In order to discuss if there is a difference in the historical ranch gates of Texas and the gates of today, We must consider the shift in their purpose from a way to find your destination in the sparsely settled state to the current necessity for security.
The invention of barbed wire in the 1870’s allowed cattle to be confined to designated areas to prevent overgrazing. Gates had little to do with keeping out intruders at that time. They were just a part of the end of the open range.
In fact, in a Texas Monthly article from July 1983, Terry Tolar described the early Texas ranch gate. He said, “[It] became a marker directing the traveler to the house. The most visible landmark on an otherwise featureless prairie, it alerted the wayfarer that a friendly face could be found nearby.”
Later, the gate became a way to advertise. If you had a breed of cattle for sale that was for seedstock, you would advertise them at your gate entrance. I found a book with loads of pictures of gates, signs and brands. If you are interested, it is Ranch Gates of the Southwest by Daniel M. Olsen and Henk Van Assen.
The modern-day Texas ranch may or may not contain cattle. The property you escape to may be for hunting or horses. Or, it could be whatever qualification you choose to get an agricultural tax exemption. And maybe, not even have that.
Security is Foremost
The one thing modern ranches have in common, is that the gates are no longer just markers or advertisements. They are also a statement of security and privacy. While a rancher wants welcome friends and family, they also now want an entrance to their private property to say, “NO TRESPASSING – KEEP OUT!”
The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) was established in 1877 to fight cattle theft. Although the Special Texas Rangers they employ are known as “cattle cops”, they investigate and recover a lot more than just cattle today. TSCRA’s Rangers are experts in theft of rural property and highly recommend you have a closed and locked gate to prevent theft. Here are some of their other tips on preventing theft.
Today’s Perspective on Ranch Life
As a teenager, I thought about how and when I would get the opportunity to leave the Texas ranch that was my home. All my friends lived in town, so putting the C Bar Ranch gate in my rear-view mirror was my goal.
A few years after I achieved that, I found myself working for ranchers at TSCRA and cherishing my childhood home. My job was to recruit new members (ranchers) to the association. I loved it, but life is funny.
During my time there, I observed two kinds of members. The first group was made up of ranchers that considered themselves more traditional. They had ranched all their lives on property that had been passed down for multiple generations. The other members, growing in numbers by comparison, made their fortune in life another way and then bought a cattle ranch. All were equally passionate about the ranching way of life and fed my growing belief that to be a legitimate Texan, you must long to have a ranch.
I continue to get verification of this theory now that I work for my husband’s business, which is building driveway gates for ranches and homes. The “ranch life” our clients long for seems to be taking on an even broader meaning. For example, these folks want to move to a ranch for a more wholesome place to raise children. Or, they want an escape from the corporate world to hunt or fish on the weekends. Others are looking forward to building their dream home and retiring in a quieter and more spacious refuge.
These new ranch life seekers come with a different perspective on owning property than the traditional cattle ranchers of generations past. And therefore, they make an impact on the modern Texas ranch gate.
Is there a Texas-Style Ranch Gate?
We still build a lot of Texas ranch gates that showcase a ranch name or brand. However, since ranch life is so much more inclusive, the range of customization is wide open.
Most of the time, when we sit down to design a gate with a client, we discuss the house or ranch style and how we can best compliment that with in a gate. So, I’d say the modern design trend for a Texas gate is to introduce your style. We design gates to make a first impression that hints of the beautiful property that lies beyond, while at the same time looking formidable and substantial to deter intruders.
Texans fancy themselves individuals. Therefore, a single style or look is really impossible to pinpoint. Designs range from the simplest and modest gates to truly audacious.
Some of the biggest ranches do not want to call attention to their property so the gates are completely non-descriptive. You might be inclined to identify a lone star or a Texas state cutout as a “Texas” thing, but I’d argue that those are really generic symbols that don’t really make them a style.
Bottom line, I’d say that a “Texas-style” gate would be in the eyes of the beholder. I am not going to argue. Are you?