We visited the stockyards in Ft. Worth. Or rather, we visited the Stockyards National Historic District. The Stockyards still have rodeos and cattle drives, so this is one of the few places everyone can get a sense of what cowboy living was like.
More than six million cattle were driven overland from Ft. Worth to Kansas. The cattle were worth about a dollar a head in Texas, but could fetch $40.00 apiece in Kansas City. A dozen cowboys would take 2,500 cattle along the Chisholm Trail. Ft. Worth was the last place to buy supplies before heading through Indian Territory.
On their way back, cowboys would stop in Ft. Worth again to get a bath, sleep in a bed, and have some fun before heading back to the ranch.
When the railroads came through, they provided a new way to transport cattle and the era of the cattle drives ended.
Now, the Stockyards are part of the Texas tourism industry, with lots of shopping and restaurants. But the cowboy spirit is everywhere!
- Visit the Stockyards website for some basic information. Scroll down to watch a video tour. Read about the history of the Ft. Worth Stockyards.
- Check out the Stockyards Museum.
- The Cattle Raisers Museum, part of the Ft. Worth Museum of Science and History, has a quick overview of cattle and ranching over time.
- Ft. Worth is also the home of the National Cowgirl Museum. Check it out! There are some PDF lessons for your cowboy classroom.
- A lesson plan on modern beef production can provide an interesting comparison with cattle drive days. Note that Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri are still the biggest beef producing states.
Beef is an important industry — but is beef good for you or not? There’s a lot of controversy on this question. Challenge students to make up their own minds. In the process, they can learn how to identify bias, distinguish between fact and opinion, and check facts.
- Start by asking students whether they eat beef or not. If so, how much beef do they eat? If students are old enough, you could also include questions about whether they choose lean beef or not. Use a pocket chart to collect the information as a simple bar chart.
- Read an essay that looks at the pros and cons of red meat.
- See nutrition information about beef published by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Could this group be biased? If so, it’s important to check the information. Have students use internet research to confirm or disconfirm the information.
- Read an article from the National Institutes of Health outlining negatives of eating red meat. The NIH is a government organization. Could they be biased against beef?
- Form small groups, giving one of the articles to each group. Ask students to find any examples of biased language or words that are intended to create feelings for or against beef.
As a class, read through the articles and list the facts. Discuss any signs of bias you found. Ask students to decide whether beef is a good nutritional choice. If it’s more complicated than that (maybe some quantity of beef is healthy but some quantity is unhealthy), help students state their views clearly.
Compare the percentage of students who eat beef with the percentage who decided that beef is a healthy choice.