Moseying: Living La Vida Llanero
Ranching is more than cows nowadays
October 10, 2003
The first people to live year around on the Llano Estacado, ever, were ranchers. Comanches, Apaches, Jumanos, Ciboleros, and Comancheros only visited to hunt and trade. After the windmill was invented, ranchers discovered that the Oglalla Aquifer was less than 100 feet down under the surface of the plains. Nelson Morris, the first owner of the C Ranch to the northwest of Midland, was the first local rancher to install windmills.
Midland is graced with two wonderful institutions that preserve and honor the ranching tradition. The Haley Library is an incredible resource for students of ranching history and admirers of the lifestyle. The Scarborough-Linebery House preserves homes and artifacts of the gracious and sophisticated lifestyle afforded to successful ranchers. Tom and Evelyn Linebery left a wide trail on the culture of the region, helping to preserve its history. At the Scarborough-Linebery House, Director Frances Stapp and her Board of Directors, operating as Heritage Midland, Inc., have extended the mission of the facility beyond preservation. With fruition of their hopes to develop a Heritage District on south Main Street, south Midland might become a point of interest tourist destination.
Every third-grade student in Midland tours the facility, as well as students from other towns. Meetings, luncheons, and weddings are booked at the house. More importantly, the Scarborough-Linebery house is also home to the West Texas Ranching Hall of Fame. Once each year, ranching families that have substantially contributed to the development of the ranching industry in west Texas are honored. On October 9th, at 6 p.m., their mission is broadened yet again. After a fried chicken supper, a roundtable discussion will begin at 6 p.m. featuring Chris Scharbauer of the Five S Ranch near Amarillo, Stan Smith of the Railway Ranch south of Odessa, and Stan Meador of the Xbar ranch near Eldorado discussing Perspectives of the future of ranching. The cost is $30. Call 685-7368 to make your reservations. Daytripping becomes evening-tripping!
Mr. Scharbauer, whose family came to Midland in the mid-1880s, has been a director of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association since 1979. He also served as a Texas director of the American Quarter Horse Association for ten years, and is a director of the Fort Worth Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show. A commercial cow/calf owner and operator, he graduated from Texas Christian University. He is owner of Scharbauer Cattle Company, and vice-president of Scharbauer Brothers and Company. He and his wife, La Vonne, have five children.
Stan Smith, born and raised in Odessa, moved to a ranch north of Midkiff in 1971. After graduating from Texas A&M, Stan managed the family cattle business, which included the addition of the Railway Ranch south of Odessa, where he makes his home. His responsibilities increased with the inclusion of the Barr Ranch and Buffalo Basin Ranch just to the south of the Railway. A number of his calves have won Grand Champion at the Special Sales in San Angelo. He also received the Texas Parks and Wildlife Big Game Award for Wildlife Management, and the Community Statesman Award in Ranching from the Odessa Heritage Association. He and his wife Ann have two sons.
Stan Meador is the founder and general manager of the recreational division for his familys five-generation ranch near Eldorado, Texas. He has a BA in public relations and marketing from Texas Tech University with an emphasis in international marketing. Stan completed four exchange programs at the university level and has lived in The Netherlands, Spain and Mexico. In 1996, he founded the tourism division of the X Bar Ranch. He also is a past founding board member and president of the Texas Forts Trail, a regional cultural heritage tourism initiative. In 2002 he founded Altea International, a consulting company specializing in tourism development, marketing and interpreting.
The goals of landowners have broadened over the last 50 years. With the discovery that hunters from all over the United States will pay substantial amounts of money to hunt the big Boone and Crockett record size buck deer in Texas, many ranchers now derive a major part of their income from hunting leases. Ranchers hire wildlife managers to advise them on how to properly manage their huntable wildlife. Some ranches are now game preserves, owned by out-of-state corporations or big city captains of industry. A North Carolina chicken producer bought a ranch in the Brazos River breaks just so he and his employees had a place to hunt dove and quail. On such ranches, sometimes not one head of livestock is to be found.
Nature tourism has become another focus of landowners. Up on the Canadian River in the Texas Panhandle, local ranchers banded together and developed a marketing strategy to draw people to the region, and as a result, new life has revitalized once-decaying towns such as Canadian. Ranchers inventory the natural resources of their property, and if unique and rare species of birds, plants, butterflies, dragonflies, and reptiles are present, amateur naturalists are thrilled with the chance to observe their target species in settings remote and wild. Several ranchers have taken advantage of the demand for native Texas plants in ornamental horticulture and have either harvested their plants, or started a growing operation.
Other potential markets for ranchers include rockhounds and history buffs. The Woodward Ranch south of Alpine is well known for its agate. Garland Richards has taken old Fort Chadbourne, near Bronte, and developed it into a destination for old west aficionados. Other ranchers have opened up their property to mountain-bike riders and stargazers. A number of ranchers now advertise bed-and-breakfast experiences in historic old ranch houses. Some ranches, like the CF ranch north of Alpine, invite filmmakers onto their property. (Famed west Texas author Elmer Keltons The Good Old Boys was turned into a movie starring Tommy Lee Jones, and filmed on the CF.)
Another development in land ownership is the advent of the getaway ranch. Down near Mertzon is the getaway of a young movie star, for example. I have met dozens of folks over the years that mention their ranch, and upon further questioning, such ranches start at 100 acres and can number in the thousands of acres (like those of the Houston based tobacco lawyers near Del Rio.) Older and larger ranches have been broken up for the smaller getaway ranchers. Other folks hold onto the land of the old homeplace their family once farmed or ranched, just to have the ability to have a restful weekend in a rural landscape. Another new landowner in west Texas is the Tigua Indian tribe from El Paso, investing their bingo-parlor earnings in land in the Chinati Mountains.
Among those ranchers earning income from livestock, new developments have also been occurring. Some ranchers derive a steady income from the production of blooded stock, preserving the genetics of particular breeds and best-of-show individuals, from the old longhorn to newer composite breeds designed for specific regional needs. Others have become practitioners of Holistic Resource Management (HRM), dividing up the property into small paddocks and adding more waterings, so that the livestock only grazes the same paddock once a season or even once a year. HRM practitioners sometimes run more stock per acre than what is traditional for an area, because of the careful attention given to grass production. Some ranchers market directly to the consumer, and others track their product all the way to the consumer, to better analyze their profit margin. International marketing plays a role for some. The organic foods market is a target for other producers.
A person can pick up Owen Ulphs Fiddlefoot Tales, and John Ericksons Log of a LZ Cowboy and compare old-time livestock raising routines with more modern ones. Ranchers still need to doctor for pinkeye but they no longer have to doctor wounds full of screwworms. Only a few ranches still run a chuckwagon during roundup, for most cowhands can commute from town, thanks to pickups and horsetrailers. Linecamps are a thing of the past. On some ranches windmills have been replaced by solar pumps. Nowadays, horsewhisperer sorts such as Bud Williams, teach new herding techniques, even to ranchers raised in the business. Times, they are a-changing!
My turn-of-the-century, Indian lands leasing cattledrover Oklahoma Sooner grandfather would be shaking his head in puzzlement, awe, and a little bit of dismay, if he were still around!