The Worst Hard Time

The Worst Hard Time

by

Timothy Egan

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XIT Ranch Symbol Analysis

XIT Ranch Symbol Icon

The XIT ranch was the fulfillment of General Philip Sheridan’s vision of a land where the cowboy would dominate as an exemplar of an advanced civilization. However, the cowboy of Sheridan’s dreams would also be displaced and left to roam on the prairie, like the Comanche who initially held the ranch lands in the aftermath of the wheat boom, wondering what had happened to the land they once knew. The XIT ranch is thus a symbol of both socioeconomic change and the defeat of humanity in the face of nature. It is a land that, at various points in history, provided bison for Southwestern tribes, cattle-grazing lands for cowboys, and parcels of land to ambitious wheat farmers. No one was able to bend the land completely to their will, though each group that possessed it sought to determine the ranch land’s “natural” use. The ranch endured several phases of civilization, none of which endured.

XIT Ranch Quotes in The Worst Hard Time

The The Worst Hard Time quotes below all refer to the symbol of XIT Ranch. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Westward Expansion and the Settlement of the Southern Plains Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the First Mariner edition of The Worst Hard Time published in 2006.
Chapter 1 Quotes

The C-note was Uncle Dick’s heater, his blanket. As a child, Dick Coon’s family was often broke. The corrosive poverty hurt so much it defined the rest of his life. As long as Uncle Dick could touch his C-note, he had no fear in life. And he had certainly known fear. Dick Coon was fortunate to live through the Galveston hurricane of 1900, the worst single natural disaster in American history. He lost everything in Galveston but was never bitter. His life had been spared, while six thousand people lost theirs. Dick Coon didn’t plan on getting rich in Dalhart; didn’t even plan on staying in the High Plains. In 1902, he had been passing through Dalhart, making a train connection to Houston, when he fell under the spell of one of the syndicate’s real estate agents. He heard enough to buy his own piece of the old XIT […] but the real money was in town building.

Related Characters: “Uncle” Dick Coon
Related Symbols: XIT Ranch
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 23 Quotes

A few days later, Uncle Dick was leaning against a rail in front of the DeSoto when he spotted a young cowboy and his family drifting through town. For five years now, Dick had watched a steady parade of jalopies and wagons float through Dalhart, the people staying only a night or two, and then moving on to some place where there might be work or stable land [….] The cowboy had wandered into town with the XIT reunion [….] Uncle Dick reached into his pocket and pulled out his hundred-dollar bill. He handed the money to the cowboy, told him to take it—it was his. The young man was stunned [….] Later, when the cowboy asked around about his benefactor, people told him it was Dick Coon, the richest man in town. He owned everything. But they were surprised to see him give up the C-note [….] Only Coon’s closest friends knew the truth: Uncle Dick was broke.

Related Characters: “Uncle” Dick Coon
Related Symbols: XIT Ranch
Page Number: 277-278
Explanation and Analysis:
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XIT Ranch Symbol Timeline in The Worst Hard Time

The timeline below shows where the symbol XIT Ranch appears in The Worst Hard Time. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The Wanderer
Westward Expansion and the Settlement of the Southern Plains Theme Icon
Anglo Culture and Racism Theme Icon
The White family arrived at the XIT ranch—a place that Bam White had heard stories about all his life. It was part... (full context)
Westward Expansion and the Settlement of the Southern Plains Theme Icon
Anglo Culture and Racism Theme Icon
Profits from the XIT ranch had built the state capitol—"the biggest statehouse in the union, a palace of polished... (full context)
Westward Expansion and the Settlement of the Southern Plains Theme Icon
Anglo Culture and Racism Theme Icon
Most of the XIT ranch was located in the middle of the Llano Estacado. The syndicate filled the prairie... (full context)
Westward Expansion and the Settlement of the Southern Plains Theme Icon
Anglo Culture and Racism Theme Icon
No gambling, drinking, or shooting without permission was allowed on the XIT ranch. Outside of the ranch’s fence posts, things were completely the opposite. Though things were... (full context)
Westward Expansion and the Settlement of the Southern Plains Theme Icon
Anglo Culture and Racism Theme Icon
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
Ranch hands on the XIT found the farming advice absurd, and thought that the farming demos were “a scam.” The... (full context)
Westward Expansion and the Settlement of the Southern Plains Theme Icon
Anglo Culture and Racism Theme Icon
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
...back lived a shadowed existence” and “dressed like whites.” Dalhart had no history before the XIT ranch. Though the white nesters were basically refugees, the local newspaper, the Dalhart Texan, described... (full context)
Chapter 2: No Man's Land
Westward Expansion and the Settlement of the Southern Plains Theme Icon
Anglo Culture and Racism Theme Icon
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
...Her father, William Carlyle, had chosen the land because it was free, whereas the old XIT ranch property could cost up to “$10,000 for a half-section.” By 1910, more than half... (full context)
Westward Expansion and the Settlement of the Southern Plains Theme Icon
Anglo Culture and Racism Theme Icon
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
...take a look at No Man’s Land, just as the realtors selling bits of the XIT ranch had. In 1915, William Carlyle made a dugout and “started plowing the grass on... (full context)
Chapter 14: Showdown in Dalhart
Westward Expansion and the Settlement of the Southern Plains Theme Icon
Anglo Culture and Racism Theme Icon
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
...hides and worked odd jobs. Otherwise, he spent much of his time talking with old XIT cowboys. He also spent time talking to the James boys. Andy James’s heart was still... (full context)
Chapter 17: A Call to Arms
Westward Expansion and the Settlement of the Southern Plains Theme Icon
...like-minded nesters said, they would not leave the land. The first signatory was a former XIT trail boss. “Uncle” Dick Coon was the second man to sign his name next to... (full context)
Chapter 20: The Saddest Land
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
...blame careless agriculture for the wreckage of the plains. Hugh Bennett and cowboys on the XIT had offered similar messages. Doc Dawson’s youngest son, John, shared their view. He left Dalhart... (full context)
Chapter 23: The Last Men
Anglo Culture and Racism Theme Icon
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
...about his father. Melt was proud of his dad. Furthermore, Bam, Andy James, and the XIT cowboys knew they were right; the nesters had destroyed the grass without caring what it... (full context)
Economic Hardship and Lessons of the Great Depression Theme Icon
...He used the last of his money to throw a barbecue with all of the XIT cowboys. While standing outside of the DeSoto, he spotted a young cowboy down on his... (full context)
Anglo Culture and Racism Theme Icon
Economic Hardship and Lessons of the Great Depression Theme Icon
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
...said his stomach was killing him. On Monday, he died. Bam was buried near the XIT and a small service was held. He had never been asked to join the Last... (full context)
Epilogue
The City vs. the Country Theme Icon
...its heyday population. At the entrance to the town is a monument dedicated to the XIT cowboys, and every year, the town holds a celebration in their memory. John McCarty never... (full context)