TEXAS -- HEADING SOUTH TO KINGSVILLE AND LAREDO
"they do it big no matter where you drive." The Central Artery in Boston (old or new) doesn't hold a candle to the complexity and height of the interchanges in Texas. One wrong left merge or right merge and you'll end up somewhere where you didn't want to go and considering we're 65 feet long. . .this could be a disaster!
The terrain was flatter than we
could have imagined. From the vantage point of the motor home, you can see
The sites continued to change as we traveled south. Here are just a few of them . . .
KING RANCH, a National Historic Landmark, is recognized as the birthplace of the American ranching industry. Captain Richard King obtained a land grant in 1853 as a beginning to the 150+ year legacy. The Santa Gertrudis breed of cattle -- cross between a Brahman bull (nature to India) and the British Shorthorn -- was developed on the King Ranch. Santa Gertrudis breed is recognized as the first American breed of beef cattle. The steers can withstand arid climates and is considered to be some of the best, most tender beef in the world. The King Ranch also has the honor of producing the first registered American Quarter Horse. Today, King Ranch sprawls across 825,000 acres of South Texas land, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. As the home of 60,000 cattle and 300 Quarter Horses, King Ranch is one of the largest ranches in the world today.
King Ranch is one of the largest privately held corporations in the United States.
The day we were at the Ranch, one of the oldest living Rancheros was talking to the tour groups. Alberto V. Trevino ("LoLo") was born on the Ranch and is in his 80's. As a young man, he worked as a "bronco buster" for the cowboys' horses. He had some great stories about ranch life, rustlers and branding. The horse blanket in the photo is made exclusively for use by the cowboys. Texas Magazine featured LoLo on the cover as part of the story of life on the King Ranch. The saddle in the picture is one of the last saddles that LoLo used as a cowboy on the ranch. The original workers were recruited from a village in Mexico. Those workers came to be known as Los Kinenos, or the people of King Ranch. Third, fourth and fifth generation Los Kinenos continue to work on the ranch today.
The brand examples are from all over the world. There are actually King Ranch properties outside of Texas including Florida and Australia. Each ranch may modify the brands over the years or for different locations but can generally be recognized as the "owner" ranch. The King Ranch brand is called the "Running W." The Running W is in the middle of the photo. No one is certain what the design was originally meant to represent -- legends include a diamondback rattlesnake, the winding Santa Gertrudis Creek or the Longhorn's sweeping horns. .
Henrietta King was very much a part of the operation of the King Ranch. She insisted that every child on the ranch -- family or hired help -- be educated at the San Gertrudis School. The original one-room school building is a stop on the tour and recently a man on the tour started crying when the tour bus stopped. He grew up on the ranch and attended school in that building -- it had been over 50 years since he had been back to the ranch and he was overcome with emotion because of "how the kindness of Mrs. King gave him an education." A large percentage of the students who graduate from the King Ranch schools go on to graduate from college.
The main house -- hacienda -- was built and rebuilt a number of times due to fire. It was one of the most extravagant homes in Texas. The formal dining room table would seat over 30 people at one time. Mrs. King always had an open home policy -- any of the cowboys were welcome in her home for any meal and she supposedly was not concerned about the dust that they may have on their boots. Peacocks wandered the grounds and were out the day we visited.
gate was designed on the King Ranch years ago to make it easier for the cowboys
to move equipment from one field to another. The gate is weight activated
-- you drive up to the gate and let the weight of the vehicle push the gate open
-- but can be dangerous if you don't hit the fence moving at the right speed.
We saw a herd of Quarter Horses grazing along a river bank. As we watched, one of the horses walked into the river and started to cross to the other side. Remember the old adage, the "grass is greener on the other side" -- well, we were told that horses usually do not swim without being prompted to do so and that this was out of character. For one to do it, was unique; but, before we left the stop, the entire herd had entered the river and was swimming to the other side. These horses are big and beautiful. There is significant history associated with the King Ranch and thoroughbred racing including horses that have one the Triple Crown.
There are examples of the past all over the property. The chuck wagon sits in the display area at the Welcome Center and was used on many of the cattle drives and roundups. You can also see a display of antique saddles.
The town of Kingsville is laid out in a series of square grids -- east/west and north/south. Years ago, if you worked for the ranch or any of the affiliated companies, you were able to purchase a tract of land for very cheap money.
King Ranch today is still owned by descendents of Captain King and remains one
of the most progressive and profitable companies in the world.
NEXT STOP: SAN ANTONIO