The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 51, July 1947 - April, 1948 Page: 11
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some of the newly organized counties would lose so many resi-
dents that their county governments would be disbanded."'
Finally Governor John Ireland-Ox-Cart John, the railroad
men called him-could dodge the fence-cutting issue no longer.
On October 15 he called a special session of the Texas legislature
to meet in Austin, January 8, 1884.31 He asked the lawmakers
"to consider and find a remedy for wanton destruction of fences,
to provide a more efficient system of highways, and to amend
the law providing for enclosing school lands." When the legis-
lature met, it was deluged with petitions and bills and was the
scene of heated debates. One man called the snippers "the rag-
tag and bob-tail ruffians, these hell hounds of Texas.'""
There was no doubt that the lawmakers would make fence-
cutting a felony, which they did by providing a penalty of one
to five years in prison. Terms of two to five years were provided
for malicious pasture-burners. The main controversy came over
the regulation of fencing. After weeks of fiery argument, the
solons made it a misdemeanor knowingly to fence public lands
or lands belonging to others without the owner's consent. Those
who had built such fences were given six months to take them
down. Ranchers who built fences across public roads were re-
quired to place a gate every three miles and to keep the gates
Enforcement of these laws gradually abated the fence troubles,
though some thought the legislators let off too easily the builders
of illegal fences, in view of the much heavier penalties imposed
on wire-cutters and pasture-burners. Sporadic outbreaks of fence-
cutting continued for a decade, especially in periods of drouth,
but these were local and usually were of minor consequence. In
Navarro County in the late summer of 1888, fence-cutting be-
came too prevalent for local officers to stamp out, and two Texas
Rangers were sent to help. Sergeant Ira Aten and Jim King
arrived in an old farm wagon drawn by a horse and a mule.
They took jobs picking cotton and doing other farm work, and
in the evening King often entertained a crowd with his fiddle.
aolbid., June 1, 1883.
31H. P. N. Gammel, Laws of Texas (1o vols.; Austin, 1898), IX, 538-539.
32Fort Worth Gazette, January 29, 1884.
a.Gammel, Laws of Texas, IX, 566-569.
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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/m1/29/: accessed July 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.