Monday, November 30, 2009

Howdy from Texas!

Do you know the difference between a tenderfoot and a buckaroo? A tenderfoot is someone not use to ranch life. We are tenderfoots but wanted to learn how to be buckaroos, or cowboys, so we visited Brenham, Texas. We also wanted to learn about Texas history. For 10 years, from 1836 to 1846, Texas was an independent country. In 1846 it became a state. The history of Texas is very interesting.

In the early 1800’s, people carved G.T.T. on the door of their home so friends would know they had "Gone to Texas" in search of a better life. In 1821 Stephen Austin, led 300 families to the area around the Brazos River, which was, at that time, part of Mexico. The town of Washington-on-the-Brazos grew up and became The Birthplace of Texas.

We sat in Independence Hall where settlers met to write their Declaration of Independence from Mexico and their Constitution for the new Republic of Texas. As we listened to our guide tell the story we tried to imagine what it was like for the settlers. Signing both documents was very dangerous. They were brave but must have been afraid because the Mexican president, Santa Anna and his army of 1500 were marching on the Alamo in present-day San Antonio. They had to leave their homes because they were afraid that Santa Anna’s army would attack them after the Alamo. They returned a month later when the Mexican Army was defeated at San Jacinto.

Nearby was the Barrington Farm, the home of the last president of the Republic of Texas, Anson Jones, where we were able to step back into the 1800s. Jim Lauderdale, the guide, explained, "There is no such breed as oxen. They are steers that have been trained as oxen and were the tractors of the 1850s. The mule was like today’s SUV; it was for working and riding while the horse was the family car." He said, "The settlers arrived full of hope but soon learned how hard life was." We tried to imagine what it was like to raise all our food, wash all our clothes by hand, and pick cotton.

We visited a Cotton Gin Museum, where the guide explained that, "If you were old enough to walk you were old enough to pick cotton." Children had to fill 100-pound bags but adults had to fill 200-pound bags. Everyone worked from sunrise to sunset when the cotton was ripe filling bag after bag until the wagon was full. Then it was driven to the cotton gin where a machine took the seeds out of the cotton.

While the hard life of the settlers is in the past it is still possible to have a "real" Texas experience. We visited Texas Ranch Life, where John Elick, the owner, demonstrated the art of cutting with his horse, Rebel. Rebel and John worked as one cutting, or separating, one of the longhorns from the herd. The next day after an introductory lesson explaining everything from how to mount to how to control the horse we were off for a ride through the fields. You might say we started as tenderfoots but ended up as buckaroos. We wished we could stay longer because they also teach guests roping and other cowboys skills like participation in cattle drives and roundups.