Texas Heritage, Fall 1984

Courtesy of the Texas Department of Agriculture, Austin, Texas

posedly exchanged for four of a kind in a poker game, or
the Goodnight Ranch in Palo Duro Canyon where the
Comanche were last encamped as a free nation and
where the Hereford breed was introduced from Scotland.
The true-blue trail driver cowboys must have despised
the stocky short-legged Hereford. True, it converted energy
into meat better than the longhorn, but it typified a
different breed of rancher, a changed economy from the
rough and tumble open range. But cattle were still the
substance of production for many years after Spindletop
demonstrated the availability of oil as a mortgage-lifter
for those ranchers lucky enough to have wells on their
property.
If you average out the last ten or fifteen years of expense
versus income for the average rancher, the figures come
in on the red side. Factor in a few years' drought in a
cycle that swings every twenty years or so from barely
ample to nil precipitation; figure on interest rates set for
an industrial economy rather than agricultural; include
the increasing costs of middlemen who deliver beef to
the consumer, and consider the declining per capita consumption
of beef, and you are looking at a hard-pressed
ranch economy. The reason it survives is because people
prefer to live the ranching life, to preserve its traditions
in their personal life ways.
What they value is not the romantic overview that we
have been fed in fiction and film, but the satisfaction of
feeling independent and part of a heritage that links us to
all of the short history of settlement in Texas. We are all
much closer to each other now. Microwave dishes intercept
television from satellite broadcast in the most remote
regions, and even the 10-acre ranchette within
commuting distance from urban employment helps to
preserve the traditions, or at least the sense of them. The
rigors of the landscape have been moderated by airconditioned
pickups and infusions of subsidies for con

Courtesy of the Texas Department of Agriculture, Austin, Texas

servation practices, and the strings of drought and price
collapses have been buffered by disaster aid.
Even so, when you walk to the corral with a hackamore
in your hand, lay a Mexican blanket over your horse's
back, and throw on the heavy saddle with a horn built
into the tree, or when you ride out into the brush armed
with a lariat and your wits, you're part of the time

lessness that connection with land can give, and participate
in the many cultures that have contributed to a
distinctive style.
The Wurzbach Farm is located along the Medina River
in Menard County with a five-acre pecan grove bordering
the river below the house. Its original occupants
settled and lived there for a period of 54 years beginning
in 1880. During the ownership of the founder, August
Wurzbach, the farm was greatly improved by cultivation
of the land and the planting of fruit orchards as well as
the addition of a more convenient water system, some
building of barns, and construction of a new story-and-ahalf
rock home. The first residence constructed on the
farm was an old-fashioned log cabin in which the family
lived until 1900. That year, the river came over its banks,
flooding the farm to a depth of one foot in and around the
cabin. By this time, the founder and another man known
only as Weber, had completed the story-and-a-half
home, which was built of locally quarried soft limestone
rock. The lime was a special mixture for plastering and
was of his own preparation. The home was bordered on
the west side with a row of hackberry trees which were
planted at the time the house was being built. These trees
have since been replaced by its present owner with pecan
trees. On the east side of the home, native cedar trees
were planted which are now large and beautiful trees.
"The reason ranching survives is because
people prefer to live the ranching life, to preserve
its traditions in their personal life ways."
This story-and-a-half rock home is still being occupied
by the present owners, along with some frame buildings
which are still standing and are being used by the present
owner as storage for grain. The founder had one of
Medina County's first threshing machines. He was also
known for his many pieces of woodwork. He built furniture,
rebuilt wooden wagon wheels, and built pulleys
out of wood which he used on his threshing machine.
During the early years on the farm, Indians roamed in the
area and many raids took place on the August Wurzbach
property during which horses were stolen by the Indians.
In January 1880, August married Adelina Borquin. They
had six children: Frank, Edmund, Alvina, Emelia
(Haby) (Schmidt), Amanda (Haegelin), and Wilhemina,
known as Minnie Ahr.

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Texas Historical Foundation. Texas Heritage, Fall 1984. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45447/. Accessed July 29, 2014.