anna said.
Farther down the road, Kevin Reddy was watching with wife, Britney, and their children: K.P., 10; John, 7; Aidan, 5, and Lillian, 2.
They waved gamely to the passing carriages carrying Mayor Marian Orr and other guests of honor, as well as the other riders trailing behind. But at one point, John became curious about all the police vehicles.
“Are they going to arrest the cows?” he asked.
His mother assured him they weren’t.
Then they noticed the cattle grazing as they went along.
“Now I understand why they’re late,” K.P. said.
Unconcerned about the official schedule, the steers kept loping along, clopping, slipping and sliding down the Interstate 25 frontage road, Hynds Boulevard, toward Frontier Park, where they’ll be wrestled and roped once events get underway.
Other than a little confusion at the Vandehei Avenue roundabout – where folks felt compelled to point out that even cattle have trouble with the circular interchanges – things ran smoothly.
Cheyenne Police, Laramie County Sheriff’s deputies and the Wyoming Highway Patrol worked together to monitor traffic and make sure no one was parked on the interstate.
And despite the drizzle, dozens of residents greeted the herd at the intersection of Hynds Boulevard and Central Avenue.
For Mark and Marie McKay, it wasn’t a question.
“We live in Cheyenne,” Marie said. “It’s what we like to do.”