There is a tradition in south Louisiana of Creole cowboys, skilled horsemen who for more than a century were driving cattle from Louisiana across the state of Texas. Those cattle drives are mostly gone now, but you can still find some of the cowboys racing horses and buggies around a dirt track near the tiny town of Oberlin. FOX 8's Dave McNamara is about to put you in the driver's seat in this edition of Heart of Louisiana.
Wedged between rice fields and horse pastures with only a small temporary sign, you find a yard full of two-wheeled buggies, horses, barbecue, and a few cowboys ready to test their skills on the track.
The announcer calls out, "Alright, get 'em together, line 'em up."
Ranch owner Andrew Cezar runs the show.
The trottingbred horses are off around the quarter-mile track, a race that's all about bragging rights.
Buggy driver Alfred Ceasar says, "Hang on, just hang on. The best thing to do is try to keep them on the track, and we've had some flips and there is not much you can do about that."
The spectators include family and friends, and the curious.
Nita St. Germain says, "One of the guys that drove a sulky said that sometimes the wheels lock, you know, and they can tip over. Well I do want to see them tip over but maybe crash.
Cheryl Charpentier says, "Yeah, we wanted to see somebody crash but nobody crashed."
Maxine Lavergne says, "I like the excitement of the races when they are running neck to neck and when my husband wins. that's the best thing."
Cezar tells us, "You are not strapped in. If you watch when they are going to make them curves you got to lean with that curve, you don't lean to the opposite side because the buggy might turnover."
The buggy drivers trade out horses, then head back to the track for a full afternoon of racing.
Training and racing these horses is more than just a fun pastime for Cezar. It is his family's heritage. They were among the very first Creole cowboys.
Cezar says, "My great-grandfather, he was the guy, you know. He was the man, that's where the cowboys came from over here."
Alfred Ceaser) "Horses, that's kind of in our bloodline, that's what our great-grandparents that's how they came down here is horse trainers."
First cousins Alfred Ceasar and Andrew Cezar are descendants of a man they consider the original Creole cowboy -- Cyprien Cezar.
Cezar says, "He had land from here to Mamou."
Ceasar says, "The old Spanish trail that leaves out of Westlake going into Abilene, Texas, they were pioneers of the old Spanish trail because that's how they moved the cattle."
At age 73, Cezar spends his days breaking and training horses. He does his work on horseback.
Cezar says, "It's a lot of fun to me. It keeps me out of trouble for one thing. And like the wife says, 'Why don't you sell all of this? Because you're retired, you know.' I said, 'That's very well done, could be done. But I'm going to get up in the morning and I've got nothing to do, I'm going to go to town and I'm going to mess around with somebody else's old lady, and the next thing I know I'm going to be in jail and so.' It keeps me out of trouble."
The real fun is on this racetrack every other Saturday afternoon, where the horsemen test their skills, bouncing on a small buggy, strapped to the back of a fast-trotting horse. As they cling to the reins, they also hold on to the tradition of the Creole cowboys.
You can catch the trottingbred racing at the Metro Soileau Downs in Allen Parish, on every other Saturday afternoon, now through the end of October.