Cow Creek as it looks at Adams Ranch after the installation of a weir to manage water levels.
“It was the best of any world that anybody could dream
of: the freedom, the beauty, the knowledge you learned from
being here,” he says. Then he turns to the many cowboys he
learned from and looked up to over the years.
“The No. 1 thing I picked up from all of them was the appreciation
they had for the land and the animals,” he says.
“The land is important — you didn’t destroy or take from it
without giving back or trying to protect it.”
In many ways, Buddy is an advocate for the cowboy way
of life. He attended college on a rodeo scholarship and later
worked as a day cowboy and rodeo performer. After a stint
with the Florida Department of Agriculture, he became an agriculture
teacher at Yearling Middle School. He coached rodeo
at the middle school as well as at Okeechobee High School.
He says he was never bored as a child growing up on Cow
Creek. He and his younger brother Kent always had chores
to do such as fences to mend, minerals to put out and cows
to check on. Then there were more relaxing pursuits such as
fishing, hunting or trapping. “We’d leave in the morning on
our bicycles or horses and Momma wouldn’t see us ’til dark,”
When I ask him what the day means to him, he chokes and
can’t get any words out. Long silence. He apologizes. No
need. The moment reaffirms the hold Cow Creek has had on
our lives and how all who experienced this time and place
BACK TO BLUE MOUNTAIN
After the visit to Cow Creek, I called my friend Robbie
Adams, co-owner of the neighboring Adams Ranch, which
in 1976 had bought the Blue Mountain sections of Cow Creek
from the Sloans. Anytime I can think of an excuse to go driving
around Adams Ranch with Robbie I give him a call. I
knew the eastern part of Cow Creek ran through the property
the Adamses had purchased, so I asked him if we could take
a ride to Blue Mountain.
I meet him at the ranch office early one morning and his
brother, Mike Adams, president of Adams Ranch, is there. I
ask Mike about the vitality of Cow Creek and its relationship
to ranches in the region.
Mike tells me the problems diking the creek caused during
the Vavrus years. The dike broke during heavy rains in 1991,
putting part of Adams Ranch under water.
“It probably helped them harvest all that cypress by holding
that water back,’’ Adams says. “If you look at the creek at
their dam, all the cypress to the west has died out. It doesn’t
look anything like it should.”
Mike says Cow Creek extends for 6 miles, originating west
of the old Cow Creek Ranch and running east through Adams
Ranch. The creek’s water, he says, comes from the seepage
of a sand ridge rather than from a spring. The constant
seepage allowed the cypress to grow in and around the creek.
“It’s great habitat for a lot of birds and animals,” he says.
He has been working with the South Florida Water Man-