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      Nature Report - Remembering Vaqueros

      More than 250 years ago vaqueros, predecessors of modern cowboys roamed the vast expanses of prairie in what is now southernmost Texas. Spanish settlers brought cattle to the New World in the 1600s, but it was not until 1746 with the settlements of Jose Escandon that cattle ranching began northward along the lower reaches of the Rio Grande. The great cattle drives following the Civil War originated in South Texas as vaqueros began rounding up longhorns and the legend of the cowboy was born. During this era, more than 100,000 head of King Ranch cattle headed up the trail to northern markets. King Ranch, today covering 825,000 acres in Deep South Texas, continues to be a thriving cattle ranch.

      Nestled deep within the coastal Norias division of the fabled ranch is a hidden valley surrounded by sand dunes and towering oak motts, which form a natural corral for rounding up cattle. Forgotten by most, the secluded valley is rarely visited, but fourth generation King Ranch cowboy Marty Alegria knows its history well. King Ranch Cowboy Marty Alegria, "This is your plan Augustine. The cowboys from Norias used to get the cattle here and put them in this Valley, and once they got them in this valley they would take them to the pens on horseback." The remote Valley, also home to ancient Indian campgrounds, has a spiritual quality to it, and you can almost visualize the ghosts of horsemen past riding the eternal range.

      Alegria says, "This is|.there is no place like it|that's for sure.