By J. Evetts Haley
UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA PRESS
Copyright © 1967 University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Publishing Division of the University
All rights reserved.
During the middle eighties the XIT Ranch was established. It was the largest ranch in the cow country of the Old West, and probably the largest fenced range in the world. Its barbed wire enclosed over 3,050,000 acres of land in the Panhandle of Texas, patented by the state to a Chicago firm in exchange for the capitol at Austin. From 100 to 150 cowboys, with combined remudas of more than 1,000 cow ponies, “rode herd” upon approximately 150,000 cattle that wore the XIT brand. This story is concerned with the development of this pastoral enterprise and its relation to the history of Texas.
The XIT brand was conceived by an old Texas trail driver named Ab Blocker, who placed it upon the first cow. She was not an animal of high pedigree, but a Longhorn from South Texas. Her color, gauntness, and perversity were historic. Nearly two centuries before, with the initial Spanish expedition into the province for the purpose of founding a settlement in 1690, there came a similar Mexican cow. She walked streaming from the waters of the Río Grande, cropped the first grass on the northern shore, switched her tail at a persistent fly, and felt at home. Long of horn and leg, variegated in color, and belligerent of disposition, she was prophetic of the millions and millions of others to fatten upon the grasses of the border state.
As she pushed north and east with the expedition of Governor Alonzo de Leon and Father Massanet, the tallow thickened over her ribs, a little bit, and she became smooth and glossy. She sprang of hardy and wily stock. As she fled to the nearest pool or mud hole to escape the attentions of the heel fly, as she fought off the wolves by night and outran the thieving Indians by day, she built up a spirit of independence and of resourcefulness that made her a companion of the wilderness and a fighter of the frontier.