El Rancho in South Texas: Continuity and Change From 1750 Page: 51
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American cattle, recognized officially by the USDA in
1940 (Lea 1957). Lea makes an interesting point about
the development of the Santa Gertrudis breed:
The first distinctive American breed of cattle was created
not by trained geneticists equipped with a research labora-
tory and a scientific experimental station, but by a family of
practicing ranchers using their own judgement, their own
livestock, their own pastures, and their own money to shape
what they themselves needed for the profitable pursuit of
their own business. (1957)
The King Ranch also played a part in the eradica-
tion of Texas Fever, (also called Tick Fever), which
had led to the quarantine of Texas cattle in north-
ern markets in the 1870s and i88os. After consultation
with scientists from the Bureau of Animal Industries,
Richard Kleberg invented, built, and put into use at
the ranch in 1891 the world's first cattle dipping vat.
The ticks were eradicated from the land by keeping the
host cattle from it for a year. In 1928, the USDA de-
clared South Texas to be free of the ticks which caused
Tick Fever, which had plagued the South Texas cattle
industry for some sixty years (Lea 1957).
Modem Transportation Reaches South Texas
The railroad had officially arrived in South Texas
in 1881, when the Texas Mexican Railway connected
Laredo and Corpus Christi. The year 1888 saw the San
Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad connect Corpus
Christi to San Antonio, linking South Texas ranches
to markets throughout the U.S. and bringing new
technologies and materials into the region. Shipping
points were established at various locations along the
tracks, from which ranchers could ship their cattle.
The Collins station, for instance-about twenty miles
northwest of the headquarters of the King Ranch-
also served the Armstrong Ranch located seventy-five
miles from there. Unfortunately, many South Texas
ranches were still too far from railroad shipping sta-
tions to be able to take advantage of the new tech-
nology (Lea 1957).
In 1904o, as a result of the efforts of many ranch-
ers and businessmen in South Texas, the St. Louis,
Brownsville, and Mexico Railway connected Corpus
Christi to Brownsville. There were twenty-one stations
established between Robstown and Brownsville, some
of which would become thriving towns. A shipping
point at the Norias station, used by many in deep
South Texas, was the place,where the King Ranch, in
1913, built the largest set of shipping pens in the region
By 1930, railroads and roads connected most ranches
and farms to towns, thereby decreasing isolation. Cars,
pickups, and large cattle trucks replaced wagons and
stagecoaches, as roads-both paved and unpaved-
began linking communities. As a result, the once
tightly-knit ranching communities became smaller as
families moved into nearby towns. Cattle drives con-
tinued in some areas until the 194os. The last one on
the Jones Ranch, for instance, was a forty-two-mile
drive from southern Jim Hogg County to Hebbron-
ville just prior to WW II (W. W. Jones interview).
The car and the pickup brought a new mobility to
South Texas ranch people. In 185o, a round trip by ox-
cart from Zapata to Laredo (about fifty-three miles),
took eight days in good weather (Lott and Martinez
1953). By 1930, the trip by car took only eight hours,
even on the rough, unpaved roads. At present, one can
make the trip in two hours. Ranches that were once
self-sufficient became more and more dependent on
supplies bought from stores in nearby towns.
Changes for the Cowboy
The coming of barbed wire and the windmill to
South Texas meant that cowboys no longer partici-
pated in multi-ranch roundups twice a year or long
cattle drives to northern markets. Also, as pastures be-
came smaller, fewer horsemen were necessary. Another
change in cowboy life came around 1890, when the
cause of Texas Fever was confirmed. Cowboys learned
to use dipping vats to help kill the ticks that caused
the disease, and to leave selected pastures empty each
year to allow ticks without a "host" to die. One can still
find abandoned cement dipping vats on many ranches
in the region, surrounded by corrals in disrepair.
Many of the cattle-working methods of earlier days,
The Ranch 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/m1/63/?q=el%20rancho: accessed November 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Press.