By Caroline Clemmons
Most of the stories I write have something to do with ranching. I live in an area of successful Texas ranches but I depended heavily on the book LONE STAR: A history of Texas and the Texans by T. R. Ferhrenbach for my research of nineteenth century facts. Fehrenbach refers to the precise period that interests me, post Civil War through 1885. This short twenty-year period comprises the time most often referred to for westerns—whether novels, television, or movies.
This subject was covered in an excellent documentary series created by Robert Redford and titled “The American West”. My husband and I only recently discovered this series. (Seeing John McCain and Burt Reynolds speak on camera was a shock when they had just passed away that week.)
Of course there were always cattle drives to get animals to a market. That might be to the next town, next state, or several states away from the ranch. Cattle were driven to found new ranches in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and other states. Market destinations included New Orleans, the Army, Indian reserves, even as far as Ohio. However, the massive cattle drives from Texas to Kansas occurred for only a brief period.
Texas had a law that unbranded cattle belonged to the finder. After the Civil War, thousands of unbranded cattle roamed the state. Many ranchers got their start by rounding up these cattle.
Cowboys received the same salary whether they were on the ranch or driving herds to market. At that time in Texas, a steer brought four dollars. In Kansas, that four-dollar steer could bring thirty or forty dollars. You can see how many ranchers became wealthy from these drives.
These were tough, stringy longhorns well-equipped to walk to market. Cowboys drove them across Indian Territory—hoping to avoid Indians and rustlers—to the rail head in Dodge City. Once barbed wire became prevalent, the drives were over. By that time, rails had reached more cities and long drives were no longer necessary.
|Fort Worth Stockyards Stock Exchange Building|
Fort Worth had two meat packing houses, Swift and Armor. The Fort Worth Stockyards are no longer for cattle drives, but the Exchange is a hotbed of cattle sales online. Yes, technology has taken over the Old West.
LONE STAR: A History of Texas and the Texans, T. R. Fehrenbach, American Legacy Press, 1983.
Caroline Clemmons has a release October 1, BLESSING, The Widows of Wildcat Ridge Series western historical romance. Right now, it’s on preorder. Get your copy at http://Getbook.at/blessingWOWR