Texas Fever . . . with Guest Sherri Shackelford


SherriShackelfordWhile many people assume the proliferation of railroads doomed the classic cattle drive immortalized in song and film, a much more insidious cause was also at play. In 1868 the Veterinarian Journal reported that a ‘very subtle and terribly fatal disease had broken out amongst cattle in Illinois. Called Texas Fever, the disease was traced to longhorn cattle driven from south Texas. The disease went by many names: Red Water Fever, Spanish Fever, Splenic Fever, but all these names led to the same fate for Midwestern cattle…death.

To protect their cattle, states along cattle trails began enforcing quarantines and restricting the movement of cattle to winter months–when the spread of the disease slowed. By 1885, Kansas had closed its borders altogether. This protective measure ensured the safety of Midwestern cattle, but doomed numerous cattle towns to stagnation. longhorns

For many years the cause remained unknown, therefore, complete quarantine was the only option. The Texas longhorns remained immune, but the disease was almost always fatal to Midwestern cattle. By the late 1800’s, scientists had discovered the Texas longhorns contained a pathogen that killed red blood cells. The pathogen was spread by ticks—which accounted for the slowing of the spread in the winter months.

Further research revealed that since the disease was widespread in southern Texas, the longhorn cattle had developed immunity.  All calves are born with a natural resistance and exposed during this time of protection which provided the cattle with antibodies. The Midwestern cattle, exposed as adults, lacked this immunity.

While the disease still flourishes in other countries, the United States eradicated the disease by an extensive program of ‘cattle dipping’. (Must have been a pretty big pool!) Northern cattle imported to the south were immunized.

So while droughts, blizzards, railroad expansion, barbed wire, settlements and embargos also played a factor in ending the cattle drives, Texas Fever played the dominant role. On a more productive note, the disease brought about the separate veterinarian division of the United States Department of Agriculture. Standards and regulations helped regulate the industry. When you look at Texas Fever through the lenses of history, this disease has directly affected each and every one of us.

If you have a hankering for a City Slickers experience, there are plenty of modern ranches willing to oblige—for a hefty price! I think I’ll just watch John Wayne in The Cowboys…


A wife and mother of three, Sherri’s hobbies include collecting mismatched socks, discovering new ways to avoid cleaning, and standing in the middle of the room while thinking, “Why did I just come in here?” A reformed pessimist and recent hopeful romantic, Sherri has a passion for writing. Her books are fun and fast-paced, with plenty of heart and soul. Write to Sherri at P.O. Box 116, Elkhorn, NE, 68022, email at sherri@sherrishackelford.com or visit sherrishackelford.com.


The Marshal’s Ready-Made Family releases in February, 2014:

A Marriage of Necessity 

Gentlemen don’t court feisty straight shooters like JoBeth McCoy. Just as she’s resigned to a lifetime alone, a misunderstanding forces the spunky telegraph operator into a marriage of convenience. Wedding the town’s handsome new marshal offers JoBeth a chance at motherhood, caring for the orphaned little girl she’s come to love. 

Garrett Cain will lose guardianship of his niece, Cora, if he stays single, but he knows no woman could accept the secrets he’s hidden about his past. The lawman can’t jeopardize Cora’s future by admitting the truth. Yet when unexpected danger in the small town threatens to expose Garrett’s long-buried secret, only a leap of faith can turn a makeshift union into a real family.

I’ll preorder a copy of the Marshal’s Ready-Made Family to one commenter along with a $5 gift card to buy something to read during the wait 😉

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43 thoughts on “Texas Fever . . . with Guest Sherri Shackelford”

  1. This is really interesting to learn. I live in Texas and often go on country drives so I can look at the cattle on the farms. My favorites have always been the longhorn. And, I really love it when there are calves on the farm and get to see them playing. I have always heard the longhorn are a more hearty variety of cattle, but didn’t know this. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I always love coming here to P&P as I learn something new about our country’s history. I always wondered if cattle drives (like in the old westerns) still happened today. I know in Ft. Worth, Texas they do a drive for ‘show’ around the Stockyards (although every time I go to visit my brother and we go there the event has been canceled). Thank you for sharing this post.

    I would love to win a copy of The Marshal’s Ready Made Family. I love the Love Inspired Historicals.

    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

  3. Janine, There is something quintessentially ‘Texan’ about the longhorn. I can see why they are your favorite!

    Cindy, My brother, who lives in San Francisco, arguably one of the densest populated cities in America, is planning on going on a cattle drive 🙂 I suppose he’s missing those wide open spaces…

  4. Hi Sherri! So happy to spend part of this Saturday with you. Texas Fever was a horrible disease and cattlemen everywhere are glad it’s been eradicated. It sure started lots of wars along the cattle trails. Thank goodness science came up with a good many cures for cattle/animal diseases. Just wish they’d find one for mad cow disease. Thanks for the interesting post.

    Congratulations on the new upcoming release! Yay!

  5. Hi Sherri! What a wonderfully informative post. I’m actually married to a cattle rancher and had only a glancing knowledge of this. Thanks for a fascinating glimpse into the poast

  6. Sherri, Thank you for such interesting and informative post. The damage that was done with Texas Fever must have been terrible. So glad it has been eradicated. My husband runs a few cattle on our ranch but I keep telling him we need a longhorn or two. Marshal’s Ready-Made Family sounds like a great book and I would love the opportunity to read it. Thank you again!

  7. Your book sounds great! I love marriage of convenience stories. Always makes for some great tension! Thanks for the chance to win a copy of your book.

  8. An interesting bit of info today. I had never heard about this before. Thank you so much for sharing today’s post with us Sherri!
    Love the sound of your book The Marshal’s Ready-Made Family… I enjoy reading books with kids and babies in them!

  9. I am so glad the U.S. was able to eradicate this disease. Its ramifications were vast!

    I love the synopsis for THE MARSHAL’S READY-MADE FAMILY! I can’t wait to read about JoBeth and Garrett and the family they create. Thank you so much for the opportunity to win a copy.

  10. Hi Sherri!!! Great post. I’m just guessing here…but “cattle dipping” is not the same as “cow tipping.” (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) I’m glad to know Texas Fever isn’t around anymore.

    Your book sounds amazing. I love marriage of convenience stories! And, really, who doesn’t adore handsome lawmen? Win-win!

  11. LOL I like your comment about her coming up with ways to avoid cleaning and forgetting why she went into a room – I do both lol. I have heard of the disease – must have been in a historical that I read but can’t remember. I’m sure that was a big factor among the others you mentioned.

  12. Thankfully the Veterinary Pharmaceutical industry has developed “pour on” insecticides as well as injectables so we no longer have to “dip” the cattle. Running a herd of cattle through a dipping vat(probably a hand dug trench) must have been a miserable job. Now we just run the cows into an alley or a squeeze chute and pull the trigger on a gun-like devise that premeasures the correct amount of medication for the size of the animal being treated. The wonders of modern science….of course you still have to get those dumb cows into the chute!

  13. Hi Sherri, was not aware you were a fellow Nebraskan. My fault I guess I didn’t read the biography in your books that I have read!

    I love coming to P&P, because I glean so much information! Thanks for sharing!

  14. Hello Amy, Ellie and Diane! It’s so fun to see new faces…or new avatars at least 🙂

    Winnie, I thought it was interesting how Texas Fever spurred a government agency. The things you learn doing research…

    Melanie, who doesn’t love a longhorn!? They just make you think of cowboys and the long, dusty trail.

  15. Britney, I have a soft spot for marriage of convenience stories…give me that or a mail order bride and I’m hooked!

    Renee, I can’t imagine tipping OR dipping a cow 🙂

    Hello, Minna! Thanks for stopping by.

  16. catslady…my fondest wish is a cleaning service! I like a clean house…I just don’t always like the work involved, you know?!

    Hilltop Farm Wife, I can’t imagine the effort involved in eradicating the disease before ‘modern’ conveniences. I’m sure all those immunizations are still quite a bit of work *with* the trigger immunization ‘guns’!

    Connie, I’m Midwestern born and raised 🙂 I love my Nebraska.

  17. Very interesting post. I love coming here because you learn so much from the post. I have never been to Texas so I have never seen a long horn! Your book sounds really good and I would love to read it. One thing we have in common is I am always going into a room then wondering what I went in there for. I am really bad for that on house cleaning days and its hard to get things done then.

  18. A few years ago my family and I went to a dude ranch in Colorado. There we rode horses daily and one day we got to help herd the cattle into another pasture. That is darn hard work! I admire the cowboy for his work ethic and for how hard some of the jobs he performs are.
    Your book sounds really good.

  19. I guess if I’ve ever heard of Texas fever I figured it had something to do with Texans thinking their state was the best and being ready to fight anyone who said different!!!

  20. we have a couple of long horn bulls in a pasture nearby. I love staring at them. So cool and weird. Their horns are really straight out sideways. I wish they’d curls more. I don’t think they’re very old yet. But several years, definitely fully adult male bulls.

  21. Quilt Lady, Mary Connealy and I went to a quilt turning today. Some beautiful quilts!!!

    Joye, I think more families should take dude ranch vacations!!

    Mary, I always think of the muppets singing “I got cabin fever” in muppet treasure island. Except they’re singing, “I got Texas Fever.” With horns. 🙂

  22. Thank you, Sherri, for an interesting post. Most know insects can be responsible for transmitting disease, but finding out what the problem is and who is spreading it, takes time and isn’t always easy. You can understand ranchers wanting the cattle drives stopped. One infected herd coming through at a particularly “buggy” time could do serious damage to an area’s local herds. As you said, in addition to identifying the problem and finding a solution, the formation of the Veterinary Division of the USDA was a big end result of this situation.
    I like the sound of THE MARSHAL’S READY-MADE FAMILY. Custody issues with orphans always make for a heartfelt story. I hope its release is a big success. I’ll be looking for it.

  23. Hello Sherri. Glad to meet you and tell you my comments. I moved to the Houston, Tx. area in 1996. We moved here for a small KS. town that bordered with OK. just a block behind my house. This was one of the towns where cattle were brought from cattle drives to load onto the train that went through there. They had what they called a vat which was a lrg. place in town where the cattle were driven through before being loading onto the train. There was still an indention across the road from my house that was the Vat. Elgin, Ks. was a wild western town back then. Not sure where my book is now, so can’t give a date. My husbands parents moved there before my husband was born. He was born there and his bachelor brother who was 7 years older lived there until he died. Right across the street from us. And, at some point in time the outsiders who put highways in wanted to put it through Elgin, and the town said no, never realizing it would kill the town, when it was moved to go through Sedan, Ks. Then traffic started to by pass the town. When my husband and I moved back there they only had one business there, a small cafe, and from time to time a small store just big enough to keep a few necessities of food. Most went into Sedan to shop. Most people living there were oldtimers plus younger ones who farmed or had ranches. I loved that small town. Even when we were living there, it was already in some of the Ghost town books. I would love to be the winner of this book. Thanks, MAXIE

  24. Very interesting post. I knew there was a problem with the cattle being ill, but I did not know all the history. Thank you for sharing this history. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of “The Marshal’s Ready Made Family”. Please enter my name in the giveaway.

  25. Hi, Sherri!

    Enjoyed your post, had never heard anything about Texas Fever. My father raised both milk cows & beef cattle when I was growing up – guess Texas Fever had been brought under control by then (the 40’s & 50’s)?

    Would love to read The Marshal’s Ready Made Family – interesting storyline! Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy!


  26. I’d like to read JoBeth and Garrett’s marriage of convenience story, THE MARSHALL’S READY MADE FAMILY. Garrett sounds like a very protective lawman caring for his little niece Cora. JoBeth sounds like a hand full of trouble! I’m sure she will stir up Garrett’s world.

    Texas Fever, I do learn a lot of interesting facts here.

  27. Good Morning Sherri

    How interesting, it is true you learn something new every day.

    Can’t wait to read “The Marshall’s Ready Made Family”

    Don’t worry about the why did I come in here it will only get worse (lol)

  28. I’m a Texan and had heard of Texas cattle fever just didn’t know for sure what it was. Glad it is eradicated now.With ticks so plentiful it is a wonder thee aren’t any more diseases. Would love to have your book, it sounds very interesting.

  29. Very interesting post, Sherri!!
    I learn a lot on P&P!
    Thanks for the chance to win your book…it sounds fantastic.
    jacsmi75 [at] gmail [dot]com

  30. I am new to P & P and just love these history posts. I also love the name JoBeth. I am adding this book to my to read list.

  31. Barbara, I think it’s fascinating to see all the different forces at work. There’s never a simple answer, is there?

    Sherry, I’m also notorious for forgetting what I’m saying mid-sentence! I think it’s already getting worse…(love your name btw 🙂

    Connie, I agree-it’s a wonder there aren’t more diseases.

    Thanks for stopping by, Jackie 🙂

  32. Dorie, there are some great tomboys in literature with the name ‘Jo’ and I wanted to give her a bit of a feminine twist 🙂

    Nancy, I’m always surprised at what I dig up! And I haven’t even dug very deep yet…

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