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In the liveoak country near Leakey pastures are normally green and lush. The drought has burned everything until summer pasture looks like winter. Livestock mercifully have been moved off this pasture.  Photo by Gary Cutrer. By Gary Cutrer
Published August 2011

Texas bakes under a drought that has depleted or hurt surface and ground water supplies, exacerbated spring wild fires and sent hundreds of thousands of head of livestock to market. Many ranchers have had to sell all or most of their stock because what little grazing was left from last year’s rains and sporadic moisture earlier this year is now gone. A few holdouts hang on, feeding their core herds and flocks with price-inflated feed. Only far east Texas escapes the killer “dry spell” that some say is the worst they’ve ever seen.

Ranchers pray for a hurricane—not to damage coastal communities, but to whip needed moisture upstate and water the parched pastures. Weather news is important news, even more so now than usual, and all eyes scan the newspaper, TV weather reports and the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center websites.

Why don’t the clouds come? Global weather patterns and phenomena, La Nina among others, have anchored a high pressure ridge over Texas like a devil’s hot footprint. Promising moisture coming in from the west rides the jetstream up and around the devil’s foot and ends up dumping rain on the already soaked Mississippi watershed. Add a comment


Ideas Spark New Income Sources

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By Gary Cutrer
September 2010

Sometimes an idea is as good as gold. At least, if the idea is feasible, there is always the potential to make a little gold. That’s why new ideas and new ways of doing things continue to hold our interest. New income streams make it possible for us to keep our ranch and farm operations or even our small acreage homesteads profitable and give us the means to preserve and improve the land, its wildlife and natural features. In other words, a healthy income from the land supports good land stewardship.

It amazes me that remote places and ranching pasttimes that I take for granted could be so attractive to some folks that they would pay a lot of money to view the same vistas or take part in the same endeavors. But, people will pay for a ticket to the wilderness, so to speak. Thus was born nature tourism. Sometimes it works for the entrepreneur, sometimes it doesn’t.

Successful nature tourism enterprises include Dan and Cathy Brown’s Hummer House hummingbird sanctuary and observatory near Christoval, Texas, where for a small fee visitors can view rare hummingbirds as they flit from flower to flower. Add a comment


The Pursuit of Happiness

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RRL Supports Private Property RightsBy Joan R. Neubauer
May 2010

What a lovely phrase: the pursuit of Happiness. Mr. Jefferson originally wrote “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Property,” but when he brought it to committee, Benjamin Franklin thought they should change it to make it flow better. After all, back in the day, everyone knew the phrase meant property. Courts have upheld that interpretation ever since, and we Americans who took our founders at their word, continue to enjoy private property ownership as a right without a second thought. But we can no longer afford that luxury. Instead, we must carefully and vigilantly protect this right as zealously as every one of our other freedoms.

‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’

—The Declaration of Independence

Private property doesn’t refer exclusively to large tracts of land owned by farmers and ranchers, but includes everything we own: our cars, our homes, our land, our money, our clothes-any item that we lay claim to. Private property means that if we own it, we should have the right to manage and dispose of it as we see fit without interference from government. Yet, each day we learn of a new law, a new regulation, that places new restrictions on our property and its management and disposal. Yet, we stand by and do nothing.

Little by little, we find ourselves losing another little bit of our rights to life, liberty and property. Unless we do something about it now, we’ll all wake up one day in our government provided shelter, dependent upon government for every other necessity of life, from food and water, to medical care and transportation, and totally devoid of every freedom.

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Pop Culture Power Base

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By Gary Cutrer
March 2010

It used to be that America’s values, our moral anchors—the ideas and concepts about life and living that we consider correct and good—came from tradition, from what our parents taught us, from our school teachers and from our religious life. Some of our values came from books and some from movies. Some came from role models, whether they were historical or political figures, heroes in books or movies, or our family members we looked up to.

These days, for a whole lot of Americans, values come from the popular culture and only from the popular culture. Even if a young person is grounded in family and religion, is well educated and well read, there is some amount of influence on the way they see things and what they consider moral and correct and good that comes from the constant barrage of messages from TV, movies, newspapers and magazines and sources on the Internet.

I say all this not to be preachy nor to condemn anyone for what they view, read or listen to, but to suggest that there is a power base in this country that is often overlooked as a power base. Whoever holds the most power in the popular culture, shapes the culture of the country. And because many, many young people are raised without much of a moral compass, the popular culture, mass media and entertainment, becomes their reference point for developing a set of values. Add a comment


Kelton Rides on Up the Trail

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By Gary Cutrer
September 2009

While completing the September 2009 magazine I received a note from Ross McSwain saying that Elmer Kelton had passed. Though I barely knew him, I was, and remain, a fan.

Elmer Kelton participates in a program at Fort Concho National Landmark in San Angelo a few years back.  Photo by Scott Campbell. In the 1980s I read every Lois L’Amour novel ever written, I think, and I thoroughly enjoyed them all. I’d never heard of Elmer Kelton at the time. Then, at a civil court hearing in Rankin, Texas, I met and befriended Paul Patterson of Crane. I had read Paul’s book, “Crazy Women in the Rafters,” about growing up on a ranch near Upland, original county seat of Upton County, and I complimented him on it.

He refused my praise and told me I ought to read a book or two by his former student, Elmer Kelton.

“Elmer who?” I asked.

Paul went on to tell me that he had been Elmer’s school teacher in Crane and that after serving in World War II and attending the University of Texas, Elmer had gone on to become one of the best agriculture writers there is and all along during his career had written a lot of novels—mostly Western novels. It was obvious Paul was proud of his student and admired his work.

I took Paul’s advice. The first Kelton novel I read was “The Wolf and the Buffalo,” a story about the interaction of the Comanches and the buffalo soldiers on the post-Civil War frontier. I expected a Western adventure yarn. I got that and much more.

Kelton gave heft and depth to his characters I’ve rarely seen in the work of other Western writers. Add a comment

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 September 2010 16:33
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The ranch foreman lost track of his wife at the stock show and approached a very beautiful woman he saw nearby and asked, “You know, I’ve lost my wife here in at the fairgrounds. Would you talk to me for a couple of minutes?” “Why?” the woman asked. “Because every time I talk to a beautiful woman, like magic my wife appears out of nowhere.”