By Barbara Barton
Published February 2015
What is our West Texas culture, and is it changing? According to Mirriam-Webster, “Culture includes the beliefs, social forms, and customs of a particular society, group or place.” It can also be the characteristic features of everyday existence shared by a people. I would like to discuss the traits we West Texans share.
In the 1800s when our area of the state began to be populated with ranchers, the men on horseback chasing the bawling cows only saw their neighbors at branding time. Cattle drifted southwest during the wintertime, and cattle wearing every brand imaginable would show up along the Devil’s River or other common barriers.
The need to help each other recover the lost cows and sort the livestock according to brand brought people together. These ancestors of ours loved their chosen profession and cared about the people who shared their same occupation. John Chisum who ranched in Brown and Coleman counties along with Jim Coffey and Richard Tankersley, met at the branding sites and discussed their families. Chisum made many cattle drives toward Kansas to the railheads to sell his steers. If ranch houses were close to the round-up, families met over meals and maybe some dancing took place to the sound of fiddle music. John Chisum didn’t chat about a family much because he wasn’t married, but he let his fiddle do the talking.