Big Ranches, Big Story


The state of Texas has 268,597 square miles so it’s no wonder we have huge ranches to match the size. Some are simply too enormous to comprehend. So I had no trouble setting a big ranch here for my latest Men of Legend series. I wanted it as big and bold as the father and sons who owned it, so Texas was perfect. (It’s rumored that the state produces people with big personalities.) Strictly rumor of course. I’m laughing here.

My fictional Lone Star Ranch is a little on the puny side at 480,000 acres. I modeled it to some degree after the Waggoner Ranch which was 510,000 acres in 1954. When it sold in 2016, it had grown. The Waggoner Ranch also fit the location of mine in North Texas.

XITbrandThe largest ranch in the world in 1880 was the XIT Ranch (stands for Ten in Texas) at a whopping three million acres in West Texas and the Panhandle. To put this in perspective, that’s roughly 4,687 square miles. Just think how long it would take to ride over it by horseback. All that land was owned by a syndicate of English investors. It was simply too big for words.

The mighty King Ranch down at the far end of the state was and still is one of the largest ranches in the world. It has well over a million acres. It was established in 1854 by partners Richard King and Gideon Lewis.

King RanchNorth Texas certainly has a lion share of ranching land. That’s mostly because the rugged, rocky, dry landscape is fit for little else. The Matador Land and Cattle Company (purchased by Scottish investors) is another large one at a million and half acres in the beginning. It has shrunk now but still going strong.

Four sixesThe 6666 Ranch is an interesting one that keeps on thriving. Captain Samuel Burk Burnett bought 350,000 acres in 1870 and started raising cattle. Rumors have swirled for decades that he named it this unusual name because he won it in a poker game with a hand of four sixes. Descendants swear that’s not true. It’s still a huge ranch at 275,000 acres. I always love driving past it and looking at the large herds of horses. Their buildings are always pristine and they even have an airstrip. It’s pretty.

Love a Texas Ranger smallerOkay, back to my Lone Star Ranch. The patriarch, Stoker Legend, acquired 100 acres as payment for fighting in the Texas War for Independence. Everyone scoffed and said he had little chance of making the ranch thrive what with Indians, outlaws, drought, and the fact the land was extremely inhospitable. He paid them no mind and carved out the mighty ranch that serves as a legacy for his sons—Sam, Houston, and Luke.

Sam Legend joined the Texas Rangers as soon as he could because ranching just doesn’t interest him. He has restless feet and is driven with a need to see what’s over the next hill. Book #1 of this Men of Legend series is TO LOVE A TEXAS RANGER. Sam runs across a desperate woman named Sierra Hunt who has been dragged from pillar to post. She burns with a dream of permanence—a little white house with a picket fence around it, flowers in front and a garden in back. She’s not going to settle for anything less…not even for Sam.

There are lots of twists and turns in this story as they seek to find common ground and protect the fragile love that forms as they run from a ruthless band of outlaws.

Think the western series Bonanza. This series is every bit as big and bold as the Cartwrights. I’m enjoying writing this so much.

Release day is October 4th! You can preorder at these links:  AMAZON  |    B&N    |    iTUNES

There are still one million acre ranches today in the United States. What do you think the biggest challenge would be to owning such a huge amount of land?

By the way…Did you know July 23rd is the National Day of the Cowboy?

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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!

28 thoughts on “Big Ranches, Big Story”

  1. I loved this article. I too love driving by the 6666 ranch, such a beautiful land and I love it when the horses are up close to the road so you can see them. I imagine the biggest challenge back in the day of owning such a huge ranch was cattle rustlers, today, it’s probably trying to keep everything the way it used to be. With modern technology I imagine record keeping and such is easier, but many still want to keep the integrity of the old west. Young Cowboys are raised to the modern way while some of the old timers don’t like the change. So I imagine that would be the hardest part about ranching today. Old ways VS new ways.

    • Good morning, Tonya……..Glad you came over. I know in the job that you do, record-keeping is extremely important. You have to file reports and things. You’d be surprised that cattle rustling is still going strong. My friend who owns the Sanford Ranch still has to deal with rustlers. It’s kinda odd to me though that thieves are still engaged in that. Many ranchers have totally embraced the new technology that make things easier. But others still cling to the old ways of doing things. And speak to any long time traditional cowboy and he’ll tell you he’s never changing. He wants to stay in the saddle from dawn to dusk and do things as cowboys have for hundreds of years. I know eventually technology will win but that will be a very sad day and a day when America’s lost.

      Love you, lady!

  2. I shall celebrate the Day of the Cowboy. I think the biggest problem with that big of a ranch would be security.

    • Good morning, Debra G………Security would be a big problem on such a huge ranch. You could never guard all of your property. I’m sure back in the 1800s, a cattle baron probably never saw all of his land. He could ride solid for a year trying to cover just a one million acre spread. There would be enormous problems. He’d have all that land on paper but never fully know what was going on with it.

      Thanks for coming and have a wonderful day!

  3. I have never been on a ranch but would love to visit one some day. I think the biggest challenge with owning a ranch that big would be keeping up with the cattle.

    • Good morning, Janine……..You nailed it. Rustlers had a field day back then because a rancher on a spread the size of these could never fully protect all of his herd. If rustlers didn’t get them, they could wander for hundreds of miles outside the land. That’s the reason for the brand. If someone found them, the rancher could identify and prove they were his. A rancher like Richard King would have to employ a lot of honest cowboys and set them up in line shacks all over the land so they each could care for certain sections. That was the only way to survive back then.

      Thanks for dropping by! Always great to see you.

  4. Mending fences on a huge ranch would be an ongoing job I would think. Thank you for sharing your interesting post.

    • Good Morning, Melanie……..Thanks for coming over. I’m happy to see you. Fence mending was indeed a huge chore. A fence was probably down all the time somewhere on three million acres. Even on a smaller spread it kept the cowboys busy mending fences.

      I hope you have a very good day, my friend!

    • Good Morning, Estella…….I’m very glad to see you and glad you like my post. Enormous ranches had to employ a lot of cowboys to make it run smoothly. The rancher had to divide his land into sections and build a place for a cowboy to live on each. His section was his responsibility. It was a hard life being out there all alone to face rustlers and predators of all kinds. But that was the way of things back then. A cowboy’s life was not glamorous or romantic.

      Have a very good day and try to stay cool!

  5. My first thought was… Taxes! LOL But I guess that wouldn’t be a problem if you had enough money to have that much land. Or it was before taxing was implemented. Plus ranches probably get some tax break like farms these days, no? I guess I’m caught in the present today thinking of the taxes on my measly three acres. No cattle here, though: just deer, foxes, groundhogs, rabbits, and the usual.

    • Hi Eliza…….Thank you for coming. Taxes today on that much acreage would be through the roof. I can’t even imagine. But then, it’s difficult to imagine someone owning this much land. When I was writing my story, I had a problem with my fictional Lone Star Ranch swallowing up towns and it’s not nearly as large as the King or Waggoner ranches. How nice that you have three acres. I’ll bet it’s beautiful and peaceful.

      Have a good day!

  6. I cannot even imaging that many acres in one ownership. I was proud of growing up on a measly 250 acre farm. LOL. I think the biggest problem would be to keep people off it. Someone could live on it without anyone else knowing, with that many acres to get lost on! There can’t be a way to keep track of it all, can there? Great eye opening post!

    • Hi Susan P……..Thank you for coming. I’m glad you enjoyed my post. It would be extremely hard keeping off what they called nesters. Those were settlers who took a piece of land and started farming on it. Some nesters truly didn’t know the land belonged to someone. Others took it though on purpose. A lot of wars started over things like this. As immense as that much land was, often a rancher wouldn’t know for a long time.

      I’m sure your 250 acre farm was very nice. I think that’s the perfect size.

    • Hi Kim……..Thank you for coming. Land that size didn’t really get much upkeep. But the taxes would’ve been horrendous I think.

      I’m glad you came to join the discussion. Thank you very much.

    • Hi Colleen……I can’t wrap my head around that much. Some of those ranches were larger than some states and for sure larger than some foreign countries. Just boggles my mind.

      Thanks for coming.

  7. Wonderful blog about big-land Texas ranches. And great points by everyone… these days you could use drones along with working cowboys to keep track of the land, what’s really happening… and keeping the rustlers away.
    I would think the toughest thing these days, is finding good help, taxes, and burdensome regulations.

    • Hi Savanna….Thank you so much for coming. I’m glad you enjoyed my post. It’s sure something to think about. Knowing what’s going on your property today isn’t nearly as difficult as it was back then. Rustlers were a huge problem. And they still are. I’m sure the taxes would be horrendous. I have a friend who owns a ranch and the paperwork is just unreal and hers isn’t nearly as large as these.

      Have a great rest of the day!

  8. I think just keeping the land up would be the hardest thing to do. You can’t let it grow up so it would have to be mowed and kept clean along with keeping the fencing up.

    • Hi Quilt Lady…….Great seeing you! Maintaining fences today would be an unending chore, but back in the 1800s it would’ve been even more difficult. It sure gave cowboys a lot to do. And of course in the 1800s there would’ve been no mowing. I’m not sure they really do any today.

      Have a wonderful day!

  9. Hi Linda! I loved your post! I’m guessing the biggest problem would be the weather. From drought to tornados or Giant hail I’m sure it would ruin a lot and make a lot of up keep for Cowboys.

    • Hi Cori…..Thanks for coming. I’m sure you’re really busy these days. At least you enjoyed my post and maybe that brought a bright spot to your day. Weather was a constant problem for ranchers. Fortunes were made or lost, depending on the weather. Drought destroyed the land and the cattle. It sure put a lot of out business.

      Glad you came!

  10. Enjoyed this background on Texas ranches and your storyline! Keeping my eye on all those acres would be a handful.

    • Hi Melody……I’m glad you came. And that you enjoyed my post. Yes, all that land came with immense challenges and it took a man with an iron will to survive.

      Have a great day!

  11. I can not imagine how anyone would keep up with a ranch that large. Today you could use a helicopter to check it and keep an eye on things. How on earth they did it 100 years and more ago is a wonder. They only way I can imagine they could, would be to break the ranch into sections and have a company of cowboys running each section on their own. The ranch headquarters would coordinate what was going on and let the units know what adjustments needed to be made.

    I am really looking forward to this new series.

    • Hi Patricia……..Yes, it was a huge challenge. And it was run exactly as you mentioned. Dividing into sections and putting men in charge of only that. Of course, you had to make darn sure you could trust those men. Otherwise, they’d destroy you from within.

      I can’t wait to get my author copies. I think you’ll enjoy this story.

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