The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 51, July 1947 - April, 1948 Page: 6
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6 Southwestern Historical Quarterly
miles southeast of Waco, the fencing of a seven-hundred-acre
ranch brought pasture-burnings as well as wire-snipping. Re-
ferring to a tank that had been on private property since it was
built, the fence-cutters left a penciled note that read:
You are ordered not to fence in the Jones tank, as it is a public
tank and is the only water there is for stock on this range. Until
people can have time to build tanks and catch water, this should
not be fenced. No good man will undertake to watch this fence, for
the Owls will catch him. There is no more grass on this range than
the stock can eat this year.13
Secrecy was the rule, but there were exceptions. A letter from
Devine station estimated that twenty miles of recently completed
fence had been cut in a week on land of the Hickey Pasture
Company and reported:
Never before has such bitter feeling existed against the pasture
company. No man can cast reflections upon the members of the
company individually, as they are real gentlemen; but the pasture
encloses convenient water for such a dry season as is now prevailing.
This caused people of small means to unite in a regular organization
to resist. Wire-cutting is not done secretly or underhandedly. Those
engaged in it can be heard for miles, and it would not be safe for
anyone not a member of the wire-cutting organization to approach
them while they are at the work of destroying fences.14
Much of the cutting was well organized, with armed guards
posted to protect the men as they worked. Possession of a pair
of nippers was a badge of membership in the resistance move-
ment. Conversely, seeing a pair in a neighbor's pocket was
ground for suspicion on the part of anyone who had had his
fence cut. As the snipping progressed, many of the cutters became
less concerned over correcting inequities in fencing and more
determined to destroy all range fences. Some recruits joined the
nocturnal groups for devilment and others for pay.
With irresponsible persons gaining control and with many
lawful fences wrecked, the cutters came to be viewed less as
crusaders and more as outlaws and were denounced as such by
the state's leading newspapers, while most politicians remained
cautiously silent. Meanwhile, troubles mounted for those whose
l 3bid., August g, 1883.
14Ibid., June go, 188g.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 51, July 1947 - April, 1948, periodical, 1948; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101119/m1/24/: accessed May 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.