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Praying for rain: Rancher resolute despite weather

by WES FERGUSON

The rain will either fall or it won’t. Nothing Rudy Cisneros can do about that.

“Some say drought, others say flood,” said Cisneros, a local rancher. “You can’t predict it. We’ll still do what we always do.”

Rudy Cisneros runs cattle and horses on about 1,000 acres he leases east of Kyle in addition to 50 acres his family owns. With the prospect of another drought looming, Cisneros says there’s no use worrying about it. “There ain’t nothing we can do about it. It’s just part of it,” he said. PHOTO by WES FERGUSON

What he always does is run cattle, grow hay, mend fences, tend horses, battle mesquite and keep up with everything else that goes into ranch life in the Kyle area.

Two or three inches of rain would help a lot, he said.

“Right now, you go look at the pastures, and there ain’t no grass,” he said. “As far as predicting the weather,” he added, “I have no idea. We’ll plant the seed in the ground and pray for rain. That’s all you can do.”

After letting out his horses to graze on Monday morning, Cisneros sat down to talk for a few minutes in a folding chair behind his barn. He wore a cowboy hat, black sunglasses and a thick goatee.

The Cisneros spread is a few miles east of town, at the end of a gravel road just off Ranch Road 150. He’s been running cattle since 1975, and his family owns around 50 acres and leases an additional 1,000 acres.

“At one time, we had 2,000, but I’ve seen a lot of it go up in houses,” he said, pointing out a new subdivision that is visible to the northwest of his home place. Another 400 acres to his east sold not too long ago. As
Kyle’s population has swelled and pushed out into the surrounding countryside, prime ranch land is being swallowed up every year.

“There ain’t nothing we can do about it,” he said. “It’s just part of it.”

Some of the land that Cisneros leases is already owned by developers. As long as Cisneros is farming and ranching on the property, the developers enjoy agricultural exemptions that lower their annual tax bills. It’s only a matter of time, though, before that land gives way to new homes as well.

“They didn’t buy this land for Rudy to keep cows on it,” Cisneros said, chuckling. “At some point it will be developed for homes.”

Cisneros’ own property isn’t for sale. His family has ties to the land that go back generations. The property once belonged to a German settler who was the first farmer in the area to own a tractor. Cisneros’ ancestors worked for the German.

“My ancestors were raised on this place,” he said.

Today, several remnants of the old settlement remain. There is an old blacksmith’s shop where Cisneros keeps his lawnmower, a smokehouse, a deep well and a rock cellar where the old German’s mansion once stood. The mansion was torn down before Cisneros, his uncle and father bought the place in 1975.

Cisneros’ father and uncle owned a barbershop in Kyle. His grandfather sheared sheep and cut firewood for a living.

“As a kid I remember going to ranches with my granddaddy, and I always had love for that,” he said.

This spring, with the help of his relatives, Cisneros is getting ready to plow and plant 60 acres of sudan grass for hay. With the right fertilizer and the right rain, he can get three cuttings from his hay fields during each growing season. But in the past few dry years, he said, he has been able to bale less than half that amount.

“I had saved plenty of hay from years back, and with the hay I had and the little bit I bought, we was able to make it through” the most recent drought, he said. “I think I’ve still got enough hay to carry myself another year or so.”

People have offered to buy his land, he said, but he’s happy where he is.
“What you see I built with my own two hands,” he said. “I hope I never have to sell it. After I’m dead and gone, my boys can do whatever they want with it.”

Cisneros laughed.

“More than likely, they’ll run a little cattle on it,” he continued. “It’s in their blood, how they were raised. I don’t think they’d be happy without it.”

WES FERGUSON reports for the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Free Press and the San Marcos Mercury.

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