Larger Land Units on the Plains

“The next step in the enlargement of the land unit came as the frontier passed beyond the prairie region and entered the Plains proper. Here the influence of aridity was added to that of a level and treeless country. For this situation there was evolved a new land unit which had no counterpart in the East. It was a contribution from Latin America, and it came by way of Texas into the Great Plains; it was the cattle ranch. The history of the ranch has been given in another place, where it was made clear that it began as an open range oi free land and, through the use of barbed wire, developed into the modern ranch of the big-pasture country. The point of emphasis now is that the unit of utilization was far larger than anything known in the East, even on the Southern plantations during the slavery period. A ranch may be as small as two thousand acres, but such a ranch is barely within the range of respectability. A real ranch comprises from two to fifty thousand acres. Such extensive landholdings were not uncommon in Mexico, whence the ranch came, but they were rare indeed in the region east of the ninety-eighth meridian. The forces of aridity gave a monopoly of land to those who controlled the scanty supply of water; hence the ranches extended from water front to “divide” by virtue of physical conditions or natural law.”