Cattle sales are a western tradition but this one is unique. Photos to come.
Welcome back. This week as promised it’s a report from last weekend’s major cow sale in Yukon, OK. which is a few miles southwest of Oklahoma City. You may have heard of Yukon before because it is the hometown of several notable Oklahomans, including Garth Brooks.
This cow sale is not your ordinary run ‘em through the ring, sell ‘em to the highest bidder and on to the next cow kind of sale. This my friends is what Express Ranches calls “The Big Event”, and it is. Preparations begin several days in advance as a small army of workers arrives to set up tents of all sizes, including one that is large enough to hold a football game in. Then they arrange tables, chairs and decoration in the tent where over 1,000 guests will enjoy a specially prepared shrimp and steak dinner, cooked on the premises by Chef Ralph Knighton and his crew. Ralph is known around the world and I’ll get to him a little later.
On Friday morning hotels are filled and the party begins as cattlemen from all over the country arrive to preview the cattle that will be auctioned off over the next two days. Express Ranches are the country’s largest seed stock operation so there are folks from coast to coast and all points in between here to check out the cattle that, by the way, are as pampered as my own daughter. Beautiful registered Black Angus cattle fill dozens of pens outside the sale barn and inside there are rows of bleachers all with a view of several big screen TVs. There is also a horseshoe shaped table filled with computer terminals to accommodate off site bidding. The cattle sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and like race horses, many of them are purchased by syndicates which can include many individual and even corporate buyers. This is truly big business but built on the American values of individualism, hard work and devotion to country. Many a deal is still done with a hand shake here despite the large amounts of money being exchanged.
Things really got going at 6PM on Friday when customers, ranch employees, friends and family were invited to a gala dinner. The evening kicked off with a recording of Clem McSpadden’s reading his famous cowboy prayer, followed by two sky divers one carrying the stars and stripes and the other carrying the state flag. The two landed within moments of each other in front of a cheering crowd. Then a company of soldiers dressed in fatigues entered carrying a huge American flag while we all sang the national anthem. After the anthem we feasted on a wonderful steak and shrimp dinner served under the watchful eye of Ralph Knighton. Ralph was Governor Keating’s personal chef for the two terms he was in office as well as several other high profile people. As you might imagine, the food was five star from start to finish.
Governor George Nigh was the emcee for the evening, introducing the luminaries in the crowd such as retired Lt. General and former astronaut Tom Stafford who is from Weatherford and the Oklahoma Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon. There were many heartfelt tributes to our servicemen and women and to the joys of being an American as well as a moment of silence for everyone impacted by last springs’ violent tornadoes. Ranchers, celebrities, politicians and professional cowboys like Billy Etbauer all rubbed shoulders throughout the night.
The legendary Randy Owen from the band Alabama wrapped up the evening with two hours of great music. For those of you who don’t remember, Alabama was the country band in the 1980s with Randy leading the group. On this night Randy’s band played both well known songs he has recorded and new ones and soon had the crowd on their feet. In addition to being a Country Music Hall of Fame artist, Randy also operates a working cattle ranch and it was obvious he was right at home at The Big Event.
All in all it was another extremely successful two day event for Express Ranches and for Oklahoma which benefits so much from the presence of operations like this which attract peope from all over to our great state.
Till next time I’ll see ya down the road……