Activities for the "Texas Ranching Frontier"
Article Readings:Have students read the selection, "Home
on the Range," & complete the star-shaped crossword puzzle.
Have students read the selections, "The
Legendary King Ranch," and "When We Were Kings" and answer the
Have students read the selection,
"Shrinking Giant," and answer the multiple-choice quiz.
Have students read the selection, "The
Biggest Ranches," and complete the matching quiz.
Have students locate ranching terms in the
word-finds #1 and #2.
*A suggestion for teachers is to set up reading centers for the seven articles in this
section. You may combine the article readings with book reports over readings in the next
section in order to keep the entire class on similar tasks at the same time.
*The various books enclosed in the history
trunk range from very easy to advanced reading levels. Instructors should consider the
level of reading material contained in each before assigning work.
The Chisholm Trail, by Andrew
Charles Goodnight, Pioneer Cowman,
by Sybil J. ORear.
Charles Goodnight, Cowman and Plainsman,
by J. Evetts Haley.
A Queen Named King, Henrietta of the
King Ranch, by Mary Virginia Fox.
Rough and Ready Homesteaders, by
Hats are for Watering Horses, by
Mary Blount Christian.
The West Is For Us, The Reminiscences of
Mary A. Blankenship.
- Teachers may assign different sections
of a book, and have the students write and present a report on different topics. This can
be done as a group project, with group members taking responsibility for different aspects
of the report.
- After reading book selections, have students
write a script for a play discussing trail drives, ranching , settling the plains, and so
forth. Have students develop the main characters, setting, and dialogue.
- Some students might depict life in the late
19th century cattle frontier through drawings, or a mural. Ideas for murals can
come from readings or visual aids such as slides or transparencies.
- Set up an informal reading center where
students can read books from the trunk and complete a brief book report.
- Students may select a number of glossary
terms and use them in constructing sentences related to cattle drives, round ups, and the
- Teachers may want to use glossary terms on
weekly vocabulary/spelling tests.
- Students should be able to identify the
various geographic regions of Texas, including especially those over which trail drives
took place. Teachers can pass out blank maps for labeling these regions. Rivers and
topographical features should also be included as part of this exercise. Accompanying map
puzzles can be used by the instructor to teach about the regions of Texas.
- Maps should allow students to identify the
routes of cattle trails and understand why each developed further west. Students should
know the states over which the trails crossed, major cattle crossings, towns, and
railheads. Instructors can use overhead and puzzle maps to reinforce the location of
trails and important locations on each trail.
- Maps allow students to realize the
differences in climate and understand how the weather, latitude and elevation affected the
growth of plants and therefore ranching and farming. Students should label each of these
characteristics on a map of Texas. Overheads, books, slides, and puzzle maps can reinforce
- An enclosed map exercise can incorporate
many of the essential elements for geographical knowledge.
The history trunk contains a number of
transparencies to reinforce lessons. The images vary from colored images of cowboys and
chuck wagons, to maps and information.
Tape paper to a wall and have students
use overhead transparencies or slides to trace the imagery for an art book or for stage
Artifacts and Clothing
Inside the trunk you will find
numerous artifacts of clothing. Each of these items can be used to depict the styles worn
on the frontier in the late 19th century. Included are boots, bandanna, vest,
chaps and hat for cowboys, an apron, and quilt. Non-clothing artifacts include a branding
iron, horseshoes, marbles, games, and other items. These materials can add a special
dimension to teaching. Have students research these articles of clothing and artifacts to
learn more about them.
Inside the trunk you will find
tapes which have western cowboy music on them. Students can listen to the tape(s) and then
either write a poem or story about what they heard, or create a drawing of same.
Using Primary Sources
Examine the laminated copies of primary
sources contained inside the trunk. Included are a surveyors notes and maps,
letters, ledger accounts, tally books, and diary entries as well as other materials
pertaining to the ranching industry in Texas. Documents Group #8 contains copies of maps
from the late 19th century. Have
students analyze the documents to gain an understanding about the day-to-day lives of
cowboys and the ranching frontier. Have students complete the exercises which accompany
Developing Knowledge and Skills
- Using information from a variety of sources
within the trunk, have students construct a timeline to illustrate important events during
the cattle drive and big ranching eras.
- Using materials from the history trunk
including articles and books and the Internet, have students create a biographical sketch
on significant individuals of the period who had a profound effect on the cattle industry.
Have students include a bibliography with their sketch.
- Have students estimate how much it might
cost to send a certain number of cattle to the railheads in Kansas. Consideration should
be given to cowboys wages, the cost of supplies and a cook, a trail boss, payoffs to
Indians, loss of cattle due to stampedes and so forth, the cost of an animal in South
Texas compared to the money earned in Kansas. Then, have students investigate the cost of
cattle today, shipping costs and so forth, make comparisons and submit their findings.
- Have students develop their own brand book,
using letters and symbols and explaining the meanings of the brands used.
- Using readings and other materials presented
in class, students should put together a cartoon booklet with dialogue to show the life of
a cowboy on a ranch or trail drive.
- Have students create their own ranch using
the wooden figures and structures enclosed in the trunk. Students will need to assess what
they will need for a successful ranching operation, and assemble the figures accordingly.
Using the Internet to Gain Knowledge and
The Southwest Collection/Special Collections
Library provides an interactive History Trunk web page to help students develop Internet
skills and utilize the historical information available there. Included on the page are a
number of links where students can find reliable information for class exercises and
Have students read selections from The New
Handbook of Texas Online over topics such as the windmill, barbed wire, the Colt revolver,
the chuck wagon, and other innovations. Have students then discuss the impact of such
technology on the West Texas frontier.
Enclosed within the trunk are two videos, one
called The Good Old Boys, and the other, Lonesome Dove. Teachers can use the videos to
reinforce their lessons, and can quiz students after viewing.
Inside the trunk, you will find a wooden box
with recipe cards inside. Assign students a card and on an appointed day, have them bring
a prepared dish to school for the class to sample.
Enclosed in the trunk are a bag of marbles and
a bag of checkers. The checkers pieces come with an old-fashioned cloth with black and red
squares. Set up a station where students can play these games as a reward for finishing
Inside the trunk is a slide presentation of
over 100 slides. Accompanying these images is a cassette tape of approximately 25 minutes.
The slide show traces the history of cattle drives from South Texas to Kansas, the life of
cowboys, the emergence of large ranches in West Texas, and the arrival of farmers and
townspeople. The slide presentation can be used to reinforce lectures and readings or may
serve as a lesson by itself. The presentation also has a script which can be used in
transparency form or passed out to students.