Production designer Cary White remembers Australian director Simon Wincer came to him in pre-production saying, “Hey mate, can you draw me a map of sorts so I’ll know where these bloody places are?” The colored lines track major story lines and copies of the map hung where everyone could see the relationships.
In the beginning of the story, Jake proposes to round up some cattle to take to Montana where they can make their fortune in a place that has tall grass and plenty of water. Cattle drives were being pushed further west because Western states started outlawing Texas cattle drives due to disease and the disruption of new settlements and farms. Longhorns were immune to a tick fever they carried, but the disease devastated domestic short-horned herds.
Call favors the idea of being the first cattleman to Montana, setting up a ranch and perhaps allowing Newt to run it.
After the cattle exclusion laws, Texas ranchers, in a last ditch effort to preserve the cattle drives with access to federal range proposed a far western route to be reserved from Texas to Montana to be called The National Trail. Congress failed to pass a law in 1886 protecting a federal “highway” for cattle, and the era of long cattle drives ended.