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  • Texas | Columns | "It's All Trew"

    XIT
    Was On Cutting Edge Of Ranching

    by Delbert Trew
    Delbert Trew
    The XIT Ranch was different from the traditional Western ranch of the time. The land was the same, the cattle and cowboys were alike and much of the ranch work was similar to the regular old-time ranch work. However, a close study shows it was in the organizational structure and financial planning where the largest differences appeared.

    For example, where the traditional ranch had a boss or foreman the XIT had a president, board of directors, financial officers, bookkeeper, general manager, range bosses, wagon bosses, straw-bosses as well as cowboys, cooks and wranglers. At its peak the XIT employed 150 men.

    A traditional ranch owner was usually a weathered, bowlegged cowboy-type who had grown up with cattle and horses. Most of the XIT owners and officers lived in Chicago and knew little about cattle except that steaks tasted mighty good on a platter.
    Channing Tx - XIT General Office
    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, July 2009
    XIT General Office in Channing
    Recorded Texas Historic Landmark
    Channing Tx - XIT General Office Historical  Marker
    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, July 2009
    The XIT was established at a time when traditional ranches preferred the old open-range concept with huge pastures and little fencing. In contrast, the XIT divided the vast 3,050,000 acres into seven divisions under the supervision of range and wagon bosses and used 6,000 miles of barbed wire in fencing the outside boundaries and divisions. The drilling of windmills where needed made the division of the dry ranges possible.

    Most ranches of the time were poorly organized, usually depending on borrowed money for operation. Many were rich in good times and broke during the bad. The XIT brought proven business methods, planning know-how and exact bookkeeping, all of which were backed up by millions of dollars available for operating expenses.

    The poor overworked average cowboy was expected to do all the work on most ranches. The XIT hired fencing crews, experienced windmill repairmen, well-drilling companies, carpenters for building and independent freighters to keep the ranch warehouses well-stocked with supplies.

    Where the typical rancher resisted the oncoming tide of settlers making every effort to keep them from settling permanently, the XIT laid long-range plans to sell all land suitable for farming whenever the price per acre reached the proper level for profit.

    The XIT "Poor Farm" as the cowboys called it, located some seven miles southwest of Channing, was actually a ranch-operated experimental farm using good equipment, experienced farmers and the latest in Department of Agriculture advice. Their records became proof to the new settlers that the land was good farmland and was capable of raising any number of dry-land grains along with the regular mix of livestock. These early experiments set the stage for today's "bread-basket-of-the-world" farming expertise famous throughout the Great Plains.

    A little pencil work reveals the original price of $1 per acre price, providing $3 million to build the Texas State Capitol, eventually sold for $5 to $20 dollars or more per acre. These profits, plus the profit from operating the successful enterprise for many years, provided the owners with millions of dollars profit for their work and expertise.

    In retrospect, the entire XIT experience might be considered the end of the old traditional Western ranch and the beginning of the new-era ranching. Yes, there is no doubt the XIT Ranch was different.
    Delbert Trew
    "It's All Trew" August 12, 2008 Column
    E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

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