The McNeills' SR Ranch
100 Years in Blanco Canyon
Texas History - Ranching
6 x 9, 224 pp.
30 b&w photos.
Pub Date: 12/01/1988
Centennial Series of the Association of Former Students, Texas A&M University
Price:        $24.95


Published by Texas A&M University Press

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The McNeills' SR Ranch

100 Years in Blanco Canyon

By J. C. "Cap" McNeill III
Foreword by David J. Murrah

“Wife,” one longtime resident of Blanco Canyon was overheard sighing, “we’ve spent most of our forty years here just waiting for a rain!” Blanco Canyon, on the edge of West Texas’ Cap Rock, is a land of charm and brutality, generosity and denial, exquisite beauty after a rain and harsh death when the rains don’t come. It is a land where over a hundred years ago one Captain J. C. McNeill started a cattle ranch in the mistaken hope that range and weather conditions then prevailing would continue. It is a land where his descendants still raise cattle, but with full knowledge now that any good years will have to carry them through some lean ones too.

The story of Texas cattle raising has been told from the perspective of the big ranches. Here it is told as seen through the eyes of a small landholder and his family.

J. C. “Cap” McNeill III was born on the SR Ranch in 1905, grandson and namesake of the ranch’s founder. His memories and family stories provide anecdotes that show the region’s way of life over the last century. From unusually full files of early-day correspondence and his own experience he culls the essence of the cattle business as it has been successfully practiced through changing conditions and times by one family. The economic hardships that have periodically assailed area ranchers are vividly described and incisively analyzed.

The hardiness, intelligence, and gentle humor of a native who knows both his business and his roots paint a picture of ranch life as it has been known by few whose families did not similarly persevere on rugged land.

J. C. “Cap” McNeill III was born in 1905 on the Crosby County ranch his grandfather had bought in the 1870s. He spent most of his professional life managing the ranch until his retirement in 1983. He now lives in Kerrville, Texas.

What Readers Are Saying:

“A well-told history of a family-owned ranch in the area adjacent to the Llano Estacado or “Staked Plains” of West Texas. The SR Ranch, located in Blanco Canyon, is one of the extremely few ranches to remain in the same family for more than a century. The story surrounding its founding is related here, as is the ensuing struggles that the family faced to survive the devastation of winters, draughts, and downturns in the cattle business. The author, grandson of the founder, was born on the ranch and experienced most of its history firsthand. His search through old letters and records, combined with his ability as both writer and historian, have resulted in one of the better books on family ranching in Texas. Illustrated with photographs from the collections of the McNeill family and relatives.” --Booklist

“This is a story of dogged endurance, economic hardship and optimism. . . . Western buffs will find it satisfying.” --Publishers Weekly

“Those tied to the ranching life will surely already have this book in their hands; those who know little of it will enjoy being edified; and for today’s youngsters, histories like his, of families who made their living on the land, should be required reading.” --Judyth Rigler, Texas Books

“The author has made a significant and lasting contribution to the history of small Texas ranching. His style is unpretentious, frank, and intimate. . . . Libraries with collections of Texana, Western Americana, ranching history, and agribusiness will want to add this work.” --Texas Books in Review

“The McNeills’ SR Ranch is a `place’ to be sure—part of a larger landscape and environment situated in the rugged Cap Rock country of the llano estacado in west Texas, along the White River and the caliched, rimrocked depression called Blanco Canyon. The McNeill Ranch is also a family and its history. J. C. McNeill, as a descendant of that hardy family and a person whose very birthright and blood bear the imprint of the SR Ranch and its evolution, offers here a loyal-Texan account of how he, his family, and their Blanco Canyon home in the West came to be. That history is a microcosm of the Old West becoming New—Lone Star style. As a miniature of the larger Wests of Texas, the Southwest and other points beyond the ninety-eighth meridian, and of the prices and rewards of generations of McNeills living before and beyond the supposed closing of the frontier, ‘Cap’ McNeill III gives garrulous, flesh-and-blood documentation—much beyond the pitfalls of footnotes and bibliographical citations—of the simultaneously changing and constant heritage and promise of the modern West. One hundred and seven years after its founding by Captain J. C. McNeill, the SR Ranch survives as a working cattle ranch, despite blizzards, droughts, and record rainfalls. The photos of the ranchers and their horses—Goober, Rusty, and Long John, add to the big-as-all Texas texture. If any book could chronicle the human reality behind the West, this one does.” --The Bloomsbury Review

“The longevity of the SR Ranch makes its history significant. ‘Cap’ McNeill III has done a remarkable job of blending ranch scholarship, personal reminiscences, and archival materials to create a highly entertaining, frequently moving, exceptionally informative personal ranch history recalling and rivaling Frank Hasting’s classic A Ranchman’s Recollections. The inclusion of a photograph on every third or fourth page is particularly effective and adds to the appeal of the book by giving it the immediacy of an oral history performance. Topics range from cowboying to cattle management, dugouts to ranch homes, life to death—and all of it is told with a keen sense of humor by a native with historic perspective.” --Western Historical Quarterly

“This book is filled with details of family life with many hair-raising experiences. Since the author . . . has developed a writing skill, his tale is a true story of the rigors of western Texas life that often sounds like fiction.” --McAllen Monitor

“Gracefully written . . . a welcome addition to recent studies concerned with Texas ranch history.” --New Mexico Historical Review


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