Wildcatter Ranch is a Texan resort that lives by its authentic Cowboy roots. Bang in the middle of Young County’s Cowboy country, Wildcatter Ranch shares the Wild West heritage of days of yore. We caught up with Wildcatter’s Jason McAlister to get the scoop on the secrets of this unique land.
Q. What made Young County such a pivotal place in Cowboy history?
During the mid 1800’s the land west of Fort Worth was still unsettled and home to two Indian reservations (one of which adjoins the Wildcatter Ranch). There was an abundance of unclaimed land that attracted settlers to Young County from the East (US) and Fort Belknap was built in 1851 in Young County to protect the settlers from the Indians. The fort gave confidence to new settlers to come to the area and the Butterfield Overland Mail Stage (1858 – 1861) route which stretched to San Francisco brought many interesting characters into Young County.
Q. Texan culture draws so much from its Cowboy roots – which period was the Cowboy heyday?
The period that you might call the “heyday” is just after the Civil War in the US. During this time, the Goodnight Loving Cattle Drive started in Young County and drove the cattle all the way into Montana. Many soliders came home from the Civil War and began working the cattle as Cowboys. In 1888 the Marlow Brothers were outlaws in Young County that were tried in the Federal Court that was built in Graham, Texas which was the county seat of Young County.
Q. And do you ever wish you could return to this heyday?
I can imagine that life during this time was very adventurous but also very difficult. Imagine being gone for months at a time away from your family and many didn’t come back. Also, they were settling territory that had not been civilized with the potential to encounter Indians around every corner. This was a hard way of life. One of the great things about being at Wildcatter Ranch is you can see for yourself the undisturbed, beautiful land and visit the ancestoral lands of these hardy pioneering cowboys.
Q. There’s such a strong sense of history and place at Wildcatter Ranch, how was the history passed on? Would Cowboys have swapped stories over a few beers in the saloon?
Many of us growing up in the area were fortunate to hear stories from our grandparents that had been passed on. Also, many of the stories have become historical fiction novels such as Lonesome Dove and have been turned into movies such as The Son’s of Katie Elder and the Searchers.
Q. What kind of traditional Cowboy activities can guests get up to at Wildcatter Ranch?
At the Wildcatter Ranch guests can enjoy many Cowboy activities. We have miles of horseback riding trails with various degrees of difficulty. We also have skeet shooting to try your aim at, as well as shooting, archery, canoeing and ATV tours.
Q. Food is a massive part of the culture, what would you say were the most authentic of Texan dishes?
BBQ of course. We also have the best beef you’ll ever have.
Q. Music too plays a big role – what are the instruments that make up the authentic sound?
Guitar, harmonica, banjos… Pioneers were from all over the world. Many nights the time would have passed by the campfire and each person would have made up a verse of a song to tell their stories.