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The Portal to Texas History

Primary Source Sets

Cowboy Culture

The Spanish explorers first brought cattle to Texas with them from Mexico. The Spanish had been raising cattle for the hides and meat for a long time, and Mexican cattle workers called "charros" took care of the cattle. Over many decades, Texas cowboys blended the Spanish and English cattle ranching techniques and cultures to create a style unique to Texas.

By Jenny Thomason

JW Holston

Journal entry (J.W. Holston)

"Well on this trip i got acquainted with one of the trail bosses by name of Perry Lefors. Mr. Lefors had me to ride his personal horse back to Mobuti and out to the Ranch 10 miles west of Mobuti and gave me a job." To read more, click on the PDF link.
cattle bunching

Cattle bunching

A foreman with a bunch of his men who is about to go on a long, hard round-up at fast pace is apt to say: "Tie your hat to your saddle and let's ride."
cattle crossing river

Cattle crossing the river

Holston in his journal describes: "we builded a 25 mile string of line fence for the LX Ranch. The Ranch was on the north side of the Canadian river a big head quarter ranch and supply house. The line fence we built was 40 miles north of the ranch running east and west. They were built to..." To read more, click on the PDF link. (use with Beginners Worksheet)
ferry boat

Ferry boat

Site of ferry boat across the Trinity in 1850s and 1860s. Each month hundreds of covered wagons of Texas home-seekers reined to a stop on the banks of Fort Worth in the mid fifties. To read more, click on the PDF link. (use with Beginners Worksheet)
JW Holston journal entry 2

Journal entry: Cattle drive (J. W. Holston)

"My pal and I hired to this new management at Mobuti with several other hands among them there were two Mexicans about 10 of us altogether to recieve this herd." To read more, click on the PDF link. (Use with Intermediate Worksheet) PDF


An S.M.S. outfit. The boys getting ready to go out on their daily round on the ranch. To view more pictures of cowboy life and see other pages, click on the arrows to navigate through the book.
JW Holston journal entry 3

Journal entry: Innovations (J.W. Holston)

The ranchers came up with their own solution to prevent cattle from drifting from one range to another. This protected the cattle from rustlers and other wildlife that were out there. To read more, click on the PDF link. (Use with the Advanced Worksheet)
On the plains

On the plains

On a warm day, cows enjoyed the shade after a drink at a nearby windmill. These windmills with steel storage pools furnish an appreciable amount of water for the ranch.
the herd

The Herd

For a number of years specialized in Heifers as foundation herds. Cattle grazing in the field calves and yearlings will be separated and shipped to corn belt.

Lasca: The riding song

"I want free life, and I want fresh air;
And I sigh for the canter after the cattle,
The crack of the whips like shots in battle, ,
The medley of hoofs and horns and heads..."
To read the song, click on the PDF link (p.23.). (Use with the My Cartoon Strip activity)
Cowboys Crossing

Ranch life

Cowboys are as deferential and respectful as any men in the world, and yet they are not awed. For example: When one of the owners visited the ranch, and rode up with the writer to the herd. The writer went over to one of the old boys and said, "I guess you better come and shake hands with the High Boss who pays our wages." The cowboy said, "All right, I'll do it, but there ain't any sense in it, and it's just a waste of time." PDF 1 - PDF 2