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Early Day Christmas at Texas Forts

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“The Christmas Tree.”  January 1, 1870. John Whetten Ehninger, American artist, 1827–1889. Wood engraving, illustration for Harper’s Bazaar.  Classification: Prints. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

By Barbara Barton
Published December 2010

Christmas in the 1800s was wonderful, but people celebrated somewhat differently than we do now.  Presents were usually handmade and the type of food served depended on what could be raised or killed.  The holiday season at Fort Concho in 1873 was one example.  Forrestine Cooper wrote about that Christmas in his book, “Child of the Fighting Tenth.”

Although most officer families at the fort usually trimmed a Christmas tree, that particular year was different.  So many of the husbands were away from the fort doing scout duty, that no one had a tree. Col. Merritt and his wife felt sorry for the children who would miss having a tree, so they decided to decorate one in the commanding officer’s home. So each child would have a gift, the colonel told each parent to bring to the home gifts so they could be distributed at the party also.

Forrestine Cooper, also called Birdie, was a 6-year old girl living at Fort Concho during the fall of 1873.  She liked to walk around the area near the fort with Col. Merritt, but she liked even better to ride her horse, Dobbin.  Birdie’s father was Charles L. Cooper, one of the men stationed with the 10th Cavalry at Fort Concho.  He seemed to give Birdie free rein to go on little excursions some miles from the fort.  Some people said Birdie was downright mischievous, impudent and unrestrained.  We’d call her spoiled, I guess.    


Through the Centuries at Fort Concho

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A lady sits on the porch of Fort Concho’s Officers’ Quarters No. 8 near the end of the active fort period. Photo courtesy Fort Concho National Historic Landmark.

By Robert Bluthardt
Director, Fort Concho National Historic Landmark
Published November 2010

To the first-time visitor, Fort Concho presents a commanding appearance—a large Parade Ground with a center flagpole surrounded by several rows of 1800s buildings, all restored to their military exteriors. Little of the current century intrudes, as power poles, city streets and other modern distractions have mostly been removed or hidden. Perhaps, thinks the visitor, it was always this way, but many long-time residents know, “it was not always thus.”

Built and operated between 1867 and 1889, Fort Concho was never meant to be permanent. The U. S. Army built, relocated, and abandoned forts across the west as quickly as the frontier moved. Many forts crumbled into ruins; a few were stripped of their valued building materials; and some survived in very changed fashions.

The photo on this postcard by the Pioneer Drug Co., shows a view of Fort Concho’s Officers’ Row during the civilian period, approximately 1940s or 1950s. What saved Fort Concho was both an accident of its limestone construction and the development of a viable community across the river. These well built structures offered San Angelo citizens new homes and commercial locations at the close of the 19th century. By the early 1900s, the fort anchored what was called the “Fort Concho Addition,” and the old post settled into nearly 40 years of semi-retirement.

Amazingly, local folks made some efforts as early as 1905 to save the place as a monument to the pioneer past, as former post trader J. L. Millspaugh suggested that the city could buy the entire site for $15,000. A dollar bought more in those days, and 15,000 of them was far beyond the newly incorporated city’s budget. In 1913, the Santa Fe Railroad gave the eastern third of the parade ground to the city, and for a century that parcel has remained clear of any new buildings or distractions. Meanwhile, in 1923, the Daughters of


Exotic Hoofstock

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Arabian oryx antelope originally from the Arabian peninsula. Photo courtesy Gary Ploch, Patio Ranch.

Year-Round Hunting Means Extra Ranch Income
But Handling and Management Require Effort

By Chester Sanders

Published September 2010

The morning mist is clearing the rim-rock and the cold brisk wind in my face is hardly noticeable. Looking for a flash of color, sillhouete or any movement that would quiet my opening day jitters of this mule-deer season, I cant help but be awed as I take in the scenery below,

Auodad sheep from North Africa. Source: Wikipedia Commons under GPL.“Ka-Bloom, thud” the crack of a rifle and the distinctive sound of the bullet finding its target rings out to  my right about 300 yards. I quickly put my rifle up and scope my kill sector for any escaped quarry from the lucky devils to the right of me, anxiously awaiting any sign of  movement or sound that would allow me an opportunity for a shot. A few minutes later I pack up and head for the other hunters to see what they have downed,

”Hey that doesn’t look like any mule-deer I’ve ever seen,” I say.

“Its an aoudad,” my father yells out too me.

“A who-dad?” I yell back. An aoudad, it turns out is a big horn sheep from the barbary region of North Africa. It was introduced to the United States in the 1950s when some ranchers from New Mexico decided to augment their hunting wildlife with hopes of bringing in revenue for the state. They thrive in our dry climate and are very adaptable to most regions with rugged terrain and cliffs or rock outcrops.

Addax antelope, a native of north Africa and relatively endangered there. Photo courtesy Gary Ploch, Patio Ranch. There is no season on them in West Texas. In the northern Panhandle they have proliferated to the point where a season has been put on them so they can manage them. They are very competitive at feeders and could probably cause a rift in native eco-system if left unchecked.

This was my first experience with exotic game other than seeing them on ranches off the highway, or at a zoo. This poses another question, how many different types of exotics are there in Texas and where can they be found?

I visited with several exotic game ranchers in Central and West Texas to get their input on the welfare and state of exotic wildlife ranching in Texas—Gary Ploch, Ranch Manager of the Patio Ranch in Hunt; Terry Caffey of the Caffey Bar 6 Game Ranch in Eden; Dan Whiteley, head foreman of the Heart of the Lonestar Ranch at Eden; and Chase Akin who operates a successful exotic game ranch near Christoval and a helicopter wildlife capture business.

Barasingha male or “bull,” a species of deer native to India. Photo courtesy Gary Ploch, Patio Ranch. The Patio Ranch holds the distinguished honor of  being the first Exotic Game Ranch in Texas. Established in the 1930s by Richard Friedrich, a businessman in San Antonio. He served as President of the San Antonio Zoological Society, and had a keen interest in wildlife. He purchased several species of exotics from the San Antonio Zoo as they had surplus animals and after high fencing a part of his ranch, an industry that still thrives today was born. The ranch has changed hands many times and is currently owned and operated by the H.E Sturmberg family.

Gary Ploch, ranch manager, says Patio Ranch offers a different hunting experience.

Their hunts can range from one-day hunts to an extended hunting expedition with top chefs who will cook an exquisite meal, top of the line accommodations in the hunting lodge and experienced guides. Ploch says Patio Ranch emphasizes being good stewards of the land, treating the animals with respect and dignity and educating their visitors about the animals.


Herefords Produce Quality Commercial Cattle

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James L. Powell bulls graze near Fort McKavett, Texas.

By Gary Cutrer
& Chester Sanders

Published August 2010

What better, more picturesque ranch scene could there be than a wide pasture green from the summer rains, bordered by dusky liveoaks—a field dotted with red, white-faced Hereford cattle grazing serenely? When Texas cattlemen see a verdant pasture scene like that they see green all right, the green of profits that come from a productive beef animal that has been one of the mainstays of agriculture in the United States for more than 100 years.

Among the most popular cattle breeds in Texas, the Hereford is known for its adaptability and hardiness, its survivability, mothering instinct and ability, and handling ease due to good disposition, along with many other advantageous traits, chief among them the breed’s ability to convert forage and feedlot rations into quality beef.

Dudley Bros. bulls escape the mid-day heat on the ranch near Comanche. Photo by Gary Cutrer. In recent years with the growing popularity of another English breed, the Angus, and the heat and humidity tolerant Brahman, the Hereford bull has become an extremely valuable and sought after sire to produce F1 crosses on those breeds to produce cattle that sell at auction for consistently solid prices. You can like Angus, you can like Hereford, you can prefer a continental breed or an American original like the Beefmaster, but the bottom line is the bottom line. And Herefords have proven and continue to prove their ability to make money for the producer.

We contacted four reputation Hereford breeders in West Texas for their input on the state of the Hereford breed--Case Ranch Herefords in Eldorado, Texas; Dudley Bros. Herefords, Comanche, Texas; James L. Powell,  Six Mile Ranch, Fort McKavett, Texas; and Rocking Chair Ranch, San Angelo and Fort McKavett, Texas.

Case Ranch Herefords

In 1941, when the breed was advertised as the “King of the Range,” the Case family entered into the registered Hereford business. P.F. Case and his son Fred operated the family’s Eldorado, Texas, ranch, establishing a fullblood herd.  P.F. Case passed away in 1961, but since then Fred has continued the operation, now along with son and partner Pete. They’ve seen their registered Herefords go into 40 states, Canada and Mexico, and Case Herefords are recognized as a prime source of quality stock.


Protecting Private Property Locally

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Photo by Griffin Chure of Jensen, Utah, was a Youth division entry in the 2005 Ranch & Rural Living Photo Contest.

By Dan Byfield

Published May 2010

In 2007, five courageous mayors in eastern Bell County, Texas formed the very first sub-regional planning commission utilizing Section 391 of the Texas Local Government Code as their basis to fight and stop the Tran-Texas Corridor through their five school districts.

It worked and now, the entire TTC project is flickering out like a shooting star.  

That’s the real story behind the demise of the TTC.  Through a strategy only promoted by American Stewards of Liberty, a non-profit private property rights organization located in Taylor, Texas, those five mayors initiated a process that today is revitalizing and protecting the rights of citizens in our State through an effective local control process called Coordination.

Coordination is a simple word with an extraordinarily powerful legal meaning found in both federal and state statutes that requires government agencies to “coordinate” with local government in developing and implementing plans, policies and management actions.

Photo by Kylene Harvey was an Animals and Nature category entry in the 2009 Ranch & Rural Living Photo Contest. American Stewards showed the five mayors where the important language was found in the Texas Local Government Code and they immediately formed a planning commission to take advantage of the coordination strategy.  The first meeting they called was with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDoT) to begin “coordinating” their state plans to build the Trans-Texas Corridor through their jurisdiction.  

TxDoT was not prepared for what happened next.  The five mayors, through the Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission, adopted a policy that stated “No Trans-Texas Corridor shall be allowed through our jurisdiction.”  From that point, they demanded TxDoT begin coordinating their plans with their policy.  It was that simple.

Through the three coordination meetings that followed with TxDoT, the mayors discovered that TxDoT had not followed the federal environmental statutes properly.  So, they began demanding the federal agencies in charge of enforcing the federal laws force TxDoT to follow the law.  Naturally, TxDoT resisted, but the more they resisted, the more the five mayors pushed back.


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May 2017

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