The hundred-year history of the Renderbrook Spade Ranch mirrors the history of ranching in West Texas, tracing ranching’s evolution from an open-range, Longhorn-dominated industry to today’s forward-looking specialized operations which survive by using state-of-the-art technology in genetics, nutrition, marketing and range science. The story is one of slow but steady progress from the horse-and-wagon era to the age of computers, crossbreeding and embryo transplants.
But the Spade is also unique. Its history is strongly tied to the development of barbed wire, that Yankee invention that forever changed the face of ranching in Texas. Established as an investment for earnings that barbed wire had brought to Illinois farmer-entrepreneur Isaac Ellwood, the ranch still belongs to Ellwood descendents. It is one of the few begun during the period between the Civil War and the turn of the century that remains in family hands by the 1980s.
In his foreword to this lively and fascinating history of a ranch and the people who made it, Elmer Kelton writes “That [the Spade] continues into a second century under the same family’s ownership is a tribute to that family and to the many loyal employees whose labor, intelligence and devotion have kept it afloat during drouths and depressions that brought ruin to many similar ranches.”