El Rancho in South Texas: Continuity and Change From 1750 Page: 83
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the horses back into the trailers and drive back to ranch
headquarters. Likewise, large cattle trucks have elimi-
nated even the shorter cattle drives. Cattle to be sold
are picked up directly from the ranch by these trucks
and taken to distant sales barns or feed lots.
On only a few ranches, such as the Norias Divi-
sion of the King Ranch, do cowboys continue to work
cattle in the old way. The nature of the roundup on
the majority of ranches has changed tremendously.
Herded from a single pasture into modern corrals,
cattle are forced into cutting chutes, loading chutes,
squeeze chutes, and marking tables, making the brand-
ing, vaccinating, marking, and castrating of animals
easier and requiring fewer cowboys. Over the last quar-
ter of a century, the helicopter has had an impact on
the roundups of some of the larger ranches. Assisted
by mounted cowboys, the helicopter operator, in just
a few hours, can complete a roundup that once would
have taken days. One drawback to this system is that
many cattle learn how to hide from the helicopter-
in brush, ditches or tall grass-necessitating the use
of vaqueros to find and return them to the main herd.
Recently, an unbranded seven-year-old cow was discov-
ered on the King Ranch who had escaped the heli-
copter roundup since birth (Cathy Henry interview).
The use of such modern devices as squeeze chutes
or marking tables has greatly reduced the amount of
both physical labor and dangers to which the cowboy
is exposed. As herds of cattle are driven into the cor-
rals, the calves are separated from their mothers with a
cutting chute. Cowboys with chicotes (cattle whips) or
hot shots (battery-powered devices producing an elec-
trical shock) force the calves, one at a time, into either
a squeeze chute or a chute with a marking table. This
process reduces the amount of manhandling a calf must
go through, as well as the number of strained muscles
and/or bruises a cowboy suffers. It also means that
only half the number of cowboys are needed to process
the same number of calves.
Another task for the modern cowboy is to help pro-
vide food and dietary supplements for the cattle in
various pastures. During drought periods and during
the winter, when the grass has grown scarce, cowboys
spend much of their time in pickups, carrying food
to the animals, where they place it into various types
of feeders. They also place salt and minerals into each
pasture. On some small ranches where they cultivate
prickly pear as insurance against hard times, that task
also falls to the cowboys.
Modern Cowboy Accouterments
Since cowboys spend more time in pickups and
afoot than they do astride horses, their boots and spurs
reflect these changes. The tall riding heels on boots
have begun to disappear, being replaced by the lower
walking heels. Many cowboys prefer "roper" boots,
with lower tops and very low heels, similar to those
found on most shoes. Also, since horses are not as
wild as they once were, the heavier "working" spurs
are not so important. Many cowboys wear very light
spurs with rowels no larger than a nickel. Younger
cowboys usually prefer baseball-style caps to wide-
brimmed hats. Most still wear commercial jeans and
long-sleeved shirts, however, as well as bandannas to
prevent sunburned necks and keep dust out. In any
case, most clothing is mass-produced gear purchased
in local western-wear stores, making it practically im-
possible to distinguish between a Mexican-American
vaquero and an Anglo-American cowboy.
Mass-produced saddles, bridles, quirts, and chaps,
costing less than their handcrafted counterparts, have
mostly replaced the handmade items-although some
cowboys still prefer the latter because of their link to
the past. Strong, stiff nylon lariats have replaced hemp
ones, which had earlier replaced the rawhide ones.
Vaqueros in South Texas have added their own touch to
this mass-produced nylon item by adding a leather or
rawhide bot6n, a quick-release mechanism designed to
free the lariat from the saddlehorn if the cowboy gets
into trouble after roping a large animal. Other equip-
ment that a few vaqueros continue to make by hand
are quirts, chicotes, hackamores, headstalls for bridles,
bridle reins, bosales, and cabrestos. Some still use raw-
hide, but in recent years, vaqueros braid many of these
artifacts of slender nylon cords. Vaqueros on the Alta
Vista Ranch also continue to make horsehair cabrestos.
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/m1/95/?q=el%20rancho: accessed August 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Press.