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Johnston's Cattle Guard


Andrew Johnston was born near Taylor in Dakota Territory on this date in 1885. He grew up on his father’s Start County ranch, where he was herding some 400 cattle by himself by the age of ten. By the time he was 14, Andrew had some of his own stock, which he branded VVV – a brand he used for the rest of his life. Johnston accomplished a great deal during his lifetime. Including an invention that can now be seen everywhere range cattle graze, the cattle guard. Johnston always firmly claimed he was the first to make one.

For those who can’t picture this contrivance in your head – if you’re driving on rangeland roads and suddenly drive over a series of bone-jarring metal grates with fences on either side, you’ve just crossed a cattle guard. Vehicles can pass over, but cattle instinctively stay away from them, because they would lose their footing. No gates to open or close, and the cows stay home. Nice piece of work.

Written by Merry Helm

Source: James F. Hoy, Andrew Johnston and the Invention of the Cattle Guard, North Dakota History: Journal of the Northern Plains, V. 47 #2, Spring 1980