Living in rural Texas has taught me how to live a fuller, deeper life, but with a western twist. Although the American Redoubt has captured many preppers’ imaginations, I live in Texas by choice. I’ve traveled the world, visited most states and lived in multiple cities on both coasts, but I choose to call the Texas Hill Country home. The cowboy way of life is intoxicating.
The first time I drove into the small town of Bandera (population 859) and saw cowboys riding horses down Main Street I immediately fell in love. Many towns in the Texas Hill Country region are predominately German in heritage and the people have strong work ethics, coupled with old fashioned common sense.
Manners count. Cowboy Jerry Lee taught my sons to ride a horse and instilled them with the cowboy code: never cross over private fences, always speak the truth, respect your elders and respond with a yes Sir or no Ma’am. Women are addressed by their first name, but always preceded with “Miss” even when married.
Many children learn to shoot a gun at a very young age, some shooting their first deer as young as 5 years old. Children are taught early to respect firearms. My sons are boy scouts that are live the scout motto, “Be prepared”. FFA and 4-H teach kids agricultural literacy in a world that has lost touch with how our food gets on the table.
Momma knows best. Homeschooling has huge support from our local communities and state government. You would be hard pressed to find a state with stronger support for parents who want to control their children’s education. Although our public schools do require immunizations, parents can opt out by simply notarizing a one page affidavit.
Most families attend church regularly and it’s common for couples to still be married to their high school sweethearts after decades of marriage. I enjoy seeing three generations at a country rodeo dancing to western swing music under the stars and smile when the grandparents show the crowd that fifty years of marriage makes for a perfect two-step partnership.
Ranching is a way of life here. Many family ranches have been passed down from generation to generation, but even that has become increasingly difficult. Tough, loyal and devoted to family, most native Texans wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else and they truly believe this is God’s country.
The majority of Texans are deeply conservative and Christian. They want their guns, little government interference and hands off their property. The state capital of Austin is where you’ll find most liberals and where the city’s motto “Keep Austin Weird” is practiced daily.
On our local hometown radio station they play the Pledge of Allegiance every morning and the Star Spangled Banner at noon. Pretty cool huh? The small town of Boerne’s siren goes off at noon as a not so gentle reminder from times past, letting everyone know its lunch time. I lived five miles out of town and I could faintly hear it go off if I happened to be outside.
Texas has taught me valuable life lessons that have helped me become better prepared. First is location. Although Texas is a large state, only Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio have large metropolitan populations. The remainder of the state is predominately rural, with most residents living in small rural towns. After taking a leap of faith and moving my family to the country, I’m blessed to live a quiet, peaceful lifestyle. I will never go back to the city.
Ranches large and small are the backbone of rural communities. Make friends with your neighbors. I’ve borrowed my neighbors’ tools, asked their advice on planting vegetables and one even fixed my broken gate without my asking. That’s important stuff especially if the SHTF. Always be kind too, get to know and help your neighbors just like the Bible says.
Learn to have different energy sources. Electricity, solar, wind and propane give us greater energy independence. Not relying on the local electric provider for all our energy needs gives me greater peace of mind. Also having a propane/gas cook stove lets me finish making dinner when the power goes off like it did three times last week.
To access ranches, most owners use solar panels for automatic gate openers and gate envy is pretty common here. The problem with a fancy entrance is that it screams money, but old money taught me to be understated. Ditto for the cool ranch name over the entrance gate to make property identification easier. Low key folks use flags, fencing or reflectors to help friends discretely locate their property.
I know a wealthy Texas woman who owns an 8,000 acre ranch, with no ranch entrance identification and even a broken down gate. The caliche (crushed limestone) driveway is better suited to a four wheel drive and it stays that way until the road is out of sight from the highway, which then flattens out and pulls up in front of a 15,000 square foot mansion. Now that’s OPSEC.
Old timer’s love their pickups. Here the ultimate badge of honor is an old, beat up Ford truck that’s seen better days, but still runs. What’s really cool is the old man driving that truck has more money than most people you will ever meet in your life! Double OPSEC!
Fencing is important. It’s usually one of the first things done building a ranch. Although barbed wire and T post are the norm across the country, high game fencing is predominate here. If you have the money, galvanized metal piping and a 10 foot high perimeter fence makes it difficult for animals and trespassers alike to jump a game fence as well as provide perimeter security. Cross fencing with helps rotational grazing.
Those with limited funds can use a fence pole digger by hand, which is extremely tough in our famously rocky soil. Texans also use plain old sticks when building fences, with a metal post and then three wood sticks. We use what is abundant and they get the job done.
Water is life. Water is the biggest asset any property can have and here it’s very valuable. The price of land cost between $5,000 to $10,000 an acre, but it doubles with live water. I’ve learned the hard way that when the electricity goes off, there is no water for drinking, washing and toilets that require electricity to run the water pump. Get every know resource of water storage you can get your hands on: dirt tanks, cisterns, water tanks, 55 gallon drums, rainwater catchment systems, grey water and clean those used bottles to store household water.
Ranchers use dirt tanks to water livestock, which is just a hole dug in the ground to capture rainwater runoff in a low part of the property. Don’t dig past the hard pan or it will leak, so it’s best to use someone who has lots of experience. This works well when you don’t have a well and power pump or can’t afford one. A stock tank is a large metal container for watering livestock, which still needs some type of water source, typically a well and windmill.
Although springs are highly desirable, most properties are without water, which makes drilling a well crucial. A cistern (open top) or water tank (closed top) acts as a reservoir to hold water. Made of metal, plastic or concrete they hold the precious liquid from your well. No Texan worth their salt drills a well without adding a water tank. Texans also have lots of swimming pools, which can act as emergency water storage.
Many homesteads still have their original working windmills that pump water to the house and livestock. It’s not uncommon to find old, disassembled windmills on Craigslist and some could be had for a reasonable price or possibly your effort in taking it down.
Oil is king in Texas. Few ranches don’t have an above ground gas tank and most have a diesel tank as well for trucks and equipment. Having 500 or so gallons of fuel on hand is really out of everyday ranching necessity, but oh so smart in case of TEOTWAWKI.
Texas ranches are multi-generational. Typically ranches have more than one house on a property: a main house, guest house, ranch foreman’s house, bunk house, cabin and maybe an apartment in the barn is very common. Most aren’t big or expensive. This provides additional space for family members, ranch workers and guests. It’s also valuable should the need arise to for banding together for protection.
Barns are useful for large gathering places. Party barns are great entertainment and I’ve seen pool tables, dart boards, washers and checkers in these outdoor rooms, none of which needs power. Stables are typically metal frames and roofs made from kits. Texans love their horses: cutting horses, trail riding, team roping, breeding horse, training horses, you name they ride it.
Ranches have many useful outbuildings. Our German immigrants knew that survival was more important than a fancy house so they built smoke houses to cure meat, well houses for water, chicken houses, tractor sheds, garages, storage sheds, horse barns, hay barns, black smith sheds and tool sheds to name a few. This is still true today and a good ranch set up with ample barns will help secure your hard earned assets should the balloon ever go up.
Ride for the brand. In the old west, ranchers hired men to work their cattle and the cattle brand of the owner was who they gave their loyalty too. The ranch owner also depended on those extra hands when trouble came knocking. Today, many ranch hands have lived their whole lives on one property, with some like the King Ranch passing those ranch hand jobs down to the next generation. Talk about loyalty. This kind of security can’t be bought, but the next best thing is your family. Living close to family makes a tighter bond than living far away.
“We don’t dial 911”. Guns are a way of life here. I’ve been to lots of ranches that have some sort of hidden gun room or secret cache where guns are stored. Guns are everywhere. Over a fireplace, in trucks, boots, bedrooms, barns, purses and even the outhouse (snakes of course).
Guns, guns and more guns. Every type of gun known to man is here to protect their family and property. They also stockpile ammo. A good rule is to honk first when driving up unexpectedly to a ranch so as not to spook anyone. Watching those old cowboy movies gave me a good idea: use both hands when shooting guns.
Without question Texas is a strong, vocal supporter of the Second Amendment and the NRA. Just check out their bumper stickers. I saw a bumper sticker on a father of a teenage girl my son was checking out and it said “Guns don’t kill men, Daddy’s with pretty daughters do”
Growing gardens is tough here. Start with a mandatory 6 foot deer fence and build your raised beds because of the rocks. Rain harvesting and gray water systems are slowly becoming more popular due to the drought. Drip irrigation is the way to go. Our long growing season is an added bonus.
Architectural design is important. Ranch houses are typically one story, with wide eaves and deep porches to offset the harsh Texas sun. Most are built with metal roofs, rock siding and tile floors that last for generations. This greatly helps to cool down a home, while fans are in almost every room. Tall ceilings, shutters and siting a home to take advantage of south eastern gulf winds help’s to offset demand for air-conditioning. So does a tall glass of sweet tea.
Many small towns in the Texas Hill Country have a secret. Beneath our town’s main street are old tunnels that were built to protect settlers in case of Indian raids. That makes me feel a little safer next time I shop for pickles knowing that if a nuclear bomb goes off my family can go underground.
Texans love all kinds of horse powered transportation. Should an EMP attack render cars useless, they’ll get around riding their horses or driving their horse drawn carriages, buggy’s, hay wagons, chuck wagons and buck board wagons. During the summer on country roads you can run into wagon trains filled with hundreds of people driving their wagons, which is an awesome sight to behold! And yes they still ride their horses into town for a coke, hamburger and even a beer.
Alternative vehicles are a must. Almost every ranch has at least one All-Terrain Vehicle or a truck with a big bumper grill, which is used to help stop damage to the engine if you hit a deer. Heck, I’ve seen a new Cadillac with a huge bumper grill. They could come in pretty handy during a Without Rule of Law situation..
Horse trailers, cattle trailers and utility trailers are all great survival tools. We use them all the time and I’ve learned how to haul them and back them up too. (It’s pretty hard so it’s a really good thing to learn now rather than later) Most horse trailers are nicer than some people’s homes, plus the added bonus is the ability to travel with your livestock and family under one roof.
Every cowboy knows that a rope is an important tool. Sure they can lasso a cow, but it serves so many other uses that it would be impossible to list. Suffice to say that that’s one thing that you never can have enough of and I’ve been known to use my son’s lariat in a pinch to tie down furniture on the utility trailer.
Hunting is different here versus other states. Deer blinds and corn feeder’s act as bait to lure deer close enough to the house to make an easy kill and butchering process. I used to think that was cheating, but the older you get, the smarter this becomes. A poor man’s lure is an old fashioned salt block. Deer also love my chicken feed.
Ranchers are born entrepreneurs. It’s very tough today to make a living from ranching alone and that has forced most ranchers to have home based businesses. Things I’ve seen them do to make a little side money are selling hay (if you don’t have the equipment, then split the hay fifty-fifty with someone who does).
Selling firewood, cedar logs, tamales, tractor work and tilling gardens is common. Everywhere you look is a small, roadside barbeque stand. Game ranches make serious money allowing the paying public to shoot exotic animals that pay a rancher from $500 to over $10,000 per animal.
The women earn extra cash too. Many sell handcrafts, herbs and vegetables at the various farmers markets during the summer. Quilts, antiques, farm fresh eggs and canned goods will always provide pocket change, but some are starting to build and install custom raised beds and set up vegetable gardens for those who lack the time and skills.
Horseback rides at $75/hour per horse is one way for their keep, providing parking in your field for events and tube rentals on the areas many rivers are a fun way to boost a family’s income during the tourist season. The bed and breakfast industry is a thriving business in the picturesque Hill Country. Even a small cabin that rents nightly provides a nice extra income. Some play guitar on an open mike night to help make ends meet.
Ranchers use their bartering skills every day. My brother in-law trades broken industrial equipment given to him from an owner who wants to get rid of the “junk”. He repairs it and then turns around and trades it for boats, cars and especially guns. I’ve seen ranchers lease their grassland property to landless horse/cattle/goat owners for extra cash. Some sell watermelons and other cash crops at roadside stands and many out of the back of a pickup truck. The ideas are endless and all it takes is your imagination.
Foraging for wild food is fun. I’ve learned Texans are serious wild food foragers and last fall had to fight numerous other pickers for the pecan nuts that fell on country roads. My acorn harvest was a bust and I learned not to store them in plastic because they ruin. Prickly pear cactus grows wild here and is highly prized for making jam that has become a Texas tradition.
I want to touch upon food preps just a little. Although I’ve re-learned to can after forgetting this important survival skill my mother taught me as a young girl, one of the best new things I’ve learned is to manage my food storage. The closest grocery store is 32 miles so I now buy my groceries monthly.
Yes, I still run to town for bread and milk after a few weeks, distance has forced me to store at least a months’ worth of food, which is good in case of an emergency. It also cuts down on buying unhealthy processed food, which is a way too easy an option when you are always in a grocery store.
Many older women have taught me a surprise weapon. I’ve been taken aside to enlighten me on their secret recipe: cooking in cast iron pans. Needless to say, I now cook almost exclusively with my own collection of cast iron that you can find in antique stores, garage sales, ranch supply stores and online. My latest acquisition is a cute little cast iron cup with handle that holds 1 ½ cups, which is just right for melting butter for corn on the cob.
Learn to cut out the poison. Less toxic, processed food means more scratch cooking, which is a must learn skill. Even if you think you can’t, just try a few things and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to make food staples like homemade pancakes, biscuits and jam. Now if only I can improve my aim and shoot a deer! But like any country gal, I did the next best thing which is to learn how to process a deer.
You just gotta love chickens. Although my family are cattle ranchers, without a doubt, chickens are the easiest livestock to begin with and just about every small town in Texas allows homeowners chickens. Remember you don’t need a rooster for eggs, only if you want baby chicks. Don’t forget to buy non-GMO feed and free range chickens are always best. Now if only I can train them to lay eggs exactly where I can find them…
Texas women are natural born preppers. They love their bling. Gold, diamonds, silver, you name it they wear it and all the time. If SHTF, their bling-bling can be an immediate bartering tool. Camouflage, boots and jeans are the norm here for women and it gives us an edge over business suits, high heels and designer clothes that aren’t made to last.
Living in the country does have responsibilities. Most people I know are first responders and are volunteer fireman. If you can’t afford the expensive communications devices, in exchange for your time each town outfits their guys with the latest and greatest gear. Learning CPR and other medical know-how is the icing on the cake and it’s typically free. Walkie-talkies are useful around home and gives you peach of mind having constant contact with the kids. (Remember that cell phone service doesn’t always work in the country.)
Smart ranchers use what nature gives them. Many an old timer has converted their cow manure into liquid fertilizer to boost their hay field production. That’s a big deal when large round bales sell upwards of $100 dollars a bale. I always ask my kids when we pass a freshly baled hay field “Now how much money is sitting in that field?” Their answers are jaw dropping.
I know that without living in Texas I would never have been exposed to so many ways to ranch and homestead. I read this article to my children who have been raised in Texas and they both said “Mom that’s not a story about prepping, that’s just the way Texans live.” Out of the mouths of babes.
The education I’ve been given by the cowboys, ranchers and farmers who live here has shaped the person I am and my children as well. And we’re better for it. God bless America, God bless Texas and God bless all Patriots keeping the faith.