|Bartow cattle drive. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory|
Dana Ste. Claire, in his book, Cracker: The Cracker Culture in Florida History (Museum of Arts and Sciences, 1998), surprisingly includes canned tomatoes among typical trail cuisine such as bacon, grits, sweet potatoes, cornbread and coffee. He also mentions how fried meat might be packed into tins, and then covered with hot fat for preservation. Not so yum, if you ask me. Both Ste. Claire and Jim Bob Tinsley's Florida Cow Hunter: The Life and Times of Bone Mizell (University of Central Florida Press, 1990), note how a cow or steer might be butchered, salted and smoked at the start of a roundup or drive. Ideally, meals were prepared at a chuck wagon, but the wagons couldn't always reach cowboys on roundups when they tracked cattle across wetlands. The workers had to carry rations in those cases. Food might include syrup cookies that they'd brought from home, and whatever game they hunted.
Home on the trail required resourcefulness. Obviously, on a drive, cowboys slept on the ground. But Florida is famous for its rains. Tinsley writes how, it wet season, cowmen dug parallel trenches, heaped the dirt in the middle, and piled palmetto fans atop the dirt. That became a bed.
One final note: A fascinating example of pioneer ingenuity is in Joe A. Akerman Jr. and J. Mark Akerman's book, Jacob Summerlin, King of the Crackers (Florida Historical Society Press, 2004): Black jack oak provided a salt substitute if the tree was cut green, burned, and left overnight so that a crust would form. The crust had to be scraped off the next morning before the dew dried.