The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 35, July 1931 - April, 1932 Page: 195
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The Problem of Hands on the Spur Ranch
reduced; and, correspondingly, fewer trail hands were needed. A
series of droughty years began in 1892 and lasted through 1896.
The ranch reduced the number of hands each year until the average
was 25 in 1896. With the return of more seasonable years the
number of hands increased gradually until 1902 when the average
was 49. The number fluctuated from 43 to 48 a year until 1909.
The average number of hands by months from 1885 to 1909 was 40.
The number of hands needed to carry on the ranch work varied
from month to month during the different seasons of the year.
The number retained during the winter months of December,
January, February, and March was usually from one-half to one-
third the number needed from April to November during the spring
and fall round-ups and trail-driving seasons. The number em-
ployed during these months varied considerably. In 1885 the high
peak of the ranch work came in October; in 1886, in June; in 1887,
in July; in 1889, in May; in 1890, in August; and so on.2 The
variance was caused by the earliness or the lateness of spring, the
rains or the drouths, and the time of cattle deliveries. On a yearly
average one hand was necessary for each 1250 cattle handled by
The average wage of a hand varied from year to year, but not so
much as the number of hands. Beginning with $38.72 a month in
1885, the monthly wage decreased to $32.24 in 1890. During the
decade that followed, the average ranged between $32 and $33. In
1900 it went to $31.12 and continued to decrease each year until it
reached $29.66 in 1904. The next year it started on an upward
trend which lasted until it rose to $37.13 in 1909.
It must not be concluded, however, that the average hand received
the "average wage" in the sense just referred to. When the ranch
was first established an ordinary hand got $30 a month (a few
"roust-abouts" got only $25). A first-class hand received $35;
top hands, $40 and $45; trail bosses, $50 and $65; and range fore-
men, $125. In June, 1885, for instance, the payroll shows 4 hands
receiving $25; 45 hands, $30; 11 hands, $35; 8 hands, $40; 1 hand,
$45; 3 hands, $50; 1 hand, $65; 1 hand, $70; 1 hand, $100; and
3 hands, $125. The drouth and general hard times in 1886 and
1887 caused the whole wage scale to be somewhat lowered. The
payroll of June, 1889, shows 1 hand receiving $20; 27 hands, $25;
6 hands, $30; 6 hands, $35; 2 hands, $40; 5 hands, $50; 2 hands,
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 35, July 1931 - April, 1932, periodical, 1932; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101092/m1/199/: accessed March 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.