Ted Turner and The Land Report

This week’s post highlights information from The Land Report’s annual listing of the top 100 Land Owners in the United States which I find fascinating and I hope it interests you as well.

 Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

 Welcome back.  You may have heard that old expression about land that “they’re not making any more” and this week after a recent visit with Eric O’Keefe I found out about some people who have taken that saying to heart.

Eric is the founder and editor of “The Land Report”, a quarterly magazine that is read coast to coast.  Stories about land stewardship and nature make for good reading and the real estate ads for property around the country feature prices that will make you happy to be right where you are.  Once a year it also includes a listing of the top 100 land owners in the country.

The big news that Eric was telling me about will appear in this quarter’s issue which is that Ted Turner is no longer the largest land owner in America.  John Malone, a 70 year old Denver businessman and chairman of Liberty Media, topped Turner’s little over 2,000,000 acres with total holdings of 2,200,000 acres! Eric says that the two are good friends and that Ted not only inspired John to be a good steward of his land but has also encouraged many of the other owners on the top 100 list to be responsible land managers as well. As three Oklahomans are on this list, as well as several other names you might recognize, I thought I would mention some of the highlights.

Number 7 are the King Ranch heirs with 911,215 acres. Today in addition to ranching and other interests, they operate their School for Ranch Management and their graduates are in high demand.

Number 10 is Stan Kroenke with 740,000 acres. He is also the owner of NFL’s St. Louis Rams, the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, the NHL’s Colorado Rapids and many sports franchisees. Look for Stan to be moving up the list!

At number 17 and based in our area, is the Drummond family with 400,706 acres. 100 years ago brothers Cecil, Gentner and AA started something special when they founded a ranch that today is part of a family dynasty that includes multiple ranches in Oklahoma alone. Conservation is an important part of the family’s cattle and farming operations and they have also become known for their community service.

Former Reebok Chairman and CEO Paul Fireman is listed at number 37 with 247,000 acres which is Jimmy Stewart’s old ranch, the “Wine-Gamble” in Nevada.

David Murdock who is one of the principals in Dole Fruit Company, owns 98% of the Hawaiian island of Lanai as well as thousands of acres on Oahu and holdings in California earning him the number 40 spot with 238,138 acres.

The Hunt family, whose oil business was founded by H.L. Hunt in 1934, is listed at number 51 with 190,000 acres which brings me to another Oklahoman who calls Yukon home.

Last week Bob Funk was quoted in an interview with The Oklahoman as saying that his Express Employment Professionals offices are on track to bring in 2.1 billion dollars in revenue providing job placement services. That my friends is a lot of people put to work! His interest in sport franchisees in Oklahoma long with his philanthropic activities would keep a man half his age busy. As the owner of several ranches in Oklahoma and the famous UU Bar in New Mexico, number 55 with 175,000 acres is Robert A. Funk.

The Piedra Blanca Rancho where the famous Hearst castle is sited comes in at number 63 with 153,000 acres. The Hearst family has become known for their grass fed beef cattle that graze along the coastal prairie.

The Bass family is listed at number 65 with 150,000 acres that include the former Chapman Ranch north of Pawhuska.

Number 90 is the Robinson family with 103,000 acres encompassing the entire Hawaiian island of Niihau and holdings in Kauai.

Last at number 100 is another Oklahoman with 90,574 acres. Aubrey McClendon is the Chairman and CEO of Chesapeake Energy in Oklahoma and this is his first appearance on the list of America’s 100 largest land owners.

Three Oklahoma families among the 100 largest landowners in the whole country, how about that!

That wraps up the largest land owners report from me. Let me know if I left you out.

Till next week I’ll see ya down the road….


P.S. After this article was published a member of the Drummond family contacted me, saying that The Land Report had made an error. Apparently all of the family’s holdings together come to about half of the 440,000 acres mentioned in the story.







Will James

This post highlights the life and work of artist Will James, the famous author of Smoky the Cow Horse. I had the rare opportunity to see a self portrait that James painted on the wall of a remote cabin in the mountains of New Mexico and that sparked my interest in his life and work.

Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

Welcome back.  After a recent excursion to a remote cowboy cabin located in the mountains at an altitude of 10,000 feet on Waite Phillips beloved UU Bar Ranch outside of Cimarron, New Mexico, I became interested in the life of Will James. James was a cowboy who had worked cattle on the ranch at one time and he had stayed in the cabin with other hands. A large self portrait that he drew on one of the inside walls was proof that he had in fact been there, along with other men some of whom simply carved their names on the surrounding timbers. “Chope Phillips 1939” is clearly engraved on the inside of the door as were the names and dates of others who are now just memories to everyone except the occasional guest at this historic cabin which was built in the days of the real cowboys.  There is no electric or running water here and at this altitude summers are short and winters are tough. My guide told me that 60 foot drifts are not unusual but no one stays up here in the winter except for hunters and at times the remote cabin on this part of the ranch can be completely inaccessible. I was also told that this rugged area is used for troop training by our armed forces because it resembles the mountainous terrain in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The ranch contains literally thousands of acres that are untouched by mankind and will probably never be developed in our lifetime.

Now that you have the setting back to just who was Will James?

According to the Will James Society, Will was born Joseph Ernest Nephtali Dufault in 1892 in Saint- Nazaire -d’Acton, Quebec, Canada. As a small child he began drawing on the floors of the family home but he always wanted to be a cowboy. When he was grown he moved to the western province of Saskatchewan where he learned to be a western cowboy but around 1910 he was accused of stealing cattle and fled to the United States.

In the states he changed his name to William Roderick James and began drifting from ranch to ranch doing cowboy work. After a brief time in jail for cattle rustling he found work as a movie stuntman and then enlisted in the U.S. Army from 1918-1919. Throughout these years he continued to draw and also to write about his experiences.

His first book, Bucking Horse Riders was published in 1922 and it was followed by several short stories and books, giving him enough money to buy a small ranch of his own and concentrate on writing and drawing full time. His most famous book, Smokey the Cow Horse was published in 1926 and three film versions were made of the story.

James also wrote a fictionalized autobiography, Lone Cowboy in 1930 which became a Book-of-the Month Club bestseller. His last book The American Cowboy came out in 1942, the same year he died in Hollywood, CA. In all James wrote and illustrated 23 books about the west and ranch life.

Till next week I’ll see ya down the road….



Waite Phillips and The Spirit of Generosity

Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

Welcome back. With the recent discovery of archaeological artifacts which were found last week during the remodeling of the Philtower in Tulsa along with the ongoing restoration of several buildings in downtown Bartlesville which are related to the Phillips brothers I thought a little history might be in order this week.

The year was 1932 and Waite Phillips had put together a 300,000 acre ranch just outside of the rough and tumble town of Cimarron, New Mexico.  Edward Buehler Delk, a soon to be famous Kansas City architect, had already started the process of designing and building what would become known as Villa Philamonte for Waite and when he was done Will Rogers, Wiley Post and many other celebrities of the era became regular guests.

The magical place that Waite and his family called home in New Mexico was also a working ranch and ran 3,000 head of registered Hereford cows and 9,000 head of Corredale sheep. The horses he raised were known throughout the west and there was a farming operation providing feed that made the ranch self sufficient. Waite’s original brand had been WP but after he found out that another ranch was already using that brand, he came up with the idea of cutting the “W” in half to make a “UU” placing a bar beneath it and so the UU  brand was created.

Waite believed that the place he had created and called Philmont was meant to be shared, not only with family and friends but also with kids. He had watched his son Chope and his friends grow up on the ranch, gaining the character and values he  felt were essential for young people and so in 1938  he deeded 35, 857 acres on the northern part of the ranch to the Boy Scouts of America. That same year he and his wife also donated their Tulsa home, Philbrook, to the Southwest Art Association to become a museum.

Three years later, after watching several groups of kids go through the scouting program at the ranch and being impressed with what he saw, Waite decided to donate the ranch headquarters, Villa Philamonte and an additional 91,538 acres on the mountainous western side of the property  to the Boy Scouts. He also gave them the Philtower, his 23 story office building in downtown Tulsa, as an endowment for the ranch.

This generosity is in keeping with one of Waite’s favorite epigrams: “The only things we keep permanently are those we give away.”

Today although the Philtower has changed ownership, the scouts still own Philmont and over 100,000 acres of land around it. Waite’s beloved UU Bar Ranch  butts up to Philmont and had been part of the original historic Lucien Maxwell land grant in New Mexico. The UU Bar was saved from development in 1996 by Oklahoman Bob Funk who to this day allows the boy scouts to have 24-7 access to the high point on the ranch that Waite Phillips wanted them to experience just as his son Chope and he had.

I’ll leave you with another of Waite’s favorite sayings: “ Real philanthropy consists of helping others outside our own family circle when no thanks is expected or required.” And with that I’ll see ya down the road….







What Really Happened…….

As the one year anniversary of Chub’s death approaches the interest in his life and his role in the murder of E.C. Mullendore III has not diminished. A recent article about famous unsolved murders in Oklahoma includes the murder and some possible new information about the case. In addition I have just been contacted by an international film company interested in filming a documentary about the case here. Myths and rumors continue to swirl around this forty-one crime, making me more convinced than ever that the truth needs to be told. In the meantime if you are curious check out www.okmag.com (October 2011 Cold Case Oklahoma and look for an upcoming article in the Bigheart Times www.barnsdalltimes.com .

2011 Tulsa International Film Festival

This week I’m bringing you my weekly column which includes a report from the first annual Tulsa Film Festival. Films by James Cameron and Wes Studi were among the many new works featured at the festival.

             Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

Welcome back. I couldn’t let this week go by without mentioning theupcoming Cow Thieves and Outlaws Reunion which will take place on October 1st at our own national treasure, Woolaroc. You may have already read or heard about the great entertainment and good food at the event so that’s no secret. You might also guess that many of the attendees represent a “Who’s Who” of  local movers and shakers, a kind of rich and famous of Bartlesville and that is also true. But as a guest on this wonderful evening you will experience more than that. You will sit under the same bright stars that Frank and Jane sat under on their beloved ranch back in 1926when the first Cow Thieves and Outlaws Reunion was held.

Frank Phillips wanted this party to be an event that people would always remember where they could rub shoulders with real cowboys as well as rich businessmen and yes even outlaws. The business tycoons of the era, movie stars and outlaws such as Al Spencer and Henry Wells all enjoyed the beautiful view that you too will have eighty-five years later. The benches you will sit on down by Clyde Lake during the party once held the likes of Will Rogers, Tom Mix, Rudy Vallee  and any number of the hundreds of famous, and infamous, guests that Frank and Jane entertained at Woolaroc.

The party was also intended as a thank-you from Frank to the local community and that tradition still lives on. I hope to see ya there.

Speaking of special places, several friends just came back from The Canebrake in Wagoner and though its been some time since I’ve been down there for a good dose of relaxation, they tell me this unique, Santa Fe style resort just keeps getting better. If you haven’t been there yet, The Canebrake is a hotel, meeting center and restaurant near Lake Fort Gibson. The resort also offers spa services (which I’ve used and they’re great!), yoga classes and special events such as music and art exhibits. The restaurant showcases locally grown and raised produce, meat and poultry and the menu changes seasonally which is kinda cool. The rooms are in stand alone buildings with spacious private porches that are ideal for relaxing and enjoying the peaceful, natural setting on acres of woods and fields. But what truly distinguishes The Canebrake is the helpful, friendly and professional service guests receive. The owners, Sam and Lisa Bracken and their staff do their utmost to make every guest feel welcome and pampered. So the next time you need a relaxing weekend away check ‘em out. In the meantime you can find out all the details on their website, www.thecanebrake.com.

I’ll wrap up this week with some details about the very first Tulsa International Film Festival which I attended this past weekend. There was a total of 180 entries including feature films, short length films, documentaries and youth entries. Having just returned from a much larger and well established film festival, I can tell you that that is a very respectable number of entries. Altough the attendance was somewhat low this first year, the festival organizers told me they had expected that. The folks who were there found themselves in for a real treat as many great films where shown, many of them for the first time.

Smaller crowds also meant it was possible to have one on one conversations with some of the directors and stars and having attended a few of these festivals I have discovered that they are usually very friendly and personable.

Now for a few of the winners:

 v     Best Actor:            Stephen Chamber for his role in The  Corridor

v     Best Actress:                Se In Kim for her role in Chung-A

v     Best Feature Film:         Face to Face which was filmed in Austria and is due for release here in October

v     Best Documentary:       Bringing King to China

Next week a little information about the “Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program” and how Oklahoma is missing out on millions of dollars in possible film production revenue.

Till then I’ll see ya down the road….