ALTUS, Okla. (KFOR) – A generation of cowhands who crossed the Red River while heading north would look to the Wichita Mountains as a guide, using the very same landmarks that pilot trainees look for at Altus Air Force Base.
“They played a great part of our history,” insists Air Force Capt. John Silvi.
For 25 years now, Airmen and women stationed in this hot part of the state have taken a little time to run outside for a break, and to see something unique along any flight line in the world.
As a nod to the old trail days, 20 longhorn cattle walk right through the middle of the base.
One of the Air Force planners of this year’s drive was Silvi, a cowboy from Houston turned C-1235 pilot/trainer who was amused at our comparing the base mission as a base for in-air refueling.
“On our drive here we were thinking that air refuelers are a lot like the chuckwagons of the Air Force aren’t they?” we query.
“Yeah,” he chuckles. “I think so.”
Air Force personnel are stationed here from all over the country, and have never seen anything like this.
The novelty of it brings them out to see the show.
“This was a surprise,” smiles an Air Force Sgt. “It’s the first we’ve heard about.”
This is the fourth or fifth generation of longhorns from the Slash-O ranch near Woodward, Oklahoma.
Head drover Wes Sander shows them off in parades all over the region so they know what to do,
“Altus is one of the very first places we ever came,” he says. “Back in ’98, I think it was.”
The closest aircraft these longhorns get to is the one on static display, far away from the actual runway.
But on rodeo weekend in Altus, and right along the route of the old Great Western Cattle Trail, an event like this brings town and base a little closer, riding, flying, and cattle driving.
The annual Great Plains Stampede Rodeo in Altus takes place August 24-26, 2023.
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