The practice of branding livestock goes back over 4,000 years. In fact, there are biblical references to Jacob marking his livestock in Genesis 30. The practice became widespread throughout many parts of the Old World, particularly Europe. In the Americas, it was the Spaniards who introduced branding of cattle and horses, first to Mexico, and then Mexican vaqueros brought branding to the U.S. by working through Texas.
While a brand signifies ownership, it has come to mean something more. Cowboys loyal to their outfit are said to “Ride for the Brand.” They are proud to associate themselves with the special mark of a brand, and then protect it as if it were their own.
The East Foundation uses two brands that were regularly used by the East family – the Diamond and the Diamond Bar. These brands trace their history over a century. Tom T. East, Sr. registered the Diamond Bar brand in Brooks County on May 16th, 1912. He was 23 years-old and had already begun to establish himself as a South Texas Cowman. Mr. East later registered the Diamond brand in Jim Hogg, Starr, Zapata, Frio, and Webb Counties. Over a period of years from 1913 to 1943, Tom T. East, Sr. used his brand to mark livestock across 400,000 acres of South Texas ranchland.
The East Family was proud of their brand. In fact, the Diamond Bar shows up as an identifying mark throughout the 100 year history of the East Legacy.
Some examples include this saddle rifle pictured to the right. This gun must have ridden many miles next to T.T. East. The Diamond Bar brand is carved on a stock that is worn deep by the scars of many mesquite thorns.
The Diamond Bar was used as a marking for property corners. This example pictured to the right is a 55 gallon drum full of cement, buried on a property corner at the San Antonio Viejo.
Over the years, the East family put their brand on almost everything: it was hand sewn onto shirt pockets; it was marked on the front of books; it was on signs to identify the property; and it was put directly on the middle of their formal dining room china. Cow hands riding for these brands marked tens-of-thousands of cattle with the Diamond and Diamond Bar. These cattle were sent to ranches, feed yards and packing plants throughout the country.
The world has changed over the 100 years that cattle and horses have carried Tom East’s brand. These brands still represent a spirit of independence, a perseverance through hardship, and a commitment to the land. We still ride for the brand.
In 1943, on December 23, while our nation was deep into WWII, the Dean of the School of Agriculture at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas took time to write a letter to Tom T. East, Jr. and Robert C. East.
My dear young Friends:
The first time I met your father, he and I became very close friends. This happened in spite of the fact that he was a typical Texas cowboy and I was what they call a college professor. I valued his friendship and I shall cherish his memory.
I am writing you two young men because heavy responsibility has been placed on your shoulders. I know your mother and I knew your father, and I know that you two young men will meet the test.
The day your father passed away you passed from boyhood to manhood. Be loyal to the memory of your father and protect and take care of your mother. Remember, you will always have a friend in me if at any time you think I can be of service to you.
Sincerely your friend,
E.J. Kyle, Dean
School of Agriculture
E.J. Kyle saw that there was a reputation and heritage that needed to be secured – a “brand” that needed to be protected by the East brothers. It turns out that E.J. Kyle actually knew a little bit about creating and protecting a brand. For it was E.J. Kyle that in 1904 had fenced off a section of campus that he was assigned for agricultural instruction; and then hauled over some bleachers from the Bryan fairgrounds to create a football field with seating capacity of 500 fans to watch the Texas Aggies play football. Kyle Field was born. Over the years, capacity of Kyle Field has grown some (the current seating capacity is 102,500).
Perhaps it was Dean Kyle’s awareness of a brand, and how its reputation and loyalty leads to success, that drove him to reach out to the East brothers as they were grieving the loss of their father. (Note: Edwin Jackson Kyle retired only a few months after he wrote his letter to the East Brothers. He was then appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to serve as the US Ambassador to Guatemala.)