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’Live oaks and friendly folks’ Find both in the ’Birthplace of the Cowboy’

’Live oaks and friendly folks’  Find both in the ’Birthplace of the Cowboy’
HARRY & LINDA KAYE PEREZ Ropes, saddles, and other everyday tools of the cowboy’s trade tell the tale of hard work on the cattle trail, part of the exhibits in the Longhorn Museum in Pleasanton.

“Live Oaks and Friendly Folks” that’s the motto of Pleasanton, Texas, also known as the Birthplace of the Cowboy. You have to go back over five centuries to understand the how and the why of this title.

Back in the day

In 1493, Spanish settlers accompanying Christopher Columbus to the Antilles Islands brought with them a few long-horned Iberian cattle, what we know today as the Longhorn. In the 16th and 17th centuries, some of these animals made their way to the east coast of Mexico with those searching for gold; the cattle thrived and propagated profusely. In the 1700s, Franciscan missionaries brought this breed with them as they began to build a chain of missions along the San Antonio River.

It is estimated that by the mid 1800s, between 4 to 6 million head of wild, long-horned cattle could be found on the open ranges in Texas. This attracted many rough and tough boys, and the most skillful horsemen to this area to sign up to work on trail drives. It was reported that in the spring of 1873, more than 43,000 Atascosa County cattle were driven up the Chisholm Trail to the railhead in Kansas City. The average trail drive took three to four months; the cowboys’ average age was 14 to 18. They worked from sun up to sun down and could make $40 per month.

Pleasanton honors its cowboy heritage with a stunning bronze sculpture gifted to the city by Ben and Mona Parker, the original founders of the Longhorn Museum. It stands proudly in front of City Hall directly across the road from a majestic live oak tree. The plaque beneath the statue reads, in part, “In this part of Texas, men first used the techniques of handling cattle on horseback é”. Somewhere along the way, Pleasanton dubbed itself as the Birthplace of the Cowboy.

Longhorn Museum

On S.H. 97, just east of Pleasanton, you will find the Longhorn Museum. This is a large, air-conditioned facility displaying artifacts, documents, portraits, and written excerpts of the history of Atascosa County.

One of the interesting displays is a 175-year-old horse-drawn hearse, donated by Jesse James Akers in 1986. It was once used in the Battle of Flowers Parade in San Antonio as an advertisement for the Roy Akers Funeral Home.

The large banquet hall walls are covered with wildlife game exhibits. Country Western singer Willie Nelson was a disc jockey in Pleasanton in the 1950s. There is a section honoring him, as well.

The museum includes displays of cowboy gear, illustrating how the cowboys lived on the trail, including a chuck wagon. Just in back of the museum is the San Antonio, Uvalde, and Gulf (SAU&G) Train Depot, along with a Union Pacific Caboose from the early days of the railroad in this area.

This museum is funded by the city of Pleasanton, but gladly accepts donations from those who visit. Valerie was our guide, and she was very passionate, as well as knowledgeable, about the artifacts.

This wonderful museum is well worth the drive from LaVernia about 40 miles. Be sure to visit downtown Pleasanton to see the cowboy statue.

Life was tough in those early days of Pleasanton and the young men that came here to work the cattle had to grow up fast if they were to survive.

Oh, the stories that came out of that period are what legends were made of!

Harry and Linda Kaye Perez are freelance writers from just down the road from Floresville. Together they share a passion for traveling and writing, and discovering the very best in all corners of the world. Email them at Harry-Linda411@att.net.

Find out more

Longhorn Museum, 1959 HWY 97 E., Pleasanton, TX 78064; 830-569-6313

Open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for holidays.

Admission by donation.

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