Cattle Ranges of the Southwest Page: 9 of 32
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when men were not able to purchase cows they took sheep, and soon
the sheepmen were about as wild in their visions of wealtli to be speedily
acquired as were the cowmen. Those who bought cattle and sheep
in 1882-83 have good reason to remember that $25 for a cow and from
$5 to $6 for a sheep were not then regarded as being extravagant
prices. No class of men could so readily figure out such happy results
on paper as stockmen, and when anyone expressed doubt back in
those flush times, as to the permanency of such prices, pencils and
memorandum books promptly appeared, and it was explained to the
doubter that cows were certain to go to $35, and even $50, and sheep
to $10 per head. The demand for money to invest stiffened the backbones
of those who had it to loan, until from 14 to 2 per cent per month
was unblushiugly demanded and unhesitatingly given, not only upon
stock but upon personal security.
Losses as a result of overstocking.-As a result of this madness, the
ranlge was overstocked, and a dozen cows and sheep were crowded on
the " free grass," where half the number was too many. The ranges
were quickly eaten and trampled out and permanently injured, if not
ruined. A cowman was in the Fort Worth (Tex.) market in 1882, to
sell his herd of cattle and his "range rights." He frankly admitted
that he did not own a foot of the land he was using, but gravely
insisted that his "'range rights" embraced 100,000 acres, on which he
was holding 25,000 head of cattle. He did not get his price, hence
had to hold over his herd through the winter of 1882-83. It was an
exceptionally severe one, and the following spring only about 10,000
head were rounded up. Still he was undismayed and was able to
figure out, to his own satisfaction at least, how in the next two years
or less he would make back all his losses anld much more besides. On
the 100,000 acres he was using he might have held 10,000 head of
cattle safely, part of it being rough and much cut up with canyons;
but in his eagerness to get rich fast he greatly overstocked the range,
made no provision for winter feed, never thought it necessary to provide
any sort of shelter for his stock, and suffered the inevitable consequences
of this reckless way of doing business.
This man was but a type of his class, and there were thousands in
Texas about that time who suffered as he did for precisely the same
reasons. The general collapse came in 1884, when the stockman who
was not financially ruined was the exception. By that time the range
also was about ruined, and whereas ten years before its capacity for
maintaining cattle was perhaps 500 cows to every square mile, this
capacity had been diminished, as the result of bad management, until
10 acres to a cow were necessary.
Advent of the "nester."-With the railroad came the "' nester," the
man with the hoe; and with him came the owner, or his agent, of the
lands up to tlat time held rent free by the cowman. Then followed
disputes over land titles and boundary lines, and the end of the "range
Here’s what’s next.
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