Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Work a-plenty at H-Bar Ranch

Ruth Burns

Editor’s Note: This is the latest in a continuing series of articles about the H-Bar Ranch and the hardships of life on the plains before 1900.

Life on the plains in the 1890s was equally hard on men and women.

As foreman of the H-Bar Ranch, Bob Wood was responsible for the health and safety of 2500 cattle, which roamed at will over 200 square miles of prairie.

There were no fences except for an occasional drift fence put up to keep the cattle from wandering too far in a storm.

It was against the law to erect fences, and any barbed wire was quickly taken down if a range inspector was rumored to be in the vicinity.

The ranches did not own all the land they claimed, only a section where the house stood and 40 acres around each windmill, which was held by “script.”

However, the area claimed was strictly respected by neighboring ranches. The cattle naturally wandered and in winter would sometimes drift in front of a blizzard as far south as Monahans,Texas.

Thus the purpose of the roundup, conducted every spring and fall, was to sort out the animals of each ranch, brand the new calves, and cut out steers for shipping to market.

The H-Bar Ranch boasted seven windmills on an area that extended in the north to where the railroad tracks now run west to Clovis, the south line about where Delphos now is, the east line toward the Clovis highway, and the west line near Bethel.

At this time there were less than 10 houses in all the northern half of the county, and the whole area was claimed by five big ranches: The H-Bar, the DZ at Salt Lake, the Pig Pen at the Tules north of Floyd, the Littlefield LFD west of Elida, and the T-71 near Kenna. In addition there were a few smaller places, such as the Sid Boykin place and the Doak Good spread at Portales Springs.

There was plenty of work for the men to do on the H-Bar. The windmills had to be checked and repaired regularly, for the cattle had to have water at all times.

In dry weather there were fire guards to be dug and grass fires to be fought. There were cows to be counted and doctored, and calves to look out for.