Paying to stay in the ranching business
By Stephanie Parker
Postert Ranch continues its 100 year + ag legacy
Jacob Postert, the son of Prussian immigrants, worked ranchland along the Medina River, eventually saving enough money to purchase a total of 1,520 acres. Jacob, his wife Magdalena and their five children worked hard to clear the land and build sheep and cattle barriers. With brush barriers, rails and stone, the hard-working family built miles of fences. They planted corn, oats, cane and vegetables. They harvested pecans and raised livestock. Their first home was in the upstairs of the horse barn. During Indian attacks, the family sheltered in a cellar beneath the barn.
Once established on the land, Jacob Postert built a rock house with an impressive chimney. The house, as other Polish houses of the time, faced south to take advantage of the cool summer breeze.
After Magdalena died, Jacob remarried. He and Mary Knapick had seven children. The family found sustenance in their faith, attending church regularly. Joseph and his sons helped carry rock for St. Stanislaus Church with their team of oxen. After the ranch was divided between surviving children, 300 acres remained in the Postert Ranch.
The original rock house was dismantled several years ago. Velma Postert,79, keeps an original oil painting of the old homestead house hanging on the wall in her living room. Velma retired from Southwestern Bell Telephone in 1963, then spent years working at Seller’s Drug Store-now Shoe Biz. It might be misleading to call her retired. As she explained, she works cattle.
“I drive around and see that the cattle have water and that they are all in the pasture and all up on four feet. I stay pretty busy. During drought times, we have to really watch to see that the cattle don’t cross the river and get out of the pasture. I don’t lift the feed bags and hay bales like I used to, but I love ranching. All the cattle have names. They’re my pets.
“I thank the Good Lord for giving me good health. I love it here on the ranch. I don’t go to town unless I have too. I like to sit on the back porch and feed the birds and the deer and the squirrels.”
The Postert Ranch is now owned jointly by Doug Postert, older brother Edward Postert and Roy Postert, the son of the late James Postert who died in 2004. Doug, Edward and Velma are in the cattle business together. “It doesn’t support anyone,” Doug explained. “We all have outside jobs. You can’t raise enough cattle to make money unless you have a big place. We just hope to pay the taxes with them every year. We didn’t make enough last year to do that and we won’t this year. In drought years, it takes supplemental feeding. We have 25 head. We raise the calves up to between 450 and 500 pounds, then take them to market.
“Edward Bernard Postert made a living off the ranch. He sold livestock and raised tomatoes and hay. But these days, to support all that work, it takes too many people.”
Doug has just retired from the TABC after “27 years and four months.” His older brother Edward has a home on the ranch but his job takes him around the country to job construction sites. Roy Postert works for Southwest Research. The late Jimmy Postert was a deputy sheriff.
At one time, goats roamed the Postert ranch along with cattle. Predators-in the form of loose dogs from town-rendered goat raising unprofitable. “When Father was alive,” Doug explained, “one dog raid killed 38 goats in one night.’’
Ranching, Doug added, “is a tradition. It kind of gets thrust upon you. You have to have an ag or wildlife exemption to be able to afford the taxes. You can’t make money on a small place like this. We can’t sell the ranch. It’s home for all of us and for all the nieces and nephews and their husbands and wives. They come out here to hunt. I’d be kicked out of the family if I did sell it.”
So profitable or not, after 131 years, the Postert family continues the tradition of Texas Hill Country ranching. One might say, they pay to stay.