Sixty Years on Hinds Ranch

The following is the greater part of a letter written to Glenna W. Dean by the late Carrol W. Hinds in 1977 in response to questions she had asked him regarding the vegetation and soil cover of Hinds Ranch as he remembered them being during his boyhood. The Hinds family has been in Val Verde County since 1900, and Mr. Hinds has been an observer of the conditions on Hinds Ranch from the day his father bought the land in 1916 and the early 1920s.

1st General Condition of surface in the past compared to now. 2nd Type and comparison of plants then and now.

Soil: In my opinion 50 to 90% of the thin top soil is gone, compared to when I was a boy 40 to 60 years ago. The soil was in the main, very thin but enough to cover the rocks which had not been disturbed and were closely placed and covered with this thin soil.

a) In the higher land were small pockets or areas of deeper soil that has been eroded away but the larger and more level spots of deeper soil is still intact to a great extent except where man has added permanent water or other changes that had a tendency to cause a greater con­centration of livestock. In that case in most instances erosion of top soil has been extensive.

b) On the slopes, with the abuse of domestic stock and heavy rains, the soil and soil-rock conglomerate has deteriorated to a vast extent. For example, I remember many hill-side locations where one could parallel the can­yons and hill on a horse or mule, that now one cannot go on foot. Some of them cannot be negotiated by fleet-footed sheep or goats.

c) On the bottom land (bottom of canyons), narrow as they are, at one time, 50% was covered with rich bottom soil. Now these canyons are bare solid rock and creek rock some gravel and sand. These canyons had no gravel and sand before 1954 a year of tremendous flooding ( Pecos River at mouth of Lewis [Canyon] was 103’ above natural flow).

d) The River bottom--the width was narrow as it is now but the water ran between two strips of rich sandy loam that was mostly covered with bermuda and other grasses along with cock1eburrs and other high weeds; very few trees -- some mesquite, (red-berry-hackberry), granhenyo, live oak, persimmon, grape vines and other brush.

Plants: Top Country [Uplands]-- this location had 50% or 75% less brush than it now has, with a predominance of a dif­ferent type of brush. The larger trees were thickets of persimmons, shin oak and shumack. Other valuable trees were kidney tree, juajillo, and many small shrubs that were edible to livestock and have disappeared under heavy grazing. The hill sides, that had a gentler slope, were covered with sotol plant and a goodly part of both top and. slopes where the soil was thin was covered with oco­tillo. On this top country and sloping hill sides all types of cactus plants could be found but they were not in the majority. The country had more soto1 than any other big plant. The sotol was cut with an ax and fed to livestock. After the head was cut out of the main plant a sprout would return but the livestock would pull this sprout and cause the soto1 plant to die. This coun­try (top and sloping hills) was covered with tangle-head-needlegrass, various kinds of grama grass (side-oats, blue, hairy, Texas, chino and others), Indian grass, taboso, buffalo, mesquite, vine mesquite, and others.

Plants in the bottom country (canyons) were mostly live oak, persimmon, walnuts, grape vines, coffeebean, kidney brush and others. (The soil and the trees have all wasted away). Very few of the trees are left.

I have already covered the plants in the River Bottom.

I believe this is about as good as I can do. This is my recollection in this vicinity, from the time that I was 5 to 10 years old until 66 years old. (1977).

Carrol W. Hinds

12 December 1977

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