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  • Texas | Columns | "It's All Trew"

    Some fight mesquite,
    others find use for it

    by Delbert Trew
    Delbert Trew
    Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was almost no mesquite in the Panhandle of Texas. When reading about the old-time cattle drives from South Texas to Dodge City and other railroad delivery points, mesquite was seldom mentioned. In fact most chuckwagons had coozy hides swung under the wagon bed in which to toss sticks and cow chips for campfires. Another theory suggests those same cattle coming from the south brought the mesquite to the area.

    Mesquite bean history has many sidenotes. Apache Indians often fed their horses mesquite beans as a feed supplement. Yet ranchers in heavy mesquite country today often have to pen their horses away from the beans as some animals become impacted.

    I once read about an ancient clay pot granary filled with mesquite beans found in old Indian ruins. A few of the beans were planted and sprouted immediately. Another mystery is why some beans dropped on the prairie sprout quickly and others lay for months or years before sprouting? A clue to the answer came when observers noticed beans eaten by animals like cattle, deer or coyotes, then ejected, sprouted while beans dropped from trees did not sprout.

    I once experimented with mature mesquite beans plucked from a tree. I planted some in a cup of dirt, watered and placed the cup into the window sun. No sprouting occurred. I then fried some in a skillet for a few minutes and placed others into the deep freeze for a few days. When planted, each seed sprouted immediately.

    For centuries those who live in mesquite country have wondered why some years there are large bean crops and other years, beans are sparse? The heat, weather and amounts of rain received seemed to have no set pattern. An old timer may have found the answer with a bit of common sense. To form a bean, there has to be a bloom sometime early in the spring. If by chance there are severe storms, high winds or a bit of hail while the blooms are forming, the numbers of surviving blooms may be few thus producing less beans.

    Many believe the only use for mesquite is that its roots often deter erosion. I once dug a large mesquite bush out with my backhoe. When I flung it aside one root was still in the ground. I kept pulling, and that root measured more than 18 feet in length.

    Others say the mesquite was put here by God and for a reason this long hot summer, and the theory of global warming may prove the theory of that reason. Research at an agricultural experiment station shows the temperature beneath a mesquite tree umbrella can drop from 3 to 10 degrees, depending on the density of the shadow and speed of breeze. Watch the animals. In the heat of the day almost all will be under the shade, especially the dark-colored animals.

    Mesquite has happened. It will continue. Some will fight it while others sit and complain. I have proved I can control and live with it and even use its shade to my advantage.

    Delbert Trew -
    November 16, 2011 column
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    "It's All Trew"
    Delbert Trew is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He can be reached at 806-779-3164, by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by email at trewblue@centramedia.net. For books see delberttrew.com. His column appears weekly.

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