The 30-Inch Rainfall Line
“Texas is heaven for men and dogs, but hell for women and children”. (unknown author)
Every second generation Texan knows about the 30-Inch Rainfall Line, and you can rest assured those early pioneers knew about it too! It separated “cattle country” from “farm country”. Crops require more water than Longhorns --- at least 30 inches of rain annually. But it also means something more than just rain.
Referring to the map, draw an imaginary line from Cooke County in the north, down through the highlighted counties in between, to Dimmit County in the south. That region to the east of the line was farm country, fertile soil and plenty of timber. You will notice on the map the irregular shape of those counties to the East of the line. This was due to the boundaries of those counties being determined by creeks and rivers. Now look at those counties to the West of the line.
To the west was cattle country, and the landscape changes dramatically the further you travel in that direction first to semi-arid, and then to a “John Wayne movie” desert --- scrub brush, cactus, red caliche clay sand, and rattlesnakes. But even then, it wasn’t cattle country until after the Civil War.
That same imaginary line also indicates roughly the extreme limit of westward Anglo settlement in Texas, up to 1860. Everything to the West was “Indian Country”. During the Civil War, with every able-bodied man away fighting “Yankees”, the Red man was not slow in taking advantage of circumstances. Bloody raids pushed the Texas frontier back eastward a full hundred miles between 1861-1865, particularly in those northernmost counties that bordered the Indian Territory (which included Fannin County). Women and children left behind were forced to “fort up”, to gather in the most stoutly built house or cabin seeking safety in numbers, and literally endure a four-year long siege. By the time the men came home from the war, they discovered their women-folk could now shoot every bit as straight as they could. The women of Texas were a special breed all their own, and don’t get half the credit they deserve.
The 30-Inch Rainfall Line now generally follows Interstate Highway 35. The seats of those counties highlighted on the map are:
Cooke County = Gainesville Tarrant County = Fort Worth McLennan County = Waco
Travis County = Austin Bexar (pronounced “Bay-are”) County = San Antonio