My big Santa Gertrudis cattle were what cattlemen call “good rustlers”. When other breeds would be sleeping in the shade on hot days, these would be out there eating and growing as a result.
They had another wonderful trait. My friends who have Herefords and particularly Black Angus have all kinds of calving problems. The Angus calves have such big, round heads when they are born; they very often need assistance with their birthing. The owners have to “pull” so many of their calves. Thus, they need constant watching during their birthing times.
However, the Santa Gertrudis calves have slender, elongated heads at birth which fill out later. I just left the mothers out in the pasture and they got through their birthing all on their own. Of all the hundreds of calves that we have had, I only had to pull one. I think the mother could have even managed it, but when I happened to see its hind-feet coming out first, and knew that it was being born backwards, I called the vet. We hooked the little chrome chain that is used for such purposes around its back legs and pulled it out with the pick-up truck. I have one of those winches on a pole with pads to fit across the mother’s rear and the little chains, but have never had to use it.
But that breed has one trait that gave us all kinds of trouble. Many of the mothers are extremely protective of their babies when they are first born. Those mothers can be quite dangerous at those times.
The females all had numbers branded on their hips. We needed to tattoo that number in the baby’s ear when it was first born. This was necessary to keep the records for each mother. If we waited, which happened sometimes, and got several mothers in a corral with their calves, it was hard to tell who was who’s. You would rope the calf which was much larger now. It would start bawling and several mothers would rush up to claim it. Who did it belong to?
The tattoo machine was a set of rotating numbers with needle like spikes for each number. You would dial the correct mother’s number for the calf’s ear, clamp the needle spikes through its ear, and then rub tattoo ink into all the holes. This was so much easier when the calf was first born.
I needed to rope the calf to get all this done, but if you just walked up to rope the baby, that mother would try to kill you. It didn’t work either to rope the baby on horseback, because you would have to get off the horse and on foot to work the tattoo machine.
I would usually drive the pick-up along-side the baby and try to get a loop around its neck. Then I would pass the rope back to my son, Mike, who was standing in the back of the truck. He would then pull the calf up into the bed of the truck. That is when the mother would raise all kinds of hell. She would jump up and get her front half into the truck bed and bang it up and down, making all kinds of noise and commotion. I would yell for Mike to keep the baby between him and the mother, so the mother would not hurt him.
Mike was a brave little dude, but that was really asking a lot of an 8 or 9-year old. While the mother was thus occupied with what sounded like tearing the whole back of the truck out, I would slip up there with Mike to complete the tattoo job.
Then came the job of getting back into the cab of the truck without that mother running me down or tearing the door off.
Before moving up to Denton County , I had two ranches down in Kaufman, County, one on each side of the town. The one where I lived was only 50 acres of black land prairie, but the one on the east side of Kaufman was much larger with sandy land with a big creek and many beautiful oak trees.
My first Santa Gertrudis were 10 mothers and a bull for the 50 acres. Like I mentioned before, this was the first breed ever from the United States . All other breeds came from other countries.
Starting in 1910 down on the huge King Ranch that covers a big part of far southeast Texas they started developing what they considered just the perfect cross of cattle. What they finally came to was a mix of 5/8ths pure bred Milking Shorthorn and 3/8ths purebred Brahman, with a little African cattle blood thrown in. This cross, with their selective help, had a beautiful dark red color. However, though they could get the cross they wanted, it would not breed true. The calves would be great, but would throw off to favor one of those parts when the mothers grew up, were bred and calved.
The King Ranch had many divisions. The largest was the Santa Gertrudis Division, named for the large stream that flowed through it. In those days the mostly Hispanic cowboys would stay out in “cow camps” to watch after and work the cattle.
In one of those camps in that Santa Gertrudis Division the cook kept one of their Milking Shorthorns to provide milk for the camp. To keep a cow giving milk, it was necessary to breed her so that she could have a calf occasionally. In this camp their Milking Shorthorn had this little calf. It became somewhat of a pet for the cowboys there. They usually would have castrated it, but they couldn’t catch it to cut it. As a result, they named it “Monkey” since it would always jump away from them.
Then as little Monkey started growing, he started developing beautiful confirmation. One day when one of the bosses was visiting the camp. He told them not to cut Monkey, to just let him grow up as a bull. Monkey did grow up into having the perfect confirmation and color that they were seeking. Then they discovered that his babies were the first ones that they ever had that would “breed true”.
Thus, the whole Santa Gertrudis breed came from what they eventually called, “Old Monkey”. They gave the breed its name from that Division of the King Ranch.
Let me tell you more about those first 10 cows that I got. Every ranch, especially a big one needs one “practically insane” cowboy. One who will get down into a pen with a killer cow and just do things that a sane person will never do. I am not talking about “brave”. I am trying to describe a cowboy who will do things that a sane human wouldn’t dare do. I had one of those cowboys that I will tell you about later.
W.W. Callan of Waco , Texas got some of the very first Santa Gertrudis that the King Ranch ever sold to the outside. He became one of the first big breeders of these cattle outside of the King Ranch. So, I got my first 10 cows and my bull from him. In fact, Mr. Callan and I had several cattle partnerships together, over the years.
Anyway, he had one of those kinds of necessary cowboys. He name was “Getch”. That is the only name that I ever heard, even though I came to know him fairly well. One time, later, on my ranch, a few of us discovered that we were trapped in a pen with a cow that had sharp horns and was determined to kill us to protect her baby. We all jumped out of the pen except Getch. I went over so fast that I didn’t even touch the rails and landed hard on my back on the outside.
Getch was trapped right in the corner of the pen by that cow, and I was sure he was going to be badly hurt. Getch just took off his cowboy hat, put it over that cow’s eyes and calmly eased over the rails.
Over the years, Mr. Callan would buy herds of these cattle from other ranches when he could get a bargain. On this one occasion he bought a big herd of cattle from the Sixty-Six Bar Ranch down in the heavy brush country in South Texas . The owner had been ill and then eventually died. All the while he had been ill those cattle had just run wild in that brush county. The Mexican cowhands just let them go wild while the owner was ill.
So, Mr. Callan purchased and brought that herd up to Waco to one of his ranches there. Naturally, Getch was the one chosen to handle that particular heard. Getch thought it would be a big joke to break me into the cattle business the “hard way”. He was mad anyway, because Mr. Callan had sold me a horse that Getch had really wanted.
So, when Mr. Callan told Getch to select 10 cows to send up to Kaufman for me, he chose the 10 meanest, wildest, most insane ones out of that whole South Texas heard and sent them to me. They all had that sixty-six brand on them, and to this day, I can still remember all their numbers branded on their hips.
Number 54 was just huge. She seemed quite gentle. She had a baby in October, just a little while after arriving on my 50 acres. Unfortunately, it was born during that freakish October cold spell that we had in the late 1960’s when the temperature got down to 5 degrees below zero. The calf froze to death before it could ever dry off from its birth.
My wife and I waited three days before we went down to the stock pond to see about it. Number 54 was still right there watching over it. I got out of the truck, but that mother put me up onto the top of the truck. I didn’t even have time to get back inside with my wife. I stayed up there for the longest time. Every time I tried to get down, here she came trying to whack me.
One of those 10 was a jumper. She couldn’t jump clear over the corral fence, but she would jump up on top of it and break the boards down. She could clear most any barbed wire fence though. One day she went “on a tear” and jumped all the fences until she was over into the third ranch to the north. My neighbors and I finally roped her and brought her back in a trailer.
However, the strangest one was number 27. I will never forget her. She wouldn’t bother you when you were on foot, but she “had a thing” about horses. She would put her nose down in the grass like she was eating, but if you watched closely, she was just holding her nose in the grass. She was not eating at all. She would wait until your horse was just opposite her and then she would charge up and get right up under your horse. She was so strong that she would almost lift your horse off the ground. To say the least, this was very disconcerting to a saddle horse.
I told you that I had one of those “insane cowboys” too. His name was Dave. I am not sure that I ever heard his real last name. He was a recovering alcoholic. He had been quite a hero in WWII, by piloting the landing craft in the Pacific back and forth under very heavy enemy fire. But he claimed he couldn’t remember a minute of it……all “hopped up” on torpedo juice.
I had a friend from the Reinsurance Department of the Insurance Company where I was Director of Investments. He loved to come out to the big ranch on the east side of Kaufman to help me.
We had moved Dave into the house on that ranch. He needed a helper, so I hired a nice-looking young cowboy right off the White Mountain Navajo Reservation in Arizona. He looked quite Anglo, but he was all Navajo. When he first arrived, right off the bus, he stayed the first two nights in our big white house on my 50 acres. When I asked why he acted so strange upon entering, he explained that he had always lived in a Navajo wickiup; that this was the first regular house that he could ever remember being in. He and Dave made quite a pair.
My Insurance Friend got Dave an old pick-up truck. They would go around to neighboring ranches and look for horses to buy at a bargain. I remember going with them on their first such foray. This gorgeous coal-black gelding came running up to the fence in a wild run shaking his head. My insurance friend, Bob, was from Oklahoma , and just fell in love with such wild beauty. He bought this registered Quarter House for almost nothing since the owner could not find any horse trainer who could tame him, much less gentle him to ride.
Dave promised Bob that he would break and train him, not to worry.
That horse broke my corrals all up on that ranch first thing. But Dave was really amazing with horses. A horse can’t buck unless he gets his head down. Dave took that horse down to the closest stock pond, finally got him saddled and put him out into the middle of the pond. Dave would then get on him with the water about chest high on the horse. The horse couldn’t buck him off since he couldn’t get his head down.
I later rode that horse bareback to check the cattle on that ranch since Dave had him so tame.
Dave got really sick one time. He was shoeing horses one day, since I had bought him a bellows and big anvil set-up that he had found over at the huge Canton First Monday Sale which is so famous. It was not far from that ranch.
One of the nails from the horse’s hoof scratched him on the wrist as he was pulling off its horse shoe. Being a “tough cowboy” he didn’t bother with doctoring it. Sure enough he caught real lock-jaw. You don’t hear about it much anymore, but he didn’t go to the doctor until his jaw was locked-down almost “for good”! We only had one doctor in that area: Old Doctor DeVlaming. He got Dave all well from his lock-jaw.
I had to go to DeVlaming one time. I got a case of ulcers from the stress of investing all that money at my young age. At age 26, four billion dollars (adjusted for inflation) is a lot of money in the stock and bond markets. That is when I really learned economics. I just thought I had learned it at Baylor.
I had the wonderful opportunity to be really close with Arthur Laffer and sat with him as he was first thinking out his Laffer Curve. For many years, I met with and was briefed by Alan Greenspan in New York 2 times each year before he became Fed Chairman. Every summer for many years I lived with and visited with Milton Friedman over two-week periods at the Life Officer’s Seminar in Illinois. I was privileged to spend hours of one-on-one time on different occasions with Beryl Sprinkel who Ronald Regan chose to be his economics advisor and guided so many of his policies. And I was even privileged to speak at the Institutional Investor’s Conference in New York with William McChesney Martin Jr. who was the longest serving Chairman of the Federal Reserve (20 full years) and visit with him and share thoughts one on one. There were many others, and they may not have made me any smarter, but they sure helped me recognize “the chaff from the wheat” in the finance world.
Dr. DeVlaming made me feel really proud. He said that down in that “backward area” I was the first patient he had ever had to treat for ulcers. When I asked why, he said: “No one else down here has ever generated enough mental activity to ever cause any ulcers.”
Anyway, I moved those 10 problem cattle that Getch had selected for me from the Sixty-six Ranch over to the Big Ranch with Dave and the young Navajo cowboy. I also moved the big white ducks my wife had, over to the pond near the house of those two. They practically lived off those big duck eggs.
One day two of my bulls got into a ferocious fight with the Brahman bulls from the neighboring ranch. They tore down a big section of fence. Dave went back there on that black horse to count the cattle and make sure the fence wires were back up onto their metal posts. He was just coming up to the heard, way back in the back of the ranch, but he didn’t figure on that number 27 cow.
Sure enough, she had her nose down in the grass like she was grazing, but when that black gelding got up even with her, she charged the horse. He reared up and she hit him right in the chest. “Wham”, over he went backwards. Dave got out of the saddle, but the saddle horn came right down on his wrist and just crushed the bones.
Like a good cowboy, he finished counting the cattle, took the horse back and unsaddled it and drove himself to the doctor, with that wrist just flopping the whole time.
He waited about two hours to see the doctor. When Dr. DeVaming saw that wrist, he said: “My gosh, Dave; why didn’t you say something.” He put a cast on the wrist and told Dave that he couldn’t do anything about those crushed bones, that the wrist would grow back, but that he would never be able to bend it again. But he didn’t figure on one of those old “insane cowboys”.
In only ten days, Dave cut that cast off and started bending that wrist back and forth as the bones grew back. Of course, a regular human couldn’t have stood that kind of pain. Eventually that wrist was almost as good as new.
One day on the weekend I got a collect call from Dallas . The operator explained that it was from the Dallas City Jail and from a guy named, Dave. So, I took the call.
Dave had “fallen off the wagon”. He was obviously still inebriated and said: “Boss, I am sad to tell you that I have come to town and visited the ‘houses of ill repute!’” The operator had stayed on the line and she nearly died laughing. She apologized and said she was never supposed to listen to conversations, but that she just had to hear this one. Bob went down to the jail and bailed him out and brought him back to the ranch.
Not long after that, is when I decided to leave that backward area and move up to Denton County .
I kept asking different businessmen and lawyers in Dallas : “If you could get your wife to agree to live out in the countryside where you would really like to be; exactly where would you most like to locate?” They nearly always said the same place: “I would go just west of Denton where you turn west off Interstate 35 on the way to Amarillo , where the country just opens up!”
So, I just decided to go and be there first. I was able to get this big house on a very lightly traveled parallel road three and one-half miles west of I-35 on this 1,600 acre ranch that I have already described earlier in this book.
After all this cattle business, I am sure that you suspect that I have deviated from the theme of this book about what appear to be amazing manifestations of God’s Spirit Power. No, believe it or not, I am still there, on cue.
I earlier described how Mr. Rumsey Strickland had bought this big ranch west of Ponder, Texas which was not too far west of my 1,600 acres, and how he had me put a large herd of Santa Gertrudis cattle on it. I got Mr. Callan to furnish the cattle. Two or three years later Mr. Callan found it necessary to exchange a group of those cattle for a different group that he wanted there, instead.
He sent some of his people up with long trailers to move them. They didn’t bring any horses since I volunteered to cut out the group they desired to move for them. Among those who came was Albert Day, driving one of those trucks. Albert was a fairly stocky Hispanic guy who was considered one of the finest judges of cattle, particularly this breed, in the whole country. I was so honored for him to be there. He later helped us select the cattle for our Lorena ranch whose “get” (babies) won all eight of those national shows after they grew up.
I trailered my King Ranch bred horse Suzie over to that ranch to do the cowboying. It was raining heavily, and the clouds were getting really black, but I got most of the ones the guys wanted across two creeks and to the corrals. It took a long time, since with what was obviously a major storm coming, those cows did not want to cooperate or swim those creeks. However, I had to go back for one more group.
That is when it just started really pouring down rain.We just had to finish before dark, not only because Albert and his guys wanted to get back to Waco , but I had to be in Dallas the next day for sure. The huge national convention for the Financial Analysts’ Federation was to be in Dallas for the first time, and I was the Hotel Chairman for the Convention. Most every security analyst and money manager in the whole country was going to be there, with all manner of important speakers.
I set out in that pouring rain to get the last group of cattle. I found them huddled in the far back pasture. They did not want to move. Suzie “worked her tail off” cutting them and we finally got them headed back to the east. By now we had to swim them across really swollen streams. The water was clear, but it had gotten deep.
Just west of the corrals is a deep creek and then a long, high rocky ridge. I got them off that ridge and headed down toward the corrals. Then I started along the top of that ridge. The rain was coming down in torrents and the wind was getting really, really strong. I could not see hardly anything through that rain, but I stopped by this little tree, right on top of the ridge.
I tightened-up on the reins and said to Suzie: “Girl, whatever is coming, we are in this together, hang on!!!”
When I finally got down off that ridge and swam Suzie across that creek to the corrals, Albert and the guys had gotten those cows penned and ready to be put into the trailers. However, the guys were all really excited.
They said: “Didn’t you see what happened!!”
I said: “No, I couldn’t see anything for all that rain, and besides, there was all that wind noise!!”
Albert Day said: “Ronald, God must have something else important for you to do in your life. That black tornado came right down that ridge. We could all see it. Just as it got to you and that tree and your horse, it jumped back up into the air, went right over you, and then came right back down to the ground. We never saw anything like it!!!!”