Boomtown: Wild West Texas

In March, we’re airing episodes of Boomtown  a series made by Texas Monthly and Imperative Entertainment. The podcast takes you inside the rugged Permian Basin of West Texas, where roughnecks and billionaire wildcatters are fueling a boom so big it’s reshaping our climate, our economy, and our geopolitics.

The uneasy alliance between ranchers and the oil industry goes all the way back to the early wildcatting days in West Texas. But today, that relationship is more fraught than ever.


Episode 8: Wild West Texas

(Christian Wallace/Texas Monthly)

From Christian Wallace, Boomtown’s host:

If you know where to look, there are pockets of West Texas where visions of the Old West still appear from time to time, like mirages in the heat. I caught a glimpse one Saturday morning last December. Perched atop a pipe fence at the Bullhead Ranch, some forty miles northwest of Odessa, I was scanning the horizon when a white-faced Hereford cow stepped through a thick tangle of mesquite. She was followed by her calf. Seconds later, a herd of rust-colored cattle burst through the brush and came streaming toward me. Guiding the cattle were a dozen cowboys. Most of the men wore chaps and wide-brimmed hats—all were on horseback. The cowboys yipped and hollered as they pushed the herd. The hooves of the animals churned up dust and sent pale clouds streaming into the wide, empty sky. I was staring at a version of West Texas that existed long before oil changed everything.


A half-century before the first oil rigs punched holes across West Texas, scenes like this one were common. Ranching was the area’s primary industry. In this episode of Boomtown, we meet cowboys who still work their ranches on horseback and rural West Texans fighting to maintain their land and way of life, while their ability to make a living off the land gets harder. For them, this boom can be a blessing—and a curse.

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