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Council Bluffs cowboy Logan Allen and his cowgirl girlfriend, Shyanne Masters, were training horses when they heard a radio report Thursday of cows on the loose on the Kennedy Freeway.
Allen and Masters knew they could help with what ultimately became a six-hour ordeal that closed portions of the freeway and ended with a dozen dead cattle, though even more survivors.
Allen, who rides the rodeo circuit, called 911 to offer his help. The dispatcher told him the situation was under control but to leave his number.
Allen gathered up his horses, then called again. The dispatcher said it was handled.
“If you've got cows loose, man, you've not got it handled,” Allen said.
He loaded his horses into his trailer and headed to the L Street exit.
On his way, the authorities called: He was, in fact, needed.
Adults and children lined the fence near 24th and Q Streets above the freeway to watch Omaha police officers and the couple on horseback round up dozens of cows.
The animals had been in a cattle trailer that overturned about 10:40 a.m. in a northbound lane. The truck driver was uninjured.
Of the 57 cows onboard, about a dozen either died in the trailer or were put down, police said.
The trailer overturned onto the median, and some of the cows hopped across to the other side.
“How nothing got hit when they jumped out of the trailer is beyond me,” Allen said.
And some of the cows apparently walked with traffic all the way down to the freeway's Chandler Road exit.
Allen, on his horse Cooper, and Masters, on Cactus, roped about a dozen cows, loaded them into the trailer and brought them to safety.
In doing so, they became something of a show.
Don Burke, 51, said he stopped to watch about 12:30 p.m. Four hours later, he called the operation “good, cheap entertainment for a summer's day.”
Burke gave the wranglers high marks for horsemanship. He kept newcomers informed about the activities down below on the highway, including many who were stopped in their vehicles at a traffic light.
“A lot of people are stopping and looking and asking what happened here,” Burke said. “One guy said, ‘Get out the barbecue.'”
Allen and Masters had to leave about 2:30 p.m. to get to a rodeo in South Dakota.
But as they and fellow cowboy Weston Pierschbacher were on their way, Allen got another call: About a half-dozen more cows had been found. Could the wranglers come back?
The three returned and gathered four more cows.
But don't worry: Allen will have ample opportunity to compete in rodeos tonight and Saturday night.
He said the whole situation was “pretty normal” to him.
“The only thing out of place was all these cars and (the) audience,” he said.
About 4 p.m., Omaha police radioed that the southbound lanes were reopening, but they were quickly closed again when Bellevue officers found three cows heading for the Southgate Apartments near Chandler Road. The three were among about 45 cows herded into a different trailer for transport.
Cari Smith, who works as a receptionist at the Val Verde Animal Hospital in La Vista, said she took her 11-year-old son, Keenan, and his friend Nico Aliano down to watch.
The boys said they enjoyed getting a look at the cows up close but were sad that some had to be put down.
“We live near 42nd and Q, so I had to come over to see this for myself,” Smith said.
The southbound lanes remained closed from L Street to Chandler Road until about 5 p.m. Northbound lanes reopened about 5:45 p.m. as the wreckage was cleaned up.
Lt. Darci Tierney, a police spokeswoman, said officers from Bellevue, the Nebraska State Patrol and Nebraska Humane Society assisted in the operation.
Capt. Mark Elbert, acting Bellevue police chief, said people were “having some fun with the situation,” but making sure all the cows were corralled was serious business.
“The last thing we want is someone to run into one of these animals doing 70 mph,” Elbert said. “Somebody could get killed.”
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