The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, Volume 3, July 1899 - April, 1900 Page: 57
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Route of Cabeza de Vaca in Texas.
tion solely, but it does not follow that the same kind of farming
could not have been successfully carried on there from the begin-
ning of the settlement. The encroachment of farming upon lands
in the United States formerly considered arid, has not been due,
according to the authorities generally, to an increased rainfall, but
is attributed mainly to improved methods of tillage. Besides this,
the generally received opinion among scientists at the present day
seems to be that while the world is losing its humidity, it is doing
so exceedingly gradually. The rate of decrease is so small as not
to be perceptible in a term of three hundred and fifty years. Hence,
unless some special cause of change of humidity has operated, such
as a change in the limits of the Gulf of Mexico, or in the course
of the trade winds, the territory suited to the growth of the cactus
in large quantities is the same now as in de Vaca's day. So that
the theory of scientists conforms to all the evidence that we can
gather from the history of Texas during three hundred and fifty
But, secondly, a change of habitat for plants and animals may
have been brought about by the agency of fire. De Vaca tells us
that a favorite way of catching game, resorted to by the Indians,
was to set fire to large scopes of country. This must necessarily
have destroyed some vegetation, possibly some animal life, and
most certainly a great deal of insect life, and if persisted in for
years must have to some extent disturbed the existing equilibrium
between the different forms of the vegetable and animal worlds.
At the present day in West Texas the effect of fire is shown in
changing the character of our grasses, and in some places certain
varieties of grasses have been completely destroyed and replaced
by others. In this case, however, it is not always easy to determine
how far this change is due to fire, and how far it is due to the pres-
ence of stock grazing on the lands. According to my observation,
cactus is not easily destroyed, and in my opinion in the recovery
of vegetation after a fire the cactus would have a more dominant
growth than before the fire.
If this be correct, the growth of the cactus was encouraged by
the Indian practice of setting the country on fire, and as a conse-
quence the cactus belt may be greater now and extending farther
north than three hundred and fifty years ago. Or possibly the belt
may remain now as it was then, the increase in cactus growth hav-
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Texas State Historical Association. The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, Volume 3, July 1899 - April, 1900, periodical, 1900; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101015/m1/65/: accessed June 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.