El Rancho in South Texas: Continuity and Change From 1750 Page: 68
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connected to Spanish and Mexican land grants. Many
ranchers who had long thought their titles secure dis-
covered they had to renew their fight-this time in the
courts. The net result was a clearing of titles and more
careful surveying of the land (Lea 1957).
The King Ranch provides an interesting example of
what happened on many South Texas ranches. In 1901,
the ranch leased acreage for oil exploration and drill-
ing to A. J. Vick, but the lease was canceled in 1902.
Five years later eastern capitalists and land developers
offered Mrs. King $1o million for the ranch, which
she refused (Lea 1957). In the early 1920S, Humble Oil
and Refining Company leased King Ranch land and
explored for oil, discovering some indications of its
presence but drilling no productive wells. They allowed
the lease to lapse, then leased it again in 1933, along
with many other South Texas properties. At that point,
Humble paid a bonus of thirteen cents an acre and
promised one barrel of oil to the landowner for every
eight it pumped. Oil was finally discovered on the
ranch in 1939, on the San Antonio Viejo property, and
the first producing well drilled on the Santa Gertrudis
division of the ranch came in 1941. This was followed
by the discovery of a rich oil field on the El Sauz Ranch
in 1944, and since 1945, four other minor oil locations
have been discovered on the King Ranch. By 1952, the
famous ranch had 650o producing oil and gas wells. By
1953, oil and gas royalties produced as much income as
livestock on the ranch (Lea 1957). Although many areas
in South Texas have yielded neither oil nor gas, stories
similar to the King Ranch's could be told for other
ranching enterprises in the region. For many of these,
cattleraising often became of secondary importance.
After the oil boom slowed and ended in many parts
of the region, used equipment-large oil tanks and
pipe and drill stems-remained on the ranches. These
have been used by ranchers in a number of ways, in-
cluding using them to make corrals, cattle guards, and
distinctive gate entranceways.
Pickup Trucks, Automobiles, and Trucks
In addition to the great profits, oil and gas produc-
tion brought other important changes to ranching in
South Texas. Tom Lea claims that the oil field roads
built on the King Ranch, for instance, marked the end
of an era by providing good all-weather roads con-
necting the various parts of the ranch. While the four-
wheel-drive pickup had been introduced shortly after
WW I, the pickup truck and trailer were only able to
transform ranch work with the help of these roads.
The old horseback isolation of the work camps, the slow
cattle drives from remote comers of the ranch, were rele-
gated to the past. Time and distance shrank. Following the
oil roads, combustion engines and motor vehicles became
ranching implements as basic as cow horses. (1957)
On today's ranch, heavy cattle trailers can move
cattle quickly from one pasture to another or even to
an auction barn, where about ninety-five percent of
South Texas ranchers sell their cattle (Carson, Paschal,
Hanselka 1992). Where cowboys once lived and worked
in isolated, remote cow camps for weeks at a time, they
now live at ranch or division headquarters or in neigh-
boring towns, and drive to work. Even on the largest
ranches, the foreman can travel from one end of the
ranch to the other in a couple of hours. Motorized ve-
hicles and good roads have made ranching operations
more efficient and reduced the number of vaqueros and
Modern Science and the Modem Ranch
Significant scientific contributions to modern ranch-
ing include the elimination of screwworms, and the
development of vaccines against blackleg and other
bovine diseases, as well as the development of di-
etary supplements. The screwworm, the larva stage
of the blue-green fly Cochltomyla hominivorax, was a
major problem on ranches until the 1960s. When ani-
mals were marked, branded, castrated, dehorned, or
wounded-and for a period of time just after birth-
they were in danger of infection, which could kill
them. During the spring and summer, cowboys had
to work nearly every day, inspecting cattle and doc-
toring them with a powerful medication, or "dope,"
which killed the screwworms. In 1935, an estimated two
68 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/m1/80/?q=el%20rancho: accessed December 13, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Press.