The 2017 Young Spurs winners; their writing teachers/mentors; Dr. Shirley Hammond, executive director of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum (seated center left); and workshop leader, George Getschow, retired Mayborn writer-in-residence and Pulitzer Prize finalist (seated center).
Please enjoy our 2017 Young Spurs' winning works, which begin below.
Vaqueros Helped Shape Texas Culture
By Daniel Hernandez, Bryan Collegiate High School
Vaqueros. There is much to learn about the historical and cultural significance of vaqueros. Who are the vaqueros, and how did they give rise to ranching? How did they help in the creation of the image that tightly knits what most individuals imagine when mentioning the state of Texas and Texan culture? When studied from various perspectives, vaqueros undoubtedly show influence within Texan culture.
Through the practice of large-scale animal husbandry, vaqueros gave rise to the way cowboys deal with ranching today. Ranchers use cattle (although not exclusively), as a mean of consumption or for raw materials. It originated primarily from the desire of western settlers to eat beef. Although individuals might consider the practice of ranching something uniquely Texan; clothing, language, and traditions demonstrate that these practices stem from Spanish vaquero influence.
One example of the vaqueros' influence on ranch-hand clothing persists to this day. Chaps, a protective leather garment made from cowhide, were originally used by the vaqueros to shield their legs from the needle-sharp mesquite while on horseback. That rather cumbersome design soon improved and later developed to become the now commonly known shotgun chaps seen in rodeos today. The shotgun chap design was first used in Texas in the late 19th century. Having a fit that is more ergonomic, these chaps allowed for improved heat retention in the colder and more arid Texan climate. Chaps were not the only cultural piece assimilated from the vaquero. The adoption of the cowboy hat, a priceless part of Texan culture, originated from the sombrero used to shield the cowhands from the blazing sun. This showcases yet another example of how the vaquero influenced clothing. In modern times, Texans go out with a variety of hat styles and materials, all of which are recognizable on sight. From the classic felt ten-gallon hat, the straw Stetson hat, to the leather cowboy hat, all show the influential part vaqueros partook in enriching our Texan culture.
Likewise, in the present, vaqueros influence Texan culture at the linguistic level. During the mid-18th century, when Mexico still occupied Texas, the term rodeo originally meant " round up," which referred to the action of herding cattle. Further, the word rancho, originating from the Spanish for the congregation of animals and herders, now translates to the modern word ranch.
In addition to their dress and linguistic effects, vaqueros influenced the culture found in rodeos. During the period Southerners began incorporating cattle ranching on a larger scale, it became necessary to incorporate the techniques vaqueros used on their own ranches. For example, vaqueros developed the technique of riding on horseback to round and drive cattle.
Texans later adopted horseback riding as an integral part of their lifestyle, still observed in rodeos where cowboys and cowgirls circle cattle and drive the bovine to different locations.
Furthermore, while on horseback, the incorporation of lariats (a long rope used to catch livestock) allowed for the more effective control of individual animals. For instance, when required to single out bulls or other animals, lassoing them provided a simple solution compared to other methods. Lassoing was also necessary when branding cattle. Branding allowed for the identification of different animals in case of cattle mixing between separate ranches or owners.
This practice also allowed for the identification of bovine origin. The branding system introduced by vaqueros, although mostly replaced by ear tags today, was an important practice in the ranching past that is still identified with Texan ranching. Imperative to the Texan lifestyle in the l 800's, cattle herding allowed for the transport of livestock, marketing beef and leather nationwide.
Although railroads allowed for the profitability of cattle driving, further development caused its recession and eventual end. After the reconstruction era brought the construction of railways locally, the need for cattle driving died out; the cost was simply too high compared to the transport of butchered beef through refrigerated railcars. Furthermore, because of the adoption of barbed wire fencing, driving cattle to other locations was no longer possible.
For the reasons discussed above, the end of a cattle driving era and the influence of the Spanish vaquero brought to life another piece of our heritage; rodeos incorporate the tasks required by cattle ranching and the traditions of vaqueros into the sporting event that countless know and love.
Over time, this led to performances from Buffalo Bill and The Wild West. Millions of people from across the globe would watch Bill's awing exhibitions, incorporating adrenaline- rushing ventures into the lives of individuals from all around the globe.
To sum up, the vaquero's influence on Texan and ranching heritage and its effects on culture today arise from a remarkable history. Vaqueros truly shaped early cattle ranching practices from clothing, language, traditions, and recreation. These elements and their significance makes us united, giving the people from this amazing and diversified state the identity we go by, known from all around the world: Texans.
Clark, Ralph. "Rodeo History." About, rodeo.about.com/od/history/a/rodeohistoryl.htm. Accessed 27 Jan. 2017.
Mahoney, Sylvia. "Rodeos." Handbook of Texas Online, www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/llr01. Accessed 27 Jan. 2017.
Richardson, T., and Hinton, "Ranching." Hardwood. Handbook of Texas Online, www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/azr02. Accessed 27 Jan. 2017.
Watkins, T. "The Origins of the Cowboy Culture of Western America." np. www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/cowboyculture.htm. Accessed 27 Jan. 2017.
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The Forgotten Ones: America’s Black Cowboys
By Delphine Leoue Ngoko Djomo, A&M Consolidated High School
1865. A nation collectively waited with bated breath, on the edge of anticipation. Barely a century after its conception, once again it grappled with freedom. It hung in the air like musk, growing stale and tasteless. Freedom...molested and mutilated, stolen and given, chopped and force fed... suffocating and liberating all the same.
The problem with abstract concepts is that it not only resides in the minds of men, but gleans it existence from their actions. Freedom fought the same fate. The only relief to this constriction is freedom’s release from the actions of men into the arena of self-governance.
This release is the birth of the American frontier, our grand-old west, as much a physical frontier as an ideal which pushes the frontier of what it means to be American. It is where people went to find their freedom.
Like many children, my childhood fantasies were romantic, sensationalized tales of finding adventure, thrill, and roguish freedom as a cowboy galloping a glistening, auburn mustang across open ranges and fields; steering cattle into pens; seeking adventure in the oft- fetishized “Wild, Wild West.” Unlike many children, the tales of cowboy hood were distant; western films did not reflect cowboys with my skin color or background. I did not abandon this fantasy, but it became impersonal, almost inappropriate – trying to fit into shoes too small. Yes, it was make-believe, yet it felt one note too insincere.
But black cowboys are no anomaly. The ranching heritage of Texas, and the entirety of the Southwest is tied with the black narrative and the shackles of slavery – even the term “cowboy” itself is linked with racial etymology! So why is the blackness of ranching ignored, the stories of black cowboys forgotten?
Young men seeking freedom go out West. Gun-toting cowboys. Shoot-outs in saloons. Lawless ranchers. Men on horseback rounding up cattle for grazing, traveling miles on the open range. Cowboys engaging in conflict with Native Americans on the oft-isolated trails. Dazzling dramatized, romanticized retellings of it all.
The hallmarks of the American cowboy.
These tropes are emblematic of The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, an autobiographical account of an African-American cowboy’s journey in the wild, wild west.
Much like the cowboys of the time, Love was spurred by the concept that the West symbolized so strongly in the mind of American men: freedom. While Love’s fellow white cowboy hopefuls lusted for freedom, Love escaped captivity. Born into slavery, he was just ten when the Civil War emerged. Yet, after the war, his family’s owner, Robert Love, “made (them) work for him the same as before, but in all other respects he was kind.” Devoid of prospects, they could not truly explore the freedom granted to them. In accordance with the American spirit, Love ached for freedom, and desired to move to the frontier, like many other freedmen of the time. William Loren Katz, renowned historical specialist on African-American studies and author of The Black West, explains the call to go West, “Right after the Civil War, being a cowboy was one of the few jobs open to men of color who wanted to not serve as elevator operators or delivery boys or other similar occupations.”
New York native James Austin, Jr. is as patriotic as any native Texan. “I came to Texas and fell in love with it.” His love for Texas and his adopted hometown, Fort Worth, motivates him “to make Fort Worth a better place to live. That’s the real reason behind ... the museum.”
The museum in question is the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum, a museum Austin established with his wife, Gloria, in order “to give recognition to the outstanding pioneers who played a role in settling the early American western frontier. (The museum) acknowledges individuals that have contributed to the western culture and tradition and play a part in keeping this important piece of American History alive.”
Opened in 2001, Austin’s idea for the museum was enkindled after being ‘baffled’ by learning that “at least a third of all working cowboys were African-American, Hispanic, or Native American.” He attributed his ignorance, and many Americans’, to the media. “Minority cowboys weren’t shown in movies or TV,” Austin wrote. “Youngsters need to know about them...in order to fully appreciate their (Texas) history,” he said, adding that more than educational appeal, he wants awareness for the contributions of people of color; “I want to teach...about minorities’ importance to the development of this nation.”
The Austins’ inspiration stemmed from the Annual Cowboys of Color Rodeo. As black, Latino, and Native American men and women buck on bulls and struggle to rope cattle as their faces glisten with sweat and dirt, their bodies draped in fringe and cowhide, homage is paid to the men who birthed the ranching tradition who do not fit into the whitewashed Hollywood narrative.
However, the significance of cowboys of color featured in rodeos extends past bringing their history and imagery to the limelight. Beyond exposing the stories and celebrating the heritage of cowboys of color, the rodeo is seen to many as a lesser known battleground of civil rights.
"There would be separate rodeos for blacks and whites," recalls Vincent Jacobs, 80, a rodeo veteran from Houston, Texas. "It was hard, real hard – they would only let me perform after all the white people had been led out of the arena." Scarred by the racism he encountered, Cleveland Walters, 88, who lives in Liberty, Texas, agrees, saying, “I hate to think of the racism I went through. When it was branding time, they'd put 20 cows in the pen and I was the one who had to catch them and hold them down. The brander was white – so in other words all the hard, dirty work was done by the black cowboys."
Although Bill Pickett, an iconic American cowboy and man of African and Native American descent, is one of the founding fathers of modern rodeo, racism and discrimination were quotidian experiences for black cowboys. Living legends, like longtime professional rodeo cowboy Cleo Hearn, 76, had to overcome challenges even wilder than staying atop a bucking bronco. His experiences are what led him to found the Cowboys of Color Rodeo, which has grown to be a national attraction well into the present-day.
“Let us tell you the wonderful things blacks, Hispanics, and Indians did for the settling of the West that the history books left out,” Hearn proclaims proudly, reclaiming his pride from struggles with segregation and discrimination.
Draped in cascading leather fringe as she clutches a winding rope in hand, with a white Stetson hat crowning her head, she is unmistakably Western. But her hip-length braids seem to hang in stark opposition to her beaten cowboy boots; her snow-white sclera in the steely yet relaxed gaze of her eyes, reminiscent of a Clint Eastwood poster, contrast against her rich, brown skin.
The woman in the portrait is Kesha “Mama” Morse, 67, president of the New York Federation of Black Cowboys. Her photo, and hundreds of others, are commemorated, fittingly, in the heart of Black American culture: Harlem. Building off of 2016’s success of shining a light on forgotten black heroes like in the wildly successful movie “Hidden Figures”, at the dawn of 2017, the Studio Museum in Harlem displayed Black Cowboy, an exhibition of photos and videos that challenges preconceived notions and mental images of the American cowboy.
Each photo is slightly jarring in its perceptual contrast; a lone black man on horseback admires a mural of street art depicting Malcolm X while a cowboy hat adorns his head; two black boys play a game of basketball as their steed standby; an older black man looks straight into the camera through black glasses, dressed in black ranching garb, gripping two crafted, ornate saddles in each hand.
Amanda Hunt, an associate curator at the museum who organized the exhibition, explains that Black Cowboy’s portrayal of cowboys is critical.
“The cowboy has often been pictured in visual culture as a symbol of white masculinity, including in early-20th-century American paintings and more modern images of John Wayne or the Marlboro Man,” Hunt said. “With that in mind, Black Cowboy offers a snapshot of black communities in America with long histories of (ranching), which expands our idea of what constitutes an American icon and legacy, and complicates a narrative that has been uniquely and inseparably woven into popular culture.”
Hunt adds that the exhibit also seeks to promote contemporary black cowboys in the public conscience: “I wanted to demonstrate that the black cowboy tradition is alive and well today...this exhibition seeks to correct in some small way the omission of African- American cowboys from history.”
By remembering our forgotten cowboys (as well as other American heroes of color) in all their glory, we can only find out.
Mike Searles, a retired history professor of Augusta State University, reminds us of why inclusion of people of color in the narrative of ranching and Western history is so significant. "The West was where white men were able to show their courage. But if a black man could be heroic and have all the attributes that you give to the best qualities in men, then how was it possible to treat a black man as subservient or as a non-person?"
Our cowboys are forgotten because they lack exposure. They are blanketed in invisibility. Young black, Latino and Native American girls and boys should feel at home in the role of cowboy. We must remember that it is only when the visuals and ideas perpetuated in society are positive may we expect positive visions of those marginalized, feared, and rejected by society.
Storytelling is distinctly human; if their unique stories are told, their humanity will be heard. As Searles so clearly points out to us, "If something is not in the popular imagination, it does not exist."
"About Us." National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum and Hall of Fame - Dallas/Fort Worth. n.p., 2008. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.
Commission, Texas Historical. Chisholm Trail Final (n.d.): n.p. History of the Texas Chisholm Trail. Texas Historical Commission, 6 June 2002. Web. 24 May 2017.
"Good Neighbor James N. Austin Jr.: Nourishing Young Minds." Realtor Magazine. National Association of Realtors. Nov. 2003. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.
Horne, Chris Van. "Cowboys of Color Rodeo Celebrates Heritage." NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth. 19 Jan. 2015. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.
Lamar, Howard R. The Reader's Encyclopedia of the American West. New York: Thomas Y. Cromwell, 1977. Print.
Love, Nat. The Life and Adventures of Nat Love. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina Chapel Hill, 1999. Print.
Manzoor, Sarfraz. "America's Forgotten Black Cowboys." BBC News. British Broadcasting Company, 22 Mar. 2013. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.
Nodjimbadem, Katie. "The Lesser-Known History of African-American Cowboys." Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Institution, 13 Feb. 2017. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.
Raboteau, Emily. "Black Cowboys, Busting One of America's Defining Myths." The New Yorker. The New Yorker, 20 Jan. 2017. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.
Rogers, Amanda. "Hall of Fame Cowboy." Star-Telegram. n.p., 1 Aug. 2016. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.
Sanchez, Gabriel H. "These Black Cowboys Are Challenging The Whitewashing Of History." BuzzFeed. n.p., 13 Feb. 2017. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.
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Rehoboth Ranch Brings Grass Fed Beef to Customers In-Person and Online
By Erika Torres, Brookhaven College
Pale grey skies, winds moving the few leaves the trees have left, and the greenest grass you can imagine. There are only three sources of noise. One is the animals. Birds chirping in the distant, cows mooing, weak cries of goat, and the known bark of a dog are all among them. The second comes from Mother Nature. It is the slightest movement a branch makes, the leaves falling onto the long concrete road with a single destination. The third is silence. Silence so loud you can hear your own thoughts as if you were talking out loud.
“All my 12 children have grown up here… gone through the farming process,” Robert Hutchins said on a tractor looking out at the green grass with some eaten up patches. “Most people don’t know pigs eat grass.”
Hutchins looked out over the farm as the black pigs roamed freely, making their way forward to the fence thinking he was going to feed them. The Rehoboth Ranch is family ran. They were the first ones in Dallas to sell grass fed organic meat in a farmer’s market in 2002, and the first ones in the Coppell farmers market, and the McKinney farmer’s market as well. Hutchins quit his corporate job 30 years ago to work from home. “I wanted to be able to come home and work with my family,” he said, even if it hurt ungrasping his six-figure paycheck finger by finger.
Starting out wasn’t easy. They didn’t know the location of the ranch wouldn’t work. They weren’t aware of how bad the drought would impact them, and just how unpredictable Mother Nature is. “There is a learning curve,” Hutchins said while sitting on his tractor.
The location of the ranch was a barrier in a successful startup. Hutchins and his family thought the people had to get to the food, when in reality they had to get the food to the people. The 287 acres, plus the 100 acres leased, in the rural Greenville city did not exactly yell convenience to customers who weren’t completely sold on the idea of organic. Their friend Howard Garret known as the “Dirt Doctor” told them they had to go into the city. He wasn’t a store owner, that wasn’t his thing, but Garret told him about the farmer’s markets.
Once they began in the farmer’s markets they wanted to start selling meat, but it wasn’t allowed. They went to the health department and explained and they said they would support them and that they should do it, but that it was against the law. After about a year, they were licensed to sell frozen meat only from a mobile platform. However, “it started out slow,” and just because they were now able to sell it doesn’t mean people were going to buy it. Hutchins said a typical conversation at a market was, “You selling meat? Really? How is your meat different than any grocery store meat?” The fact that people had not heard of grass-fed meat did not help sales. To those people he explained how it is produced in a different way and that it is healthier.
His motto used to be “educating Dallas one consumer at a time.’” Over the years it changed to “keep helping people understand how our product raised on a small scale is different than the certified organic product that you can find at a grocery store.” The organic meat from stores means the animal ate organic food, not that they weren’t confined into small fecal filled crowded spaces.
“You get a feedlot beef product,” Hutchins said. “They have been in an unnatural environment, fed an unnatural diet, yes it happens to be organic and free from chemicals residue but you still have them standing knee deep in manure, breathing fecally contaminated air living a sedentary lifestyle. The way we care for the animals is based on a philosophy. The belief that animals are supposed to be raised a certain way, live in a certain way, eat certain food, be healthy. Their natural habitat and natural diet is not the way commercial agricultural raises animals.”
In 2014 when they were on the right path a tornado came out of nowhere like a lightbulb, rushing and catching people off track on a calm predictable night and lighting up the dark evening sky with a flash. “It all happened very fast. Just like thunderstorms usually do.” They got a little bit of hail and he thought “not a big deal,” and didn’t bother moving the trucks or anything. The “wooshing” of the wind increased, it got faster and faster and more chaotic. His wife got the kids back inside the house. “I was watching for a funnel cloud, like you see on TV storm watchers,” Hutchins said. He never saw one.
The skies’ darkness grasped the light and took over the skies and all he heard was a deafening roaring wind. The damage was around $250,000. They had no insurance. Over 500 of their chickens died. Their house was damaged and three of the four barns were destroyed.
“My children were good as gold. Never got discouraged,” Hutchins said like a proud father knowing he’s taught his kids right and to be positive.
They received an abundance of help and received $83,831 in donations on a GoFundMe. They received private donations and from friends as well. Some of his friends from the U.S. Naval Academy who graduated in 1975 sent checks for $1,975. People went to help with the damage with an “I don’t know you and you don’t know me” mindset wanting to help. “Eventually there were over $250,000 donated,” Hutchins said. It is still not what it should be right now but they have and still are recuperating.
They have developed in the sense of modernization. They have a website where people can pre-order what they will go purchase at the farmer’s market. “We aren’t opposed to technology,” Hutchins said. “We are not to the point where a mega agricultural enterprise uses GPS on a tractor to apply fertilizer selectively because of different fertility levels, we are not that high tech and we’re never gonna be that high tech because that’s unnecessary. That is applying chemical fertilizer.”
The fertilizer they apply has a distribution system called animals walking around. Their cattle are free to walk around, their pigs are not in a small constricting space crying out for space. Their goats aren’t yelled at to get to where they have to in order to be milked. The goats walk in freely and no yelling is done because they have trust in the family.
Throughout the years he’s had to relearn methods that were used in agricultural before chemical fertilizers, and pesticides were used. They put in practice rotational grazing. They have an electric fence around the cattle and where they are on fresh pasture and freely walk around. After they have eaten up the green grass revealing the brown dirt beneath, they are moved to another part of the field filled with green crisp grass for them to eat and the natural process repeats itself.
Agriculture became industrialized with the beginning of synthetic fertilizer and pesticide. Now there are genetically modified foods that are approved for human consumption. According to Maggie Fox on NBC News, “Consumer and environmental groups have long pressed for the FDA to require labels on GM foods, but the FDA says there's no need.” Hutchins said himself the only way people know about their food exactly is if they know the people and how the animals were raised.
Ranching has changed. Throughout the years more technology has gone into it to get “better” products however some people believed the way it was before was when they had it right. Hutchins continues to put in practice methods used in the past, and to let the animals walk freely and have organic diets. Even with unpredictable weather and not a six-figure paycheck, Hutchins said he doesn’t regret quitting his corporate job for ranching.
Fox, Maggie. “There's No Need to Label GMO Plants, FDA Says.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 23 Nov. 2015, www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/theres-no-need-label-gmo-plants-fda-says-n468301. Accessed 24 Mar. 2017.
Hutchins, Robert. “Rehoboth Ranch.” 22 Mar. 2017.
Rod Dreher. April 7, 2014, 6:21 PM. “No Insurance — And Their Farm Is Mostly Destroyed.” The American Conservative, www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/no-insurance-raw-milk-farm-rehoboth-ranch-tornado/. Accessed 23 Mar. 2017.
“The FDA Does Not Test Whether GMOs Are Safe.” U.S. Right to Know, 19 Jan. 2017, usrtk.org/the-fda-does-not-test-whether-gmos-are-safe/. Accessed 23 Mar. 2017.
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The Cowboy’s Life: Battling Harsh Terrain, Native Americans and, Yes, Cattle
By Henry Boedeker, Bryan Collegiate High School
The cowboy profession has become a kind of legend, its story shared throughout time and told with a sort of reverence. Cowboys certainly deserve the attention – they played a very large role in the field of ranching, leading cattle drives, and thereby the ranching industry. Alas, the life of a cowboy has been embellished and distorted over the years. The true life of a cowboy is filled with hardships and struggles at every turn.
For three centuries, the ranching industry, specializing in cattle, has been essential to Texas. Its humble beginnings trace to before the 1840s when most cattle drives were small and headed to the close and relatively easily accessible New Orleans. The cattle industry took off around the 1860s during the Civil War and Texas became a cattle center.
With the rise in cattle numbers, a greater need for cattle transportation methods rose. Trails were blazed and their conductors, better known as cowboys, were in greater numbers than ever. The industry encountered bumps along the way in the form of economic crises, cattle rustling/stealing, cowboy strikes, and more. Nevertheless, the cattle industry has moved forward, ever changing to fit modern technology. All the while, the literal drivers of the cattle industry, cowboys, have grappled with their own set of problems.
Cowboys have historically encountered danger on their journeys, such as cattle rustling, stampedes, and even Native American attacks. Cattle rustling, or the stealing of cattle, posed a problem for not just sedentary ranchers, but also the moving herds of cowboys. Cowboys, as they were guiding their cattle, fell victim to these groups who would come through and take a group of cattle away from the main herd. These cattle rustlers would travel to faraway markets to sell the stolen cattle. The rustlers themselves could vary from Native Americans to local whites to Mexicans from across the border.
Cattle rustling was even committed by fellow cowboys who resorted to the practice for relatively easy money. Also during life on the trail, conflict or shots fired could initiate the feared stampede. In a stampede, the cattle run in a frenzy, often killing or seriously injuring those caught in their midst, whether they be man or cow. While tiring out the cattle by running them in circles may decrease the effect of a stampede, the dreadful possibility of one occurring remains in the mind of a cowboy.
Cowboys also often find themselves venturing through Native American territory, in some cases sparking conflict. Take Oliver Loving, the co-founder of the esteemed Goodnight-Loving Trail for example. When he was making his third trip down the trail, he became impatient and decided to pass through Native American territory during the day. This proved to be a fatal mistake for Loving. A Native American attack was initiated, and Loving later died of the wounds that he received. As was his final wish, his body was transported the 600 miles back to Texas. Loving's case shows that cowboys constantly faced the possibility of a Native American attack.
Although the stated dangers are common enough to be mentioned, the common cowboy more often experienced mild struggles, such as low wages or long hours. The average day for a cowboy consisted of 15 hours of horseback riding. And, contrary to popular belief, the days were often quite uneventful. An average cattle drive would putter along at a pace of 10 to 15 miles per day. Heavy rain or an especially hot day might be the highlight of a trip.
Dangerous river crossings posed a common problem as both cowboys and cattle could get caught by the current and drown. Cowboys would receive their pay based upon how many cattle were herded and how many herders were involved in the drive. Before the 1880s, a cattle driver's pay could often be partly taken in unbranded cows or other informal payments.
With the rise of closed-range ranching in the 1880s, new owners came with new regulations and objectives. With policies centered on profit, new administrators limited cowboys' pays to simple wages which averaged a low $40 per month. This sparked the Cowboy Strike of 1883, led by the cowboy Torn Harr is of LS Ranch. Twenty-four cowboys from different ranches came together and signed a petition that demanded higher wages from the ranches.
Up to 300 cowboys later came to join the strike. The strike itself lasted only about two and a half months, with loyalty wavering when the ranch heads threatened to fire the protesting cowboys and hire new ones. Just two of the affected ranches ended up offering slightly higher wages while the rest made no changes to their pay. Although the strike did not have a great impact, it represents how much cowboys were at the mercy of their employers and highlights on the relatively unknown financial struggle of cowboys.
After the 1880s, cowboys faced another problem- the fall of the open range, and thereby the fall of the long cattle drive. Many factors contributed to this disintegration of the open-range. The invention of barbed wire, for instance, created closed-ranges, lessening the need for long cattle drives. Also, greater railroad coverage and closer meat packaging facilities contributed to the modem irrelevance of the long cattle drive. So, today, the long cattle drive has become inapplicable to the modern cattle industry, now centered on enclosed ranching. The iconic cowboy that explores western territory while herding cattle over large distances can no longer be found in today's cattle industry.
Despite the collapse of the long cattle drive, the job of a cowboy still remains. Today's cowboys herd cattle within the confines of a ranch, supervising and monitoring the cattle under them. It's hard to say whether or not the cowboy population has increased or decreased in recent years as the number is not tracked, but many of the same issues of past cowboys ail today's. For instance, today's cattle herders still must work in harsh weather conditions, ride on horseback for long hours every day, and receive low wages. Truly, the cowboys of today face equivalent hardships that those a century ago faced.
It's undeniable that cowboys have many things going against them. So, despite all of these hardships, why do cowboys do what they do? Maybe it's the opportunity to be outdoors all day. Maybe it's the feeling of satisfaction they get from raising and selling a group of cattle. Maybe it's simply the joy one gets from riding a horse. Maybe it's the feeling of freedom cowboys must experience with access to great expanses of land. Whatever the reason, it is undeniable that cowboys have played a major role in the history of Texas ranching. But their influence has not been easily achieved – they face danger at every turn and dedicate their lives to the field of ranching. Past and present cowboys can be considered the true heroes of the west, even if not in a manner fit for Hollywood.
Anderson, Allen. "Goodnight, Charles." Handbook of Texas Online, www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fgol1. Accessed 26 Jan. 2017.
Draper, Robert. "The Enduring Cowboy." National Geographic, Dec. 2017, ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2007/12/vaquero/draper-text.html. Accessed 26 Jan. 2017.
Gard, Wayne. "Cattle Rustling." Handbook of Texas Online, www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/jbcOl. Accessed 22 Jan. 2017.
Richardson, T.C. and Harwood Hilton. "Ranching." Handbook of Texas Online, www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/azr02. Accessed 22 Jan. 2017.
Skaggs, Jimmy. "Cattle Trailing." Handbook of Texas Online, www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ayc0l. Accessed 26 Jan. 2017.
Smith, Julia. "Loving, Oliver." Handbook of Texas Online, www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/flo38. Accessed 17 Feb. 2017.
Ushistory.org. "The Ways oftbe Cowboy." US. History Online Textbook, 2017, www.ushistory.org/us/41b.asp. Accessed 26 Jan. 2017.
Zeigler, Robert. "Cowboy Strike of 1883." Handbook of Texas Online, www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/oec02. Accessed 22 Jan. 2017.
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King Ranch Legacy Revolutionized the Cattle Industry, Revitalized the Texas Economy
By Jake Gutierrez, Bryan Collegiate High School
Whenever someone might mention "King Ranch" in the 21st century, one might think of the King Ranch Ford F-150 and not the ranch itself. But in the 19th and 20th century, one would immediately think of the mighty “ranching empire" in South Texas. Nevertheless, King Ranch made improvements in the cattle industry, built a community, and helped Texas economically.
Richard King, founder of King Ranch, made most of his wealth by monopolizing the steamboat industry in South Texas during the Mexican-American War, transporting supplies and troops for the American Army. After he purchased land in Santa Gertrudis creek in 1853, one quote will stick with him for the rest of his life: "Buy land; and never sell," said by Robert E. Lee.
King Ranch revolutionized the cattle industry. Richard King did something different with his cattle. Instead of gathering wandering cattle and sending them to a market, he "systematically propagate[d] cattle." According to Wes Ishmael in a Beef Magazine article, this would lead to multiple breeds of cattle coming into play such as the Santa Gertrudis cattle. When Robert Kleberg Sr. took over King Ranch after Richard King's death, he made cross fences to efficiently use the grass. In the 19th century, Robert Kleberg, manager of King Ranch at the time, dealt with Texas Fever. The fever originated from cattle ticks, which did not harm the cattle but it would harm the creatures around them So, Robert Kleberg invented a system where cattle would walk through a wash that would kill the cattle ticks without harming the cattle. Another development was the root plow in 1935, which allowed for bush control that is still used today. So, King Ranch improved the cattle industry by breeding more cattle, making cross fences for efficiency of grass, and relieving the world of cattle ticks.
King Ranch made a community. When Richard King went on one of his trips to Mexico to buy cattle, he came across a small village called Cruillas. King bought cattle from the village, but noticed that the people of Cruillas were bleak and poor, so he offered to move them to his ranch in South Texas where they would have a place to stay. They accepted his offer and went to King's ranch. King adopted the Mexican hacienda, a feudal system, and offered shelter, food, water, and wages to the people of Cruillas in exchange for their skill, knowledge, and loyalty. This system benefited King Ranch, as vaqueros would provide the work and discipline that made King Ranch what it is today. These people would be called Kineños, the King's people, according to Don Graham in his book, “Kings of Texas: The 150-Year Saga of an American Ranching Empire."
Focused on his goal of buying and never selling land, Richard King continually bought and bought land until his death in 1885. Near the time of his death, he wrote a letter to a friend of his saying to keep on buying and, "not to let a foot of dear old Santa Gertrudis get away from us. It was not until Henrietta King, King's wife now widow, started to give generously, "donating land and buildings for a town, a railroad, schools, hospitals, (and) a cemetery," for 40 years. Also after King's death, King Ranch was left in the bands of Robert Kleberg, King's son-in-law. During his reign of King Ranch, he would build a railroad that led to swarms and swarms of people with streets, houses, and businesses, this development would lead to Kingsville. So, King Ranch made a community by building railroads and, with the help of Henrietta King, fund buildings and schools.
King Ranch helped improve the Texas economy. Things such as building a community, improving the cattle industry, and the ranch itself, helped improve the economy. According to author Don Graham, the cattle sales helped the state recover from the Civil War, helped get the state to be on the same page as the nation, and helped settle sectional issues. Building a community led to more people in South Texas, allowing more jobs and people to pursue their idea of an American Dream. Improving the cattle industry led to more heads of cattle. For example, the cattle tick wash made people worry less about the issue of the cattle tick affecting them or others, leading to higher sales of cattle.
King Ranch improved the cattle industry, helped build Kingsville, and helped the Texas economy. While Richard King may not have helped much in the community, he made a ranch that stood the test of the time. Today King Ranch, now a corporation, focuses on preserving the main ranch in South Texas and, "selling the legend, branching out in the world of entrepreneurial possibilities, going where no ranch has gone before.
In 2001, King Ranch made a partnership with Ford to put the King Ranch's "Running W" brand onto a series of Ford F-150s, according to Graham’s book. King Ranch also features the "King Ranch Saddle Shop," which includes handmade items made of leather from their own cattle. These items include a laptop briefcase for $548, an ice chest for $245, and a Kleberg wallet for $140, all of the items, and more, include the Running W brand. It seems that King Ranch will be branding more than just cattle for a long time.
Broyles, Williams. 'The Last Empire." Texas Monthly, Oct 1980 www.texasmonthly.com/articles/the-last-empire/. Accessed 25 Jan. 2017.
Graham, Don. Kings of Texas: The 150-Year Saga of an American Ranching Empire. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2003. Hoboken, New Jersey. Accessed 20 Jan. 2017.
Ishmael, Wes. 'The King Ranch: A 150-Year-Old American Icon." Beef Magazine, 01 Dec 2002 www.beefmagazine.com/mag/beef_unbreakable. Accessed 25 Jan. 2017.
Thompson, Bill. ''King Ranch, A Texas Original (Cover Story)." Fort Worth Business, vol 14, no. 32, 30 Nov 2001, pp. 1, 16-17. MasterFILEPremier. kidd.blinn.edu:4529/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.asp x?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=6336451&site=ehost-live. Accessed 25 Jan. 2017.
••• ––––– •••
ShangriLlama Offers Friendly Haven for Llamas as North Texas Growth Spreads
By James Hartley, Eastfield College
Sharon Brucato walks down the stairs to the first floor of her house, past the terra-cotta warrior she purchased in China, through the living room and to the back door. Her feet make a light tapping sound as she walks across the hardwood floors. She already suspects what she’ll see when she looks out the back window.
With his nose pressed against the glass, Bahama Llama stares at Sharon as she grabs a treat and opens the door. The white and brown-woolen llama, a grand national champion in the llama show circuit, sniffs at the treat. He takes it from her hand and walks into the house as Sharon steps back, his padded feet make a soft thump as he steps inside. He’s followed by brown-woolen Barack O’Llama, who slowly, cautiously steps through the threshold, being stubborn as always. She grabs another treat for the second llama, using it to entice him into the house and leaves the door open in case any of the others want to come in.
The wintry air of one of North Texas’ cooler days wafts in as she follows her llamas into the living room.
Barack O’Llama, who Sharon’s family jokingly calls Barry, takes the treat from Sharon once he’s in the house, then turns toward the living room to inspect the two suits of knight’s armor that stand flanking the fireplace. As he roams around the house, Como T. Llama (whose name in Spanish translates to “What is your name?”) watches enviously through the back window. The pack leader, Dalia Llama, won’t give him permission to go into the house.
To outsiders, owning a llama seems exotic or crazy, let alone letting one walk into their house and roam free. But for the Brucato family, it’s commonplace. Sharon, known to most as Mama Llama, is the caretaker for a pack of five llamas, all a different breed. It’s not a life for everyone, Sharon said, but the adventure of it draws the family in.
“We don’t do normal, we don’t do predictable,” Sharon said. “We’re not trying to stand out or be different, but it makes us happy.”
While the llamas have gone from a family hobby to a profitable business, the journey has come with challenges. Urbanization has made it difficult for the Brucatos to find a home with enough land for a llama ranch that is still close enough to “civilization,” and the strict dietary needs of the animals narrowed down their options even more.
The rarity of llamas makes it hard to find information about them, and the animals have no medicine made specifically for them.
Brucato has to spend time each day scrolling through groups of llama breeders and ranchers on Facebook, including the breeders she bought her llamas from, to find tips on what the llamas can safely eat and how to care for them. Because of the strict dietary needs of llamas – more than 100 common plants are poisonous to them – caring for them is a constant learning experience.
She gets a laugh out of watching the llamas mill about the house. They come inside regularly and, even though nothing much changes, the animals explore the first floor and examine the rooms’ contents as if they had never been there before.
Bahama and Barack march around the house loftily for a few more minutes. Sharon fetches some carrot slices from the fridge as a special treat before ushering them back outside. She has to start getting ready for the first group of visitors today, on their way for what she calls “Llama Llessons.”
It’s not a cheap hobby to have. Llamas cost around $1,500 on average from a breeder. Three of the Brucatos’ llamas are purebred and qualified to compete in llama shows, which are similar to dog shows. However, feeding the five llamas the family owns only costs as much as a single horse and, for the Brucatos, it is a profitable business.
On Saturday and Sunday, the Brucatos’ backyard transforms into ShangriLlama, a place just outside Plano where visitors flock to learn about llamas or go on a $50 a person walk through a local park with them. The exotic nature of llamas, though they aren’t technically exotic, makes them popular. Llama books, llama pajamas and even llama fertilizer are available at ShangriLlama, all made by Sharon and her family. Sharon said the products sell well online, with llama pajamas being especially popular in Australia.
Every other day of the week, they make their living through 7 Day Health Company, owned and operated by Sharon’s husband, Paul Brucato.
Two years ago, their family lived on a Christmas tree ranch in Yorba Linda, California, about 40 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
She said that trophies like her terra-cotta warrior, an exact replica made using the clay the originals were buried in, her suits of knight’s armor, a towering sofa chair and a sculpture of a four-horse drawn coach wagon give testament to the odd interests of her family.
“We like oddities, like the giant chair in the lawn,” Sharon said of the 10-foot-tall sofa chair that sits in front of their house. “To us it’s like, ‘Of course, that will make a perfect lawn decoration.’ ”
Sharon, now retired, was a writer before the llamas came into their lives. She traveled around the world for work. But, even with their passion and thirst for adventure, Sharon said the llama ranch seemed far-fetched even to their close friends.
“It started off as a joke,” Sharon said. “There was never an expectation that this would become something serious.”
It was her son, now 21-year-old Tommy Brucato, who first wanted the llamas when he was a preteen. During a vacation, the Brucato family got lost in Germany and ended up at a zoo. That’s where Tommy was introduced to llamas.
“I just kind of became fascinated with them,” Tommy said. “My parents didn’t seem to see any problem with it. It was just one of my hobbies.”
His parents figured his fascination with llamas made a better hobby than playing video games indoors all day, so they encouraged him.
It was Chrystal Meyers, the owner of a llama rescue organization in California, who they started working with. She welcomed the extra assistance in caring for her llamas.
Meyers’ llama rescue organization took in llamas who were abused, unwanted or raised improperly. Sharon said a lot of people get llamas when they are babies, then lose interest or realize how big they get. The llamas either get abandoned or given up to people like Meyers.
The family started making trips to Meyers’ llama rescue farm, helping her care for the animals and take them for walks through a local park.
“We were like, ‘OK, we’re already doing this. Why don’t we make some money and get some help?’ ” Sharon said. “It was just a joke at first. But the more we thought about it, the more it made sense. We’re already doing this anyway.”
They bought their first two llamas and rented stalls in a horse ranch until they got their own place. The llamas were kept there, the Brucatos visiting, walking and caring for them.
The family knew that they had to get more land before long. The llamas were getting along well with the horses, even becoming friendly with them, but they weren’t meant to be cooped up in the horse stalls. When they got their own land, they began to offer llama lessons and llama walks. The family loved the Yorba Linda area, but the urban environment wasn’t right for the ranch or their walks, so they decided to move to Texas. It was 2014, just after Toyota announced its move to Plano, that the Brucatos decided they would be moving to Texas.
Allie Mac Kay, a reporter for KTLA in Los Angeles, visited the ranch multiple times while ShangriLlama was located in Yorba Linda. After every interview, Paul said the schedule would be booked solid weeks in advance.
Mac Kay was the one who announced during a 2014 standup segment with the llamas that the pack was moving to Texas that June.
“They were like, ‘Oh, no. First Toyota, now the llamas,’” Paul said. “We made the front page of our local newspaper. It said, ‘Llamas moving to Texas.’”
Texas’ business-friendly atmosphere – no state income tax, land, less expensive living costs and friendly people – made it an easy decision, Paul said. “It just sort of meshed,” he said.
Today, the lessons and walks are booked full, and sometimes overbooked. The phone rings constantly with special requests or people wanting to get in last minute to an already-full event. Sharon steps out into the back yard and heads toward the llamas’ barn. Behind the barn sits a new red trailer used to transport the llamas to the park for their walks or to school events, which are often offered for free, or the veterinarian. Soon, their barn will get heating and air conditioning, all paid for with the profits from ShangriLlama.
As Sharon steps into the barn, the llamas all stare at her. Dalia Llama has his own stall to the right since he is the “king of the llamas.” His eyes are a silvery-blue, a rare trait in most animals, his coat a bright white. In the other stall, Bahama Llama, Barack O’Llama, Drama Llama and Como T. Llama pick at the hay on the barn floor.
Sharon hears a car driving up. Paul is at the front of the house to open the gate and greet their visitors. When the barn is packed full of visitors, she hooks up to a microphone and greets everyone. Before long, she’s in the rhythm of the lesson. She gets into myths first, then talks about what makes llamas unique.
“How many people have heard that llamas spit?” Sharon asks the crowd. A mass of hands shoots up in the crowd of about 20 people.
“Well, that’s not true,” Sharon says. “Not entirely, anyway.”
Sharon explains that llamas spit at each other in their challenges for rank in the pack and to show displeasure, but that llamas who are raised right and aren’t abused don’t spit at people.
“Well, that’s a relief,” a woman replies.
“You would be surprised how often I hear that,” Sharon says.
She dispels other common myths about llamas. The llamas can kick, but only kick predators. They can’t bite because they have no upper front teeth. They can run as fast or faster than a horse at up to 35 miles per hour. They don’t produce enough wool to be profitable.
Sharon said visitors sometimes make odd requests.
“One guy called and told me he wanted to tie an engagement ring to one of the llamas’ harnesses and propose to his girlfriend on a llama walk,” Sharon said. “I was nervous about it. I mean, that’s expensive. But we let him do it.”
The llamas have also been requested at weddings and bridal showers, as well as wedding photo shoots. Como T. Llama was even the star of a Starz Digital series, “Llama Cop,” when the family still lived in Yorba Linda.
“Don’t look in the Academy Award categories, it’s not going to be there,” Paul said.
The llama walkers gather in the barn as the llamas move over to a hill of gravel and dirt, posing next to each other in competition for rank. When things get intense, top contenders for higher ranks in the pack will stand on the hill posing for hours, even in the rain or snow. When they see Sharon bring out the harnesses, they give chase.
“They just like being troublemakers,” she said.
The llamas enjoy the walk, the exercise and the adventure, but they like to play their games too, Sharon said.
She rounds all of them up but Barack O’Llama. He runs in circles around the trailer for a minute until he realizes the rest of his pack in already inside. He looks at the trailer, then at the hill, then back to the trailer before stepping up in to join his pack.
“They’re a great group of people, huh?” Paul says to his family as they unload the llamas at the park.
“Yeah,” Sharon replies. “They always are.”
“So, I hear you’re the one who is responsible for all this fun,” a walker says to Tommy as she walks up to the trailer.
“I guess you could say that,” Tommy replies.
“He’s the one who said, ‘Mom, let’s get a llama,” Sharon says.
“Well, you said yes,” Tommy interjects.
“Well, don’t be shy, the man-eating llamas live next door to us so you should be fine,” Sharon jokes with the walkers as Paul opens the trailer door.
Mac Kay, Allie. "Llama Walks - Meet the Llamas." KTLA 5 Morning News. KTLA 5. Los Angeles, California, 28 Apr. 2014. Television.
“Paul Brucato.” Personal Interview. 19 Mar. 2017.
"ShangriLlama." North Texas Llama Walks by ShangriLlama. ShangriLlama, n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2017. http://www.shangrillama.com/.
“Sharon Brucato 1.” Personal Interview. 30 Jan. 2017.
“Sharon Brucato 2.” Personal Interview. 10 Feb. 2017.
“Sharon Brucato 3.” Personal Interview. 19 Mar. 2017.
“Tommy Brucato.” Personal Interview. 19 Mar. 2017.
••• ––––– •••
Texas History: The Differing Legacies of the King and Kenedy Ranches
By Kimberly Lamb, Bryan High School
Richard King and Mifflin Kenedy are important parts of Texas’ history, and pioneers in the ranching industry. Kenedy was a key player in the steamboat industry, transporting materials during the Civil War.
After the Mexican-American War, Kenedy and his associate, King, established ranches in southern Texas, a region sustained by the Rio Grande River. King and Kenedy were integral contributors to the international recognition of Texas ranching. Although King Ranch and La Parra share similar origins, each left a different legacy on the ranching heritage in Texas.
When King and Kenedy began ranching, they pioneered in the settlement of southern Texas. Established in I854, King Ranch contributed to the earliest cattle drives, sending cattle to markets in the Midwest. To ease the transportation of cattle to the market, King and Kenedy were major contributors to the construction of railroads in Texas, including the St. Louis, Brownsville, and Mexico Railway and the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad.
The railroads led to the growth of many cities in the region, including Kingsville (after King) and Sarita (after Kenedy's granddaughter). In addition to the development of cities, the growth of the ranches led to the improvement of other infrastructure, such as storage facilities and harbors. In about 50 years, the "Wild Horse Desert" of south Texas transformed into a growing community with a vibrant Texan culture. Essentially, King and Kenedy "tamed" the western frontier of south Texas.
According to Frederick Jackson Turner, the "taming" of the west was the integral impetus for the development of the identity, culture, and history of America. Due to King's and Kenedy's contributions, the "western cowboy" culture has become internationally recognized as Texas heritage.
King and Kenedy began ranching under difficult circumstances. In the period just after the Mexican-American War, boundary disputes and Indian conflicts were still common between the Rio Grande and Nueces rivers. With backgrounds in the northeast, King and Kenedy also lacked the know-how to run a ranch. They hired Mexican workers who taught them ranching techniques. Richard King offered a town of about 100 people the opportunity to work on his ranch during a severe drought, and they all agreed.
King's workers became known as "Los Kineños." Kenedy's workers, known as "Los Kinedeños," were employed under the patron system where they were given housing, medical care, and education as benefits. Los Kinedeños enjoyed a positive relationship with the Kenedy family. Through the close association between owners and workers on the two ranches, a mixing of Mexican and Texan cultures developed into the Texas cowboy, the recognizable image of Texas ranching heritage.
The beginnings of King Ranch and Kenedy Ranch were originally interconnected, but as time went on, the two ranches grew distinct from each other. While the legacy of ranching lives through King Ranch's expansion into a large agribusiness, the Kenedy Ranch was only developed minimally to preserve the full integrity of ranching heritage for generations to come.
King Ranch expanded into a large agribusiness by pioneering in ranching innovations. To have animals better suited for the arid climate, King Ranch pioneered in research and developed two new cattle breeds: Santa Gertrudis and Santa Cruz. In 1940, the Santa Gertrudis breed officially became the first breed of beef cattle to be recognized in the United States. In addition to cattle breeding, King Ranch also bred Thoroughbred horses. Currently, it is the only ranch in Texas that can claim two winners of the Kentucky Derby.
In addition to animal breeding, King Ranch also developed several innovations to adapt to the harsh environmental conditions of southern Texas. In 1891, King Ranch oversaw the invent ion of cattle-dipping vats to fight against ticks. King Ranch was also a pioneer for a new net wire fencing method and a seed plow in the l930's.
Today, King Ranch has expanded its products to include trucks, turf grass, citrus fruit, and saddles in addition to livestock. In spite of the agribusiness' vast size, many descendants of Richard King and Los Kineños continue to work on the ranch in a variety of specialties. The contributions of these workers help preserve the traditional ranching techniques that define the ranching heritage in Texas. By preserving traditional customs and values while expanding its realm of influence, King Ranch stands as a modern-day example of the ranching legacy in Texas.
Kenedy Ranch never expanded to the extent of King Ranch. Kenedy's granddaughter Sarita was the last Kenedy owner of the ranch. Nearing the end of her management, she established the John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation to preserve La Parra and provide charity to people in the region, especially Catholics.
To this day, the ranch is still maintained on a smaller scale to preserve the land and its legacy for generations. In 2003, the foundation opened the Kenedy Ranch Museum in what was previously Kenedy's ranching office. A high light of the museum is a mural covering three, 30-foot walls.
Painted by Daniel Lechón, the mural exhibits general Texas history in addition to specific history for Kenedy's Ranch. The large, colorful mural creatively and pertinently demonstrates the powerful blend of Mexican and Texan cultures, which memorializes the ranching legacy in Texas.
King and Kenedy forged new ground through ranching. They integrated cultures and brought development to the region, ultimately "taming" the frontier in southern Texas. Although their current histories are vastly different, both value the preservation of ranching traditions in modern practice today. King and Kenedy left a powerful mark on the Texan identity through their contributions to Texas ranching heritage.
"Cattle." History, King Ranch, king-ranch.com/about-us/history/cattle/. Accessed 25 Feb. 2017.
"Frederick Jackson Turner's 'Frontier Thesis.'" History by Era, Gilder Lehman Institute of American History, http://oa.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/development-west/timeline-terms/frederick-jackson-turners-frontier-thesis-0. Accessed 25 Feb. 2017.
Getschow, George. "Authentic Stories of Ranching Heritage." 24 Feb. 2017, College Station, Annenberg Presidential Conference Center, Historical Storytelling Program.
History-Making Texan: King Ranch. Castleview Productions, 3 Mar. 2015, king-ranch.com/history-making-texan-king-ranch/. Accessed 25 Feb. 2017.
The King Ranch Legacy. King Ranch, king-ranch.com/. Accessed 25 Feb. 2017.
"King Ranch's Legacy." History, King Ranch, king-ranch.com/about-us/history/. Accessed 25 Feb. 2017.
Orozco, Cynthia E. "Kenedy, Petra Vela de Vidal." The Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association, 14 June 2010, tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fkerl. Accessed 25 Feb. 2017.
"Timeline." A Visual Timeline of King Ranch's Legacy, King Ranch, king-ranch.com/about-us/history/timeline/. Accessed 25 Feb. 2017.
••• ––––– •••
Two Sisters’ Software Gives Farmers High Tech Tool to Track & Count Cattle
By Miranda Lowrance, Bryan Collegiate High School
Sultry winds sweep the knee-high grass covering the large expanse of land. The prominent sound of a horse's gallop in the distance and the distinct sound of their exhale after an invigorating dash through sun scorched grass and shrubs.
Wildflowers' perfume wafting through the air, dancing with the melody of a songbird. The crunch of people's encroaching footsteps. While some things never change, others evolve with the world around them. Many aspects of the unique art of ranching have changed since their humble beginning in 1749 when José de Escandón brought soldiers and cattle alike into South Texas.
The Rio Bravo, currently named the Rio Grande, is where some of the first ranchers settled after migrating to South Texas from Queretaro, Nuevo Leon, and Coahuila in Mexico. They settled in portions of land they called porciónes, which are strips of land stretching inland from the Rio Grande.
With this arrangement of land grants, it ensured that every rancher had a supply of water for their cattle, albeit water was the least of rancher's worries-Indian raids were a constant threat. Their cattle and men would be slaughtered without mercy, leaving them in disarray and misery. The raids on ranches left ranchers struggling to keep up with their cattle.
When cattle drives became popular, a lot of cattle would get lost while the ranchers were herding them across the country, leading to countless dollars lost with them. Counting heads has been a problem prevalent throughout time and, as it continues, more obstacles arose that prevented ranchers from effectively counting their cattle. In present day, herd management is a large part of being a rancher. If the herd is not managed properly, ranchers can lose a lot of profit. Many software programs are available to ranchers, but choosing one is no easy task and can often be seen as too challenging and time consuming.
This challenge was resolved by Terrell and Penny Miller, who would soon change ranching forever. In 1999, they were seniors at Texas A&M University, when Penny chose to do an independent study project because of a problem her family had: They needed a better, more efficient way of tracking and keeping up with their cattle. The current system involved countless backbreaking hours tracking them on pen and paper, which is the same system that the majority of ranchers used. If the proper decisions were not made, they lost money.
Penny has a degree in agricultural leadership and Terrell in management of information systems, and with their combined knowledge and experience they were able to create a solution to her parents' and many ranchers' problems. This led to the birth of CattleMax, a software that is currently able to track animal inventories and production histories, maintain complete breeding and pregnancy records, manage herd health treatments, keep up with cattle purchases and sales, and import and export records with breed associations.
Yet CattleMax was not always so efficient. It had a very simple beginning, and had a long way to go before it became the top-notch software it is today. At first, only Penny's family utilized the software but, as word spread, Terrell and Penny made the realization that their software was something that an abundance of ranchers needed. Through word of mouth, more and more ranchers wanted to try their software, and with this, they began making improvements with the help of feedback from the ranchers using it. Terrell and Penny made an important decision to make CattleMax mobile rather than solely depending on a desktop for their software because whenever ranchers are gathering information, it is not happening by sitting at a desktop, it's happening out in the field. This allows everybody to view it on their devices at the same time as well as enter data simultaneously.
Currently, CattleMax is used by ranchers and farmers alike in over 70 countries worldwide. This revolutionary software, designed and produced in Texas, is helping ranchers to effectively and efficiently track a herd's performance, which is crucial to making a profit in the ranching industry. Ranching technology has come a long way since 1749 and will continue to evolve with the ever-growing world around it with the help of Terrell and Penny Miller.
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Capitol Cattle: The Story of the XIT Ranch
By Shiva Saravanan, A&M Consolidated High School
In 1881, fire erupted inside the Texas State Capitol. The venerable building, which had served as the center of government since 1853, was utterly destroyed as firefighters had too little water to stop the blaze. This "disaster" simply accelerated existing plans to replace the structure, which had become too small to support the state's ever-growing population.
As lawmakers threw together a shabby, nondescript building as a temporary capitol, they rushed to find a buyer for three million acres of land that had been set aside in 1879 for the express purpose of funding the construction of a new capitol building. In 1882, they finally achieved success. Four Chicago businessmen in a group called the Capitol Syndicate accepted a deal to construct the new state capitol in exchange for the three million acres which stretched across ten counties in Texas. This began the saga of the XIT Ranch, which lasted for only 27 years, but left an indelible mark upon Texas' ranching culture.
Later in 1882, Amos C. Babcock, a member of the Syndicate, arrived in Texas to begin surveying the land that he had just bought. The Capitol Syndicate did not expect the land to be suitable for long-term ranching – they intended to ranch temporarily and then transition the land to agriculture. However, Babcock, along with a surveyor, a clerk, several cowboys, and a cook, conducted an exhaustive 36-day survey of the land and found that the Texan government had been truthful about its qualities; therefore, the land was suitable for long-term ranching.
In 1884, John Farwell of the Syndicate traveled to Britain and raised $5 million in funding from British investors. In 1885, the XIT Ranch received its first herd of cattle – and its name, which, contrary to the popular myth that it means "ten in Texas" (referring to the ten counties covered by the XIT), was simply created so that cattle brands could not be easily changed by rustlers. By 1887, the XIT had obtained enough cattle to become a sustainable ranch.
Ranching has always been an integral part of Texan society. When settlers led by Stephen F. Austin arrived in 1821, they took advantage of the huge numbers of stray cattle roaming about the plains in order to help build their livelihoods. Inspired by the vaqueros of Mexico, these settlers created the archetype of the Texan cowboy, an image of freedom and individualism that endures to this day. However, the XIT Ranch fused this image of Texan liberty with the restrictive business culture of its owners.
Although the XIT retained traditional elements of ranching such as cattle branding and cattle drives, its area of three million acres made it the largest ranch in the world at the time, and its planned hierarchy – including a president and a board of directors – resembled that of an industrial corporation more than that of a traditional ranch. The XIT also enforced strict regulations against drinking and gambling and forbade eating beef from ranch cattle, treating its workers like traditional employees instead of cowboys. These regulations showcased the XIT Ranch's unique blend of Northern and Southern culture.
The XIT's most powerful impact on Texan and American culture was the propagation of barbed wire. The limitless plains and soaring sky of the open range are one of the most powerful talismans of the cowboy culture. However, the invention of barbed wire in 1874 threatened to end this hallmark of American ranching. The XIT's owners were Illinois businessmen and had no attachment to the concept of the free range. Thus, the XIT Ranch was built from its beginning with barbed wire fencing in order to improve efficiency. Although the XIT Ranch was not the first to make extensive use of barbed wire, its size helped spread the practice of barbed wire fencing and bring an end to the open range. The introduction of barbed wire fencing changed ranching forever.
Although large ranchers saw improved security and efficiency, small-scale ranchers were crippled by the loss of access to public food and water for their cattle. In addition, barbed wire fencing reduced the need for cowboys because cattle were unable to roam as far and thus needed less supervision. Therefore, despite the XIT ranch's containing 150 cowboys on 1,000 horses at its peak, it helped facilitate the death of the open range that sustained the cowboys.
The XIT also reflected ranching culture through its cattle drives. At its peak, the XIT transported 12,500 cattle from Texas to South Dakota and Montana each year. Cattle drives generally began in the spring and were intended to transport cattle to northern markets before the winter. As the cattle moved in a long, narrow line, cowboys would watch each side of the line in order to keep the cattle moving together. If the herd panicked and stampeded, the cowboys would guide them into moving in a circle, thus avoiding the loss of cattle and protecting their own lives.
These cattle drives, like the open range, were short-lived. As railroads spread throughout the United States, it eventually became cheaper to simply send cattle by rail rather than undergoing slow and risky cattle drives. Thus, the XIT stood as a preserver of historical tradition as well as its destroyer.
The XIT Ranch was a massive operation. However, it was not a profitable one. In fact, the XIT's immense size helped lead to its downfall, as cattle rustlers were able to steal from all sides of the ranch. Predators such as wolves ravaged the herds despite the bounties set in place to encourage wolf hunting.
The harsh winter of 1886-87 killed many cattle and forced the XIT to take a loss early in its operation, and the subsequent summer droughts made it difficult for the ranch to recover. Because of these challenges, the XIT was a financial albatross for the Capitol Syndicate. By the turn of the century, it had become clear that the XIT Ranch was doomed. The British creditors began to demand a return on their investment, and the ranch's owners decided to cut their losses.
In 1901, George W. Littlefield bought 235,858 acres of the XIT, beginning the piecemeal process of the selling of the XIT Ranch. As the selling accelerated, smaller farmers were also able to claim pieces of the ranch. By 1909, the ranch's debts had been repaid; however, its fate had been sealed. Finally, in 1912, the XIT Ranch sold its last cattle, and a unique era in ranching was brought to a close.
The XIT's closure mirrored the end of the distinctive cowboy culture of the late 19th century. Although ranches continued to thrive, two of their unique hallmarks – the open range and cattle drives – had been killed off, with the XIT playing a part in the destruction of one but not the other. Without cattle drives or wandering cattle, the American cowboy became obsolete. The image became a relic of the past, undone by the unceasing march of progress. However, its culture still lives on today. Western movies have popularized the idea of the cowboy for several generations, and rodeos continue to be a popular form of entertainment. Although the job of the cowboy is (mostly) dead, the spirit of the cowboy persists.
The XIT Ranch is long gone. Its vast expanse is now indistinguishable from any other land in the Panhandle, and the its last ranch hand died in 1999. However, the XIT's most visible legacy is vibrantly alive. The Texas State Capitol, one of the largest state capitols in the U.S. and the reason that the XIT Ranch was created, still commands popular attention in Austin. When people from across the nation arrive at the building to legislate, visit, or protest, they are unknowingly viewing the legacy of one of the last bastions of the liberating, independent culture of the Texan cowboy.
"A Guide to the XlT Ranch Records, 1885-1889, [Ca. 1936-1937]." Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin, www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/utcah/02463/cah-02463.html. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.
Anderson, H. Allen. "Big Die-Up." Texas State Historical Association, Texas State Historical Association, 11 June 2010, tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ydb02. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.
Anderson, H. Allen. "XlT Ranch." Texas State Historical Association, Texas State Historical Association, 14 June 2010, www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/apx01. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.
Burk, Kimberly. "HEAD: Last known XlT ranch hand dies at 103." Amarillo Globe-News, Amarillo Globe-News, 26 July 1999, amarillo.com/stories/072699/new_148-3381.001.shtml#.WLIBZ7HGyRt. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.
Haeber, Jonathan. "Vaqueros: The First Cowboys of the Open Range." National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 15 Aug. 2003, news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/08/0814_030815_cowboys_2.html. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.
"History of the XlT Ranch." XIT Museum, XIT Museum, www.xitmuseum.com/history.shtml. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.
Modisett, Bill. "BACK IN TIME: Massive XlT Ranch shaped early development in Texas." Odessa American, Odessa American, 24 Sept. 2015, www.oaoa.com/community/good_news/article_414cd252-62cc-1le5-b43b-ff9dca9b873e.html. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.
"Part Two: The Introduction of Barbed Wire to the Frontier." American Studies at the University of Virginia, University of Virginia, xroads.virginia.edu/~class/am485_98/cook/develp2.htm. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.
Ramos, Mary G. "Cattle Drives Started In Earnest After the Civil War." Texas Almanac - The Source For All Things Texan Since 1857, Texas Almanac, 1990, texasalmanac.com/topics/agriculture/cattle-drives-started-earnest-after-civil-war. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.
"The grand granite building on Congress Avenue is Austin's..." MyStatesman, Austin-American Statesman, 4 Jan. 2014, www.mystatesman.com/lifestyles/the-grand-granite-building-congress-avenue-austin-fourth-state-capitol/wdOGCJKqMQRo3prdo5PEjI/. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.
Trew, Delbert. "XIT Was On Cutting Edge Of Ranching." Texas Escapes, Texas Escapes Online Magazine, 8 Aug. 2008, www.texasescapes.com/DelbertTrew/XIT-was-on-cutting-edge-of-ranching.htm. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.
"TX-17408 Site of Temporary Texas State Capitol of 1880s." Historical-Markers.org, photos.historical-markers.org/Texas/Travis-County/TX-17408-Site-of-Temporary-Texas-State-Capitol-of-1880s. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.
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Lessons and Legacy of an Unorthodox Rancher
By Tierra Body, A&M Consolidated High School
As the sun shines down across the long green grass and the morning brings to light the open fields of Texas, the birds chirp their songs of happiness and in the distance the cattle travel the ancient pathways across the fields. This is how every country man, rancher, and farmer has envisioned Texas; they've always seen it as synonymous with land and freedom. This is perhaps how my own grandfather, Marshall Douglass Shepard, saw Wheelock, TX - as a place full of potential. With all he did, my grandfather embodied the spirit of patience, compassion, sacrifice, and respect.
My grandfather, M.D., was a tall, slender, rugged man with large calloused hands. His nature contrasted with his appearance, for he was soft spoken, gentle, patient, and calm by nature. His philosophy was one of tenderness, and rarely did he speak harshly. He was not the traditional rancher or farmer, and neither did he claim to be. He instead preferred to call himself a provider who did what was necessary to provide for his family. He tended carefully to his ducks, chickens, guinea pigs, hogs, horses, turkeys and various other animals. He treated people and animals with kindness and respect. What made him most unorthodox and nontraditional as a rancher was that he rarely ever raised his whip to his animals and even more rarely raised the belt to his children. In a way, he possessed a sort of magic over animals especially horses and could command obedience without physical threat. These principles he held in regards to his animals, ranching, and in his family life.
M.D.’s family was his everything. He felt boundless love for his younger, free-spirited wife and their five children; although only one of the five children carried his blood, he considered them all his life and his legacy. When his wife disappeared for long periods of time, enjoying the party life she craved, he cared for his children himself, and he allowed nothing to divide his family. His words alone carried a firmness that was almost always enough to keep his children obedient.
My own mother recalls that any words of disappointment from him were enough to make her understand what was right and what was wrong. He did not like to physically discipline his children, but as a last resort only if necessary he would use his belt to correct problem behavior. M.D. never felt the need to rule with an iron fist, and he loved his kids dearly. He patiently endured his wife’s absences when she was out and about doing what she loved to do, and during her absences, he was determined to teach his children strong values of patience, love, and compassion.
He passed on his agricultural skills to his two youngest children, my uncle and my mother. He showed them that treating animals and people with respect was the best and most important way to live. He took care of his animals whether they were meant for slaughter, were pets, or were supplying his family resources like eggs or milk. He also showed his children the proper care of family and animals requires sacrifices in the form of time, energy, and work. My mother learned responsibility and sacrifice from her father and has described to me a number of instances when he sacrificed for them. He made his money through working odd jobs, manual labor, breaking horses, and even selling off some of his animals, live or as meat.
My mother has described to me in vivid detail how my grandfather broke horses, and the process seems almost mystical. My grandfather never used a whip to break a horse because a whip created fear and angst in a horse. He believed that obedience out of fear never created anything good. So instead he would break a horse by gaining its respect rather than its fear.
Wearing his cowboy hat and boots, he’d get inside the fence with a wild horse and stretch his long arms out wide, slowly circling the horse with great patience. Like a primitive dance for dominance, the two would walk this circle, all day if necessary, until the beast came to a stop.
Only after huffing, puffing, snorting, neighing, rearing up, and stomping while walking in that circle did the horse finally calm itself. In this moment, my grandfather would approach the still horse and hold out his black hat to allow the horse to sniff it before he dropped it to the ground. Somewhere in this motion of dropping the hat to the ground lay a sort of magic – soon the horse would bob its head, and then my grandfather knew he could approach the horse and gently hold its head while attaching a bridle. His patience and respect for his animals allowed him to calm and harness them without having to threaten them with his whip. He could demand respect as long as he gave respect, and he passed this concept on to his children.
Through his unique country lifestyle, M.D. instilled his values into my mother and her siblings. Being out in the country taught them to be self-reliant, that family means sacrifice, that patience is very important, and that kindness and respect go hand and hand. For every moment that my grandfather walked the earth, he would do anything for his family, which is why Wheelock, Texas, will always be my mother’s home. My grandfather’s values kept both his family and his community together. Most of all, these values created good people, and they are what made people like my mother continue to do good in a world where hardship, poverty, and harshness challenge them constantly.
Although land, ranching, and freedom will always be remembered as the legacies of Texas, to me the real legacy of Texas is the values and traditions that were passed down through the generations. My mother is not a rancher, nor are any of my mother's siblings. But the values, the traditions, and teachings of my grandfather are still long present in my family, and that alone is what's really important. His life has shaped the way I behave, think, and feel. My grandfather was not a traditional rancher, but he passed down the traditional ranch values of patience, kindness, sacrifice and respect to his children, and they passed those same values down to their children.
While the rest of the world today is starting to lose these values, ranching communities as well as those who are descendants of ranching families are still holding onto and promoting them, exemplifying what real Texas legacy and heritage is about. I plan to continue my grandfather’s legacy by passing down his values to my own children in the future. It is not the land or ranching itself that is Texan legacy, but rather how the land and its communities shape the values of the Texan people. Although my grandfather’s children, grandchildren, and future great-grandchildren may not be ranchers themselves, we are all shaped by the Texas ranching legacy he established.
Body, LaToya. Personal interview. 27 February 2017.
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