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The Day Of The Longhorn

July 2024
1min read

“This ain’t no country fer little two-by-four farmers,” an old-time Texas cattleman said.”… The big thing about the plains is that you don’t have to feed stock. It can rustle fer itself. You can yoke it up with stepmaw Nature an’ the pair, if they wants to, can make the dollars crawl into yer jeans.” The grazing lands, it seemed, were inexhaustible. And so, after the Civil War, the great herds of longhorns started up the long trail from Texas to the Kansas railheads, cropping the grass as they went. But within twenty years, trouble was apparent. In 1886, in one of his serious moments, the western humorist and journalist Bill Nye wrote: “Let me warn the amateur cowman that in the great grazing regions it takes a great many acres of thin grass to maintain the adult steer in affluence for twelve months, and the great pastures at the bases of the mountains are pretty well tested. Moreover, I believe that … cattlemen … will tend to overstock the ranges at last, and founder the goose that lays the golden egg.” His prediction turned out to be true: overgrazing—coupled with an unusually severe winter the following year—ended the palmy days of the cattle business.

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