El Rancho in South Texas: Continuity and Change From 1750 Page: 42
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operated with one another to make sure that everyone
had access to the shipping stations.
The End of the Open Range
Perhaps the most important impact Anglo thinking
and technology had on the 800-year-old institution
called the ranch was the end of open range ranching.
This profound change can be traced to the decision
Kenedy and King made in 1868 to divide up their lands
(Lea 1957). Both men had a strong belief that one
didn't really own the land unless he had control over it.
They also felt that livestock breeding programs would
be difficult, if not impossible, until the land was en-
closed with fencing. Furthermore, they reasoned that
fences would help protect their land and cattle from
trespassers, thieves, and squatters.
Fencing was extremely time consuming and expen-
sive until barbed wire became available in 1874. Most
ranches had corrals of various sizes made of mes-
quite-the corrales de lena adopted from the Spanish
and Mexican ranchers. Kenedy and King, however,
went to Louisiana and made large purchases of creo-
soted cypress posts and pine planks, twenty feet long,
one-and-a-half inches thick, and six inches wide. These
were shipped by boat to Corpus Christi and hauled to
the ranch on wagons. Before the fence was completed,
Kenedy announced in the Corpus Christi newspaper
that if anyone had cattle on Kenedy land, he had better
remove them. As Lea has noted:
By completing thirty miles of heavy post and three-plank
fencing across the throat of the peninsula [two sides of the
ranch were bounded by the Laguna Madre] which formed
the Laureles grant, Kenedy effectively enclosed the 131,000
acres of his new purchase and became the owner of the first
fenced range of any real size west of the Mississippi. (1957)
Since King's land was not bounded on two sides
by water, fencing the Santa Gertrudis Ranch was sig-
nificantly more expensive. By the end of r868, he had
built a fence around the ranch headquarters, but it
was a couple of years later before his ranch was en-
closed. Other ranchers quickly followed the example of
King and Kenedy, and by 1883, most of the ranches
in the region were enclosed by fences, bringing to an
end forever the system of open-range livestock raising
which had originated in Spain in the eleventh century
Another important technology introduced into cat-
tle ranching in the 1870s was the windmill. As early as
the I8os, King and others had used the mule-drawn
fresno to build earthen dams, a technology which was a
significant improvement over the Spanish and Mexican
mecapal andguaripa (Lea 1957). But the results were the
same- a reservoir of water to meet the needs of large
herds of cattle. Until around the turn of the century,
all wells in South Texas were dug by hand, a practice
which placed significant limitations on the depth of
these wells. Set over the same hand-dug wells, wind-
mills provided a large supply of water with far less
While the basic equipment of the South Texas va-
quero was well established before the coming of the
Anglos into South Texas, some changes began to oc-
cur. Many of the earlier vaqueros made their own
equipment-including saddles-on Mexican haciendas,
a practice brought to South Texas. In I865, the King
Ranch began a saddle shop to make saddles for its owvn
vaqueros and others in the region who wanted to buy
them. One of the popular styles of this period was
the Mother Hubbard, which had leather covers over
the basic saddle (Beattie 1961). Boots and various kinds
of clothes-hats, pants, shirts, bandannas, etc.-were
available through the ranch stores or other area stores.
Blacksmiths on some of the ranches made bridle bits
Many vaqueros continued to make their own equip-
ment, particularly those artifacts of rawhide and horse-
hair. Rawhide lariats were commonly made on the
ranches, as they had been for centuries on hacien-
das in Mexico. They also made chicotes (cattle whips),
quirts, bridle reins, hackamores, bosaks (nose-pieces for
bridles or hackamores), and mecates (short ropes, called
42 El Rancho in South Texas
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Graham, Joe S. El Rancho in South Texas: Continuity and Change From 1750, book, 1994; Denton, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc28328/m1/54/?q=el%20rancho: accessed July 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Press.