The Texas Coast and the King Ranch

Welcome back.  Over the past sixteen years you readers have followed me down the road to many of the great ranching empires in our country. Locally, the Drummond family name is well known by many of you and the Land Report ranks the family as one of the twelve largest landowners in the country. Another ranch I’ve written about is the Mullendore Cross Bell which back in the 1960s was said to have over 400,000 acres of owned and leased land. I’ve often traveled to present day land owner Bob Funk’s Express Ranches and he too ranks among the top fifty U.S. landowners in the Land Report. There are many more I’ve written of but there is one notable ranch I’ve never told you about and friends it’s the biggest of them all.

As you read this here I sit for the next few days and starting today I’m taking you on a drive south down Highway 75 for about six hours to Dallas, then south some more through San Antonio on 37 for about an hour and finally south again on 77, then you’re with me this week on the famous King Ranch.

The ranch encompasses several towns but the biggest is called what else but Kingsville. Incorporated in 1911, today Kingsville has a population of around 30,000 but it is not completely dedicated to ranching. Texas A&M has a big presence here and there’s a large U.S. Navy air station where they train Navy pilots. There’s a lot of history here of course but this week I’ll be staying with the story of this 825,000-acre ranch.

The ranch was founded in 1853 by Captain Richard King who was a river boat pilot. King’s first partner in the ranch was Gideon Lewis but steamboat captain Mifflin Kenedy, who had played a big role in the Mexican-American war, became a lifelong partner in the start of the ranch along with several others. By the 1870s King was sending thousands of cattle on 100 day cattle drives to the Kansas railheads where the cows were shipped out by rail to Chicago stockyards. I learned that King also started his own breed of cattle to handle the tough Texas heat. They were called Santa Gertrudis cattle and in today’s market these cows are in high demand.

In the 1870s King also brought to life an organization that still stands for justice and is known for capturing bad guys. By 1874 the Texas Rangers had stopped most of the cattle theft on his ranch and although the Black Friday Panic on September 19, 1973 had cost him, the ranch continued to expand. When King’s widow Henrietta King died in 1925 it was estimated that the ranch held 997,444 acres, not including several ranches that were owned independently by their son Bob Kleberg.

In 1933 Humble Oil and Refining, which is now known as Exxon, hit oil and gas on the mighty King Ranch and it was then that the town of Kingsville really took off. Nowadays the main businesses are agriculture, oil and gas, chemical refining, ranching and the military. There are also a bunch of uranium mines in the area which to date have produced 4.2 million pounds of uranium but the Navy base remains the largest employer.              

I’ll leave this week with the names of some famous people who at one time or another lived in Kingsville:

Jack Mildren, the All-American quarterback who at one time played for OU, is just one of a dozen professional football players from Kingsville.

Rock and roll legend Jim Morrison lived here as a child.

Richard Kleberg, a seven-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives and heir to the King Ranch has spent his life in Kingsville.

Next week it’s on to Padre Island and the Gulf of Mexico where I’ll be chasing a ghost.    Till then, I’ll see ya down the road….

Will Rogers and Wiley Post

Welcome back.  When he was born on November 4, 1879 in the Cooweescoowee district of the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory, just outside of the present day town of Oologhah, Oklahoma and given the name William Penn Adair Rogers, little did the parents of this baby boy know how famous their newborn son would become.

Four years later on January 19, 1883 on a lonely Iowa farm a mile east of the town of Conway a pair of twin boys were born and given the names Wiate and Waite Phillips. Wiate was the oldest, having been delivered just a few minutes before Waite.  Sadly, on July 16, 1902 Wiate died of acute appendicitis when he was just nineteen years old. Like William Penn Adair Rogers, the remaining brother Waite went on to achieve greatness like few others have.

These two men would meet often during their lifetimes, sometimes in Bartlesville, sometimes in Cimarron, New Mexico establishing a friendship that lasted until their deaths. Rogers was killed in a plane crash in Barrows, Alaska on August 15, 1935 and Phillips died from a heart attack on January 27, 1964 at his home in Bel Air, California. Both men did a lot for the state of Oklahoma and both were frequent visitors to Woolaroc, Waite’s brother Frank Phillips’ ranch.

I often refer to epigrams written by Phillips and Rogers and with the 85th anniversary of Rogers’ death coming up this weekend here are a few that they wrote and lived by. I hope you will find them as inspirational as I do.

The only things we keep permanently are those we give away. – WP

The man who never makes mistakes never makes much of anything. – WP

The most effective sermon is expressed in deeds instead of words. – WP

Greediness, in all its various forms, is one of man’s worst enemies and also the source of many others. – WP

Wishful thinking consists of dreaming without doing. It’s a useless habit. – WP

A college education is beneficial if the student continues to learn after he graduates. – WP

A man can fail many times but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame someone else. -WP

It takes a strong character not to be demoralized by either sudden success or failure. -WP

We do our best and most constructive thinking when alone because it is only in silence that God speaks to us. -WP

The trouble with many of us is we would rather be ruined by flattery and praise than saved by honest criticism. -WP

Real philanthropy consists of helping others, outside our own family circle, from whom no thanks is expected or required. -WP

To hate is to hurt- not the hated but the hater. Fortunately, I have learned by experience to reduce the hate factor to that of simple disapproval. -WP

We all make mistakes which, if admitted, adds to our judgement and strengths our character. To deny or try to defend them produces the exact opposite results. -WP

No one should boast of being honest, dependable, courteous and considerate because these are fundamental qualities essential to good character that everyone ought to develop and use. -WP

Even if you’re on the right track you’ll get run over if you just sit there. -Will Rogers

Look for a few more of Waite’s and Will’s epigrams next week. Till then I’ll see ya down the road….

P.S. The Branson trip and follow-up story have been moved back some but are still coming.

The Big Event 2020

Welcome back.  Pawhuska three times, Tulsa twice, Oklahoma City and Edmond once with Nowata, Caney and Barnsdall and there’s is no end in sight for my travels this month so you can count on some interesting stories. Arcadia Lake in Edmond is a place where I often spend the night when I’m in the Oklahoma City area and this past weekend the weather was absolutely perfect there. Swimming, fishing, boating or if you’re just looking for a place to get away, Arcadia has it all. There are full RV hookups as well as primitive camp sites, clean shower houses and then the lake view. I’m here this week to say you need to check this lake out.

With the big IFR rodeo in Bartlesville now in the record books, here’s another story about ranching and the cattle industry. For the past thirty years an annual cow sale has been held southwest of Yukon, Oklahoma where if you’re planning to buy a cow, you’d better have the deed to your house handy along with your first-born child. The Big Event, as it’s called, is the August cow sale held by Express Ranches and I’ve been there every year for the past seven years and written about it. This year the sale starts at 1PM on Friday August 14th, followed by Saturday August 15th at noon. Friends, it is not unusual for these cows to sell for as much as a couple hundred thousand dollars each. Fifty, sixty. even seventy thousand each is common as well and with several hundred head selling, you can count on millions of dollars changing hands.

On Friday night after the first day’s sale there is always a steak and shrimp appreciation dinner for all the cattle buyers and other friends of Express Ranch owner Bob Funk which is followed by live entertainment.  Every year that I have been there, there has always been a country music superstar and this year, even though it is a secret, I expect the biggest star of them all to perform. This is an event I always enjoy so look for my follow up story on that one as well.

Also, on the 15th   of that same weekend don’t miss the Will Rogers and Wiley Post Fly-in held at Will’s Dog Iron Ranch. As for me this week I’ll be heading for Branson, MO to check out what I’m hearing is a tough go for all the shows and restaurants there. Reports from their Chamber of Commerce don’t sound too good as you might imagine so you can look for that update next week too. With a trip to the gulf coast of southern Texas coming up next month, I’ve been talking to several rental companies in the area and here’s a tidbit I founding interesting.

Apparently, people from Houston have been renting all the houses along the coast from the city to Corpus Christi and beyond to get away from the virus. I’ve heard that the situation is the same along the north coast of Long Island Sound where it has become impossible to find a cottage to rent for a week or two as New Yorkers flock to areas outside of the city. Just another sign of the times.

Be safe and till next time, I’ll see ya down the road….