I drive by the bronze cattle herd at Pioneer Plaza in downtown Dallas at least twice a day, on my way to and from work, but Iâd never gotten out and actually wandered among the great longhorns until last week. What a pleasure that turned out to be. From a distance, the larger-than-life bronze cattle, horses and cowboys, created by artist Robert Summers of Glen Rose, seem majestic and awe-inspiring. Up close, theyâre even more fascinating â" you can see the squinty glint in one steerâs eyes (heâs no doubt avoiding the blazing sun), the scrunched-up focus of a cowpokeâs face as he attempts to gather a breakaway maverick, the delicately raised hoof of a steer as it crosses a stream. You can almost hear the moos.
The sculpture â" the largest of its kind in the world â" commemorates 19th-century cattle drives that took place along the Shawnee Trail, which went through Austin, Waco and Dallas. The 49 1,200-pound steers, along with three trail riders, cluster along an artificial limestone ridge that winds down from Pioneer Cemetery at the top of a hill overlooking Young and Griffin streets and the Dallas Convention Center.
A waterfall, stream and native landscaping make the 4-acre plaza a bucolic spot to sit amid your new bovine friends and ponder life or eat lunch. Added treat: These steers arenât smelly, and they donât attract flies. The first cattle were installed in 1993, and more have been added over the years. The final bovines joined the herd in 2008. Pioneer Plaza is second only to Dealey Plaza as the most- visited downtown landmark.
While youâre there, be sure and visit the lovely, tree-shaded Pioneer Cemetery on the hill above Pioneer Plaza. In the southeastern corner, youâll find the Confederate Memorial.
The memorial, consisting of a 60-foot obelisk topped by a straight-backed Confederate soldier, was erected in 1896 by the Dallas chapter of Daughters of the Confederacy. Itâs carved with sayings to stir the Confederate heart, such as: âThe Confederate sabreur kissed his blade homeward riding straight on into the mouth of hell.â Statues of generals Albert Sidney Johnston, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, along with Confederate President Jefferson Davis, adorn the memorialâs four corners.
Youâll also find historical markers and gravestones for many of Dallasâ founding families: The Akard, Davis, Good, Latimer, Marsalis, Peak, Stemmons and Young families all have folks buried there, along with dozens of others. The area now called Pioneer Cemetery is actually the remnants of four early graveyards, with burials dating to the 1850s. The last burial there took place in 1921.
Thereâs also the Bryan Memorial, in memory of John Neely Bryan (1810-1877), founder of the city of Dallas. In a twist of fate that must cause his ghost to shudder, Bryan is buried in an unmarked grave in Austin.
The cemetery is popular with local dog lovers as a place to romp and wander, and both the cemetery and plaza are pooch-friendly to leashed pets whose owners pick up after them. And just think! With all those immobile, nonthreatening cattle, your schnauzer can bark to her heartâs content and feel that she has, finally, mastered control of a much larger species.
Pioneer Plaza and Pioneer Cemetery are at the corner of Young and Griffin streets in downtown Dallas. Free. Pioneer Plaza: texastrees.org (click on âAbout Usâ).
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