I was afraid we’d miss seeing the Texas Longhorn at Copper Breaks. They only have a ranger showing a few times a month on Saturdays, and we were late leaving Amarillo that morning. Copper Breaks is located just outside of the town of Quanah,Texas otherwise known as “that town halfway between Fort Worth and Amarillo” on Highway 287. We drove up, and I saw people begin to walk out of the station to the car. I ran from the car to show my Texas State Park pass at the Ranger Station and we *just* made the convoy following the ranger up the road to the stables.
Since we were visiting during Spring Break, I have to assume the crowd was larger than normal. I’d estimate there were about 40 people there, young and old alike. While my kids were characteristically excited about just getting out of the car, they were pretty excited when they saw the handful of Texas Longhorns in front of us – and we were going to get to feed them these little compressed grain rectangles.
Did that Ranger say “kiss”? WHAT THE WHAT?
Growing up in Texas, and raising our children here, the whole family knows that as cool as the Texas Longhorn look they are still cattle. They aren’t pets. You don’t make out with them. Yet this Ranger says we can stick a grain thing in our mouth, go up to the Longhorn’s mouth and the Longhorn will take it out of your mouth. Like a kiss. On the mouth.
No. Freaking. Way.
I do not mean “No freaking way, that is so awesome I can’t wait to try it.” I mean “No freaking way are you getting me to do that.” Others did, but as for me and my household? We were content to feed cattle with our hands.
After I saw how slimy my kids hands got with snotty cow gunk, I felt pretty vindicated on my prudishness.
I asked my kids a month later how they felt about the experience. My girl is not really keen about traveling back and doing it again, and made a little face when she answered. The boy jumped up and down and said he wanted to do it again. Pretty par for the course.
The first piece of caution I would give you is to not stand too close to the front as the Ranger begins his talk. He might begin to goad you about kissing the longhorn. Or maybe you are into that sort of thing. Hey, I’m not going to judge.
Second, but far more important, watch your kids. I think this is probably not as big of a thing if you aren’t there with a large crowd, but the Rangers couldn’t do a lot of supervising. After a obligatory caution about being careful, you were pretty much on your own. I saw kids not paying attention leaning on the fence and a Longhorn came up behind them. I saw parents standing back and watching their kids squat down and pick up food that had dropped right underneath a Longhorn.
Here’s the deal – those horns? Yeah. They are crazy sharp. Crazy. And those Longhorns? Remember how I said they weren’t pets and are cattle? They don’t care if they stick your kid. The horns easily come through the gate, and their maneuvering makes them do things that a 6 year old wouldn’t expect. So I’ll do something I don’t normally do and repeat myself. WATCH YOUR KIDS. But, it is not an unsafe activity with proper caution heeded.
The breed of cattle known as the Texas Longhorns have long had their characteristic horns tied to Texas. One of the most visible universities, The University of Texas – Austin, has the Texas Longhorn as their mascot, and the siluette of a Texas Longhorn adorns much of the western wear purchased in Texas. I’d say except for the lone star, the Texas Longhorn is the biggest icon in Texan culture and represents the cowboy heritage of the state.
The state of Texas has an official state herd of Longhorn. Not to be confused with The Herd, the Fort Worth longhorns that do the Stockyard Cattle Drives daily, the official state herd is broken up between Abilene State Park, Fort Griffin State Park, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, San Angelo State Park and Copper Breaks State Park.
With how much of Texas’ heritage is intertwined with the symbol of the Longhorn, it might make a lot of sense that Texas has a state herd. However, if you know anything about Texan politics, they like their government small and their budgets gutted. How the heck did Texas end up owning and maintaining a bunch of cattle?!
It all goes back to notable Fort Worth businessman, Sid Richardson. Back in the mid-1930’s, Richardson observed the attention being paid to the plight of the buffalo and thought that the real extinction risk lied with the Texas Longhorn. He put his resources behind historian J. Frank Dobie, and together they assembled a great herd of Texas Longhorn and placed them in a Texas State Parks finally leaving the main herd in Fort Griffin. The rest is history, and the Texas legislature officially recognized the herd in 1969.