Trains, Ticks, Cowboys, and Cattle



deer tick, US. Dept. of Agriculture , courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Dire warnings of ticks fill 2018’s spring news. Fence out the deer. Spray. Strip when you walk in the door, then toss your clothes into the dryer. Sadly, last year I caught a possum in a Havahart trap and drove him away before I learned that possums eat deer ticks.


The famous towns of the Wild west came about as a result of a tick.” In his book The Republic for Which it Stands,  Richard White offers some history in Delancey Place’s 1/29/18 blog on the  American Cowboy.



The American cowboy stands as a self-reliant rugged individual, as the epitome of the Wild West. Who can resist the romance of the menacing Texas Longhorn cattle on the range? Actually, 19th century cowboys soon became industry employees for corporate cattle ranches.


Texas Longhorn steer, Wikimedia Commons courtesy Clinton and Charles Robertson

White notes that “Texas longhorns were probably the three million worst-quality beef cattle on the continent, “eight pounds of hamburger on 800 pounds of bone and horn.” Ironically,  Texas longhorns deserve the credit for being the rugged individuals of the old West. Neglected, they survived and thrived on the open ranges of South Texas. Even though I once saw a photo of a little girl standing next to one,  few of us would want to meet one.


The challenge was to move them to market. The longhorns hosted two species of ticks that also caused Texas fever. Still longhorn cases were mild. Insteadthe ticks killed off the local farm-raised cattle stock.

Cowboys drove the longhorns on the long drive— a walk of 700  miles through Texas, Indian country and Kansas. The cowboys finally reached the railroad lines, situated beside scant towns with few settlers, desperate for traffic.

So these towns that came to epitomize the Wild West were creations of a tick.


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