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West of Notrees
West Texas is a vernacular term applied to a region in the southwestern quadrant of the United States that primarily encompasses the arid and semiarid lands in the western portion of the state of Texas.
There is a general lack of consensus regarding the boundaries that separate East and West Texas. Walter Prescott Webb, the American historian and geographer, suggested the 98th meridian separates East and West Texas. The Texas writer A.C. Greene proposed that West Texas extends west of the Brazos River. Perhaps, the truth is no distinct line separates them. Rather, some places are clearly in West Texas and some are clearly in East Texas, and then some fall within a transitional zone between these two regions.
West Texas is often subdivided according to distinct physiographic features. The portion of West Texas that lies west of the Pecos River is often referred to as "Far West Texas" or the "Trans-Pecos", a term first introduced in 1887 by the Texas geologist Robert T. Hill. The Trans-Pecos lies within the Chihuahuan Desert, the most arid portion of the state. Another important subdivision of West Texas is the Llano Estacado, a vast region of high, level plains extending into Eastern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle. To the east of the Llano Estacado lies the “redbed country” of the Rolling Plains and to the south of the Llano Estacado lies the Edwards Plateau. The Rolling Plains and the Edwards Plateau subregions act as transitional zones between East and West Texas.
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West Texas has a much lower population density than the rest of the state. It was once mostly inhabited by nomadic Native American tribes, such as the Apache, Comanche, and Kiowa, and was chiefly within the countryside called Comancheria until after the Civil War. During this period Texan settlers grouped themselves into fortified cabins, block houses and other encampments historically common to their long experience of frontier life since the Colonial American period and even prior to their ancestral homes in the Old World. This period was marked with savage war waged by the Indians, including great raiding attacks deep into Texas and Mexico where they pillaged supplies, captured white women and children, and gained additional adherents from non-aligned Indian clans. In reply, the US Army and frontier Texans, in particular the Texas Ranger companies launched retaliatory raids and search and rescue operations to find hostages held by the Indians.
During the later 19th century the growing population of Americans and the end of the Civil War brought more Americans into an area long challenged by the Commanche and their allies. This period of time was marked by the final mapping and geographical intelligence collection of a denied area held by hostile Indian tribes. In turn, the Commanche way of war and reached its possible zenith having either subjugated or defeated the other Indian clans and what remained of Mexicans in the area. In contrast, the continued support by the US government of Americans settlement as well as the ferocious martial ability of the Texans had given the whites a demographic advantage. The subsequent decades of the 19th century saw the Texans and their Texan Rangers in association with the US Army smash terrorizing Commanche war bands, recover whites held by the Indians, and break up the economic powe of the Commanche. By the end of the 19th century West Texas had been pacified of hostile Indians leaving its turbulent history to what remained of outlaw Texans and people such as Judge Roy Bean.
With the defeat of the Commanche and their allies and their removal upon demand by Texas from the state, the area was principally settled by Texans and those from the South. These decades marked the last great cattle drives, the final zenith of American cowboys, small farmers and ranchers battling sheepherders, and Populist Farmers' Alliance.
During the early 20th century, although the economic system became increasingly disfavorable for small farming and ranching, the region saw continued economic growth and settlement through a burst of oil booms, and final agricultural wealth as a result of demands arising from World War One. The subsequent years saw another period of demographic chaos as Mexican bandit attacks once again became commonplace reaching an apex into the 1920s as a result of the Mexican Revolution and resultant refugee crisis. The Great Depression caused additional economic losses, further rural population loss, and paradoxical increases in Mexican settlement as the remaining large landowners sought to maintain their profits by exploiting Mexican cheap labor. This continuing socio-economic trends resulted in the region having an even mix of Mexican-American and American communities of the modern day. As a result of this historical development, many Mexican-Americans still have close family ties in Mexico. Of American settlers, during the frontier migration era, the vast majority were either East Texans or other Southerners going west for new opportunities. In the far northern panhandle area of West Texas, there are also strong influences from the lower Midwest.
West Texas receives much less rainfall than the rest of Texas and has an arid or semiarid climate, requiring most of its scant agriculture to be heavily dependent on irrigation. This irrigation, and water taken out farther north for the needs of El Paso and Juarez, Mexico, has reduced the once mighty Rio Grande to a stream in some places, even dry at times. Much of West Texas has rugged terrain, including many small mountain ranges while there are none in other parts of the state.
The area is known for its conservative politics, except for the El Paso area. Some of the most heavily Republican counties in the United States are located in the region. Former President George W. Bush spent most of his childhood in West Texas. This region was one of the first areas of Texas to abandon its "Solid South" Democratic roots; some counties have not supported a Democrat for president since 1948.
Major industries include livestock, petroleum and natural gas production, textiles such as cotton, grain and because of very large military installations like Fort Bliss, the defense industry. West Texas has become notable for its numerous wind turbines producing clean, alternative electricity.
Pumpjacks, like this one south of Midland, are a common sight in West Texas oil fields.
Irrigated agriculture in West Texas
Cities and towns of West Texas
|Region Rank||City||2012 Census Estimates Population||State Rank||County|
|1||El Paso||672,538||6||El Paso County|
|6||San Angelo||95,887||37||Tom Green County|
|8||Socorro||32,013||77||El Paso County|
|9||Big Spring||27,282||104||Howard County|
|10||Horizon City||16,735||128||El Paso County|
Some of the smaller West Texas cities and towns include: Alpine, Andrews, Anthony, Brownfield, Canutillo, Canyon, Crane, Fabens, Fort Bliss, San Elizario, Fort Stockton, Hale Center, Iraan, Kermit, Lamesa, Levelland, Littlefield, Marfa, McCamey, Mertzon, Monahans, Ozona, Pampa, Pecos, Plainview, Post, Rankin, Seminole, Slaton, Snyder, Sweetwater, and Van Horn, Texas.
- Cochran, M., Lumpkin, J. and Heflin, R. 1999. West Texas: a portrait of its people and their raw and wondrous land. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 176 pp.
- Webb, W.P. 1935. The Texas Rangers: a century of frontier defense. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 583 pp.
- Greene, A.C. 1998. Sketches from the five states of Texas. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 176 pp.
- Hill, R.T. 1887. The topography and geology of the Cross Timbers and surrounding regions in Northern Texas. The American Journal of Science, 3rd Series, 33:291-303.