Cattle Ranges of the Southwest Page: 10 of 32
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rights" business was in sight. Stockmen who had ' pulled through
the general wreck, realizing the necessity for procuring real, tangible
rights to the range, went into the market to lease. When they were
able to secure leases they did so, but, failing as to some of the surveys
in their ranges, they nevertheless contended for the right to use them.
Finding tliat they could not keep out others without fencing, they
began to fence. This angered the "nester," who claimed the right to
use in common with every one else the alternate school and other public
sections which were not leased. This right being repudiated by
those who had fenced these lands, fence-cutting began and increased
until the legislature was compelled to enact the most stringent laws to
put a stop to it. It was really like a fight over a crust, however. The
best grass was gone, and with every class of stock a drug on the
malrket at the lowest prices ever known in the history of the stock
business, it was difficult for anyone to make stock-raising profitable.
Such conditions served only to encourage the lessee to still further
overstock the range. lie was not, as a rule, the owner of the title.
He realized that his tenure was both limited and uncertain, and, being
in hard lines, his idea seems to have been to make the most of his opportunities
while they lasted. Hence it was that he crowded into his
pastures more stock than they could support, and in this way still
further diminished their capacity for supporting stock.
PRESENT CONDITION OF THE RANGES.
This overstocking of the ranges has continued year after year, through
good seasons and bad ones, until it is the opinion of some of the most
experienced cowmen of central Texas that the injury has gone almost
past the point where redemption is possible. The ranges have been
almost ruined, and if not renewed will soon be past all hope of permanent
Not only have the ranges been overstocked, but the prairie dog and
the jack rabbit have also been damaging the land until the best
natural grass country in the United States has been almost destroyed
It is not yet too late to remedy the evil, but no time is to be lost.
It is the common opinion that rest is all that is necessary to recu
perate and bring back the former luxuriant vegetation of the ranges.
But in part common opinion is here at fault. Resting the range
will greatly help it, but something more must be done to bring it back
to its original capacity for supporting stock, if, indeed, that is now possible.
The people of Texas are not different from those of other States.
They are all alike grass destroyers. Not only has the stockman
been reckless in this direction, but even the farmer has been his ally.
The latter still wages a war of extermination on the grasses he finds
growing in and about his fields; and in his anxiety to make more room
for cotton he ruthlessly breaks the sod, that if properly cared for could
be made to pay him much better than cotton at 4 to 5 cents a pound.
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Bentley, Henry Lewis. Cattle Ranges of the Southwest, book, 1898; Washington. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth2412/m1/10/: accessed September 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .