Various media outlets recalled the atmosphere of the Wild West in broadcasting the story of the rancher who did what any cattle rancher would do – save his cattle.

“Save the cows,” was the only thought running through Pat Henscey’s mind on Sunday morning, May 31. The Trinity River had risen an extra 2 feet since the Liberty Bell Ranch owner and his employee, Brandon Richburg, had checked it just the day before. The Dayton, Texas, operation is located just along the banks of the Trinity River.

“The rain started and it didn’t quit,” Henscey says. “There were cattle drowning left and right.”

calves on airboat

That morning Henscey only called his hired guys to help move his cattle, and he couldn’t believe what he was seeing when the community immediately joined the expedition. Since riding horses into the floods was not an option, multiple employees from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department donated time and airboats to transport calves and quickly move cowboys to distressed cattle.

“Not everyone knows how to a handle a cow,” Richburg says. “But I was glad they were there.”


After difficult efforts to move the cattle off of the levee and into the water, Richburg says the current instantly grabbed the cows and carried them a mile in the opposite direction.

“I have had to do a lot of hard things, but this was one of the hardest,” Richburg says. “I hope I don’t have to do it again tomorrow.”

Cattle in flooded Trinity River

The cowboys went into the water around 7 a.m. and didn’t emerge with the cattle until early afternoon. With the help of airboats and cow dogs, the cattle were pushed to higher ground and on their 7-mile journey to a safe pasture. Henscey estimates they saved 200 mother cows and 100 calves, out of a herd of 350.

When they finally had the cattle moving toward downtown Dayton, the cowboys finally realized they had an audience. The community lined the streets as the cattle moved through. The local authorities directed traffic and handled the large crowd. There were more than 100 people who joined the cause, supplying the cowboys with bottles of water, and another 32 people on horseback.

Cattle herded through town

“It was like a circus; people came out from everywhere,” Henscey says. “It was like a darn trail ride.”

Capt. Ken DeFoor of the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, described the scene similar to the Macy’s Day Parade. News cameras and reporters captured the view and broadcasted it for the nation to watch.

“I didn’t even know it was on TV until my daughter called me,” Richburg says. “It’s kind of good because everybody ought to know where their hamburgers come from,” Richburg says.

The various media outlets helped the beef industry take transparency to another level with this cattle drive. The nation was able to see how difficult a rancher’s job can be.

“I guess they needed a good story,” Henscey says. “I guess I put Dayton, Texas, on the map.”  end mark

PHOTO 1: An aerial shot of the May 31 cattle drive shows the cattle moving along the Trinity River in Texas. Photo provided by KPRC TV – Houston.

PHOTO 2: Calves too small to make the deep, swift waters were brought ashore on airboats and loaded into stock trailers.

PHOTO 3: It took nearly seven hours to push the cattle out of the flooded Trinity River near Dayton, Texas.

PHOTO 4: Community members lined the streets and marveled at the scene as a 300-head herd of cattle pushed through. Photos provided by Capt. Ken DeFoor of Liberty County Sheriff’s Office.