“Other states were carved or
Texas grew from hide and horn.”
Berta Hart Nance, Texas poet
There he is: the cowboy - a silhouette against the setting sun. A shadow, atop his horse; the hat … the boots … the trademark spurs. And there, alongside, standing low and strong amid the grass, the Texas longhorn.
For more than a century - through novels, paintings, songs, and Hollywood movies - this image of the cowboy; it’s become part of us - our identity as Americans ... and as Texans.
Born from the Spanish and Mexican vaquero tradition, the modern cowboy image was born here, in the late 1800s, along a vast stretch of terrain known today as... the Chisholm Trail.
Between the 1860s and the 1880s, Texas cowboys took millions of cattle on a journey hundreds of miles… mostly to trail-heads and waiting railcars in Kansas - to ship ‘em back East to feed a growing America. The trail-ride took ‘em over the wide-open Texas wilderness… across rushing rivers … and through unruly Indian territories – a rugged three-month trip.
It meant big profits for Texas cattle barons; put food on the table for many a family; and paid for many a drink in the saloon.
Today, people still argue over the Chisholm Trail’s exact route - and even who it’s named after. It wasn’t the only great cattle trail: there was the Shawnee before it, and the Great Western after it. But none captured our imagination like the Chisholm.
In a way, the trail saved us. Texas was a destitute place after the Civil War; and the cattle drives gave us exactly the economic boon we needed. The economy of the Lone Star State was transformed - thanks to enterprising ranchers, nail-tough cowboys… and a whole lot of longhorns.
So saddle up; we’re about to take a trail ride through history - and meet the men and women who laid it all on the line to build a better life. Get ready to take a ride up an American legend – the one and only Chisholm Trail.