THE FAT OF THE LAND

Vanishing ranches of North Dallas

WE NATIVE TEXANS were all weaned on tales of men grappling with the elements and wild animals to make the business of cattle ranching profitable, but those sweaty labors seem a far cry from the sterile, computerized moneymaking industry that characterizes today’s Texas cattle business.

So it is somehow heartening to find that there are still Texans firmly wedded to the old credos of working the land and using it to raise animals or crops. It’s hard work, even with the sophisticated tools of the trade available to modern ranchers and farmers. The time-honored virtues of stick-to-itiveness and gumption are still as highly prized as a master’s in business administration, but the truth is that today’s rancher might need all those attributes – plus the MBA – to make things pay.

Dallas, for all its urbane worldliness, can still boast its share of ranchers, farmers and horse breeders who pursue their work out of love, loyalty to a heritage and a stubborn determination to keep intact a certain way of life. Naturally, they would all like to make money, too. But if you drive out past the millionaire turf of Highland Park, the glossy new subdivisions and carefully planned communities of Piano and Richardson, you’ll find the beginnings of what – for some folks – is still the Right Stuff: sprawling ranches, cattle grazing on family-owned pasture, horses bred for racing or showing. Progress has refined the modus operandi, but, in essence, much remains the same. And the family stock of the people who run these properties is often just as unchanged. Education, polish and business savvy may have been added over the years, but Texas still breeds its own brand of rancher.

BILL RASOR-RASOR STOCK FARM



Bill Rasor is the great-nephew of Hoss and Boss Rasor – two genuine cattle raisers of the old school who had a reputation for humor as well as plain ole horse sense. Rasor leases most of his grazing and farming land from a variety of landowners. He owns about 300 mother cows and had approximately 300 yearlings until he sold 260 of them this year to an “ordered buyer” (someone who made arrangements to purchase them without going to market). Rasor says he makes more money in his farming operation, which produces crops of milo (maize), wheat and oats. “You don’t get rich with cattle,” he says, “but it’s steady.” Rasor and several other ranchers help each other by participating in each other’s roundups.

A roundup on the Rasor ranch has the feel of the old days. The cowboys are real, too, although some of them have college degrees and all of them are just as adept with an electric cattle prod as with a rope and a whip. After they’ve gotten the cattle to one end of the pasture (where a movable pen has been set up) they herd them into the pen – whooping and yelling- then push them into a van for the trip to the main corral, where the selection process takes place.

B.F. PHILLIPS-THE PHILLIPS RANCH

The Phillips Ranch is 1,900 acres of glorious horse-breeding country located about 35 miles outside Dallas. Situated on land that has a bit of a roll to it, it’s a spread beautiful enough to put a gleam in anyone’s eye. As B.F. Phillips Jr. says, “The country boy works like the devil to get to the city and make some money. Once he does, he just can’t wait to get back to the country.” Phillips is a legend in the petroleum business, but horses have always been a big part of his life. He grew up outside Tyler, went to school closer to the city and often rode his horse home on Fridays to spend the weekend with his family.

He began breeding quarter horses for show, but “I was smart enough to know that you can’t eat trophies, so in 1966 I went into the running-horse business,” he says. By 1969, he had bred and raised a horse that was syndicated for$l million. It was the first time in history that a quarter horse had achieved this value.

Phillips says he owes much of his horse-breeding success to good fortune and good management. He learned in the petroleum business that one man can’t do it all and that the secret to success in most endeavors is to learn how to delegate authority – and to find the right people to delegate it to. He likes to know what is happening at the ranch, so a daily report is prepared that summarizes the breeding activities.

Like most horse breeders, Phillips believes that his business requires a solid reputation for honesty – “as do all good businesses,” he says. “But the days of the horse trader are gone. We’re not in this business for the quick dollar. We’re in it for the long haul, and you can’t do horse business over the telephone. A man wants to look you in the eye when he buys or sells a horse.” Phillips left downtown Dallas and based himself at the ranch because his horse-breeding business required more daily involvement than the oil business.

Phillips breeds an average of 850 mares a year and owns 125 brood mares. Horses are broken and trained on the ranch; most are sold in California and New Mexico. He employs 50 staff people during peak breeding season, and his facilities are impressive.

OWEN AND RUTLEDGE HAGGARD-HAGGARD ENTERPRISES

Owen and Rutledge Haggard are partners in Haggard Enterprises, the family business that includes both ranching and farming on large parcels of land in Piano and Frisco. The Haggard name is an established one in ranching – it’s been around here since 1856 when the Haggard family first bought acreage and built it into a working ranch. Now Owen runs the cattle-raising end of the business, while Rutledge oversees the farming operation. The Owen Haggards live on five acres known as the Flying H Ranch; Rutledge and his family live just down the road on Windhaven Farm; and their parents, the Clifton Haggards, are close by on Acres of Sunshine.

It sounds like an idyllic situation – a close-knit family held together by shared interests in a longstanding family concern. But Owen is the first to admit that there are many hardships involved in running a profitable cattle business in Texas these days: “People always think we own all the land we work. But we lease most of our grazing and farming lands from other concerns. Our grandfathers sold so much of the land that we originally owned that we had to lease property just to graze our cattle. You can find Haggard animals grazing over eight pastures ranging from Route 544 clear north to Frisco.”

It’s obvious that Owen loves the business and the fun of cattle raising. He confesses to having an interest in the tricks of the old-time cowboy’s trade: “We often have a sort of informal rodeo, with team roping in the arena right on the ranch.”

Rutledge Haggard’s farming operation is technically more profitable than the ranching side, though both brothers concede that if Haggard Enterprises depended solely on either ranching or farming for its profitability, “we might be in trouble.” Owen says, “We farm because it is part of our heritage.” The farm raises grain sorghum, wheat and hay.

In the past, the Haggards have fought some major zoning battles with the City of Piano to keep the area predominantly agricultural. And in the face of Dallas’ continued northward expansion, Owen sees tough times ahead for many working ranches and farms, but he intends to stick with it as long as he can.

LEE CAUSEY-THE STAR C RANCH



The brochure calls the Star C a “deluxe patch of heaven off Interstate 35.” And deluxe it is. The Star C is horse breeder Lee Causey’s 150-acre ranch, where he breeds quarter horses for show. The Star C is located north of Dallas in what Causey calls “the quarter horse capital of the world,” an area covering roughly 150 miles, including much of Denton, Aubrey and Pilot Point, and characterized by the exceptionally good quality of its soil, making the grazing grasses superior.

Causey, who made a healthy profit in the health club industry, turned his interests to horse breeding and began the Star C as an additional business concern. It has since grown into a multimillion-dollar operation. The Star C’s resident stallion, Triple’s Image, is stud to more than 150 mares outside the ranch yearly; his worth is estimated at more than $3 million. “We looked for a stallion for over three years before we found Triple’s Image,” Causey says, “but he was worth the wait.”

The breeding season at the Star C starts at the beginning of February and runs through July 15. Breeding takes place every other day, when sperm (known in the breeder’s vernacular as “wigglytails”) is collected from Triple’s Image and the mares are impregnated by artificial insemination.

The foals’ development is carefully monitored to determine which may be shown first. An especially beautiful horse may be shown on the halter before it reaches two years of age. This, Causey says, is more or less a beauty contest. Later, the horse participates in performances that may include 30 different kinds of events. The more events a horse wins, the greater its value. “Triple’s Image has won just about everything there is to win,” Causey says.

Most people tend to think of horse breeding as a gentleman’s hobby, but it’s big business. “The quarter horse industry has a greater wealth of computer statistics at its disposal than General Motors,” Causey says, “and the people in this business can’t be fooled. A horse breeder’s reputation has to be as pure as the driven snow, or he can forget it.”

BOB AND CHERYL McCALLY-McCALLY ARABIANS

The glossy brochure reads “An invitation to share in our success.” The stallion pictured on the front is Sir Gazon, “producer of champions,” and first-rate stud at the Pilot Point ranch, which is owned by Bob and Cheryl McCally. The McCallys breed Arabians – horses known for their beauty, intelligence and stamina. The McCallys have been in the horse-breeding business for about 10 years, and their operation is worth at least six figures and is still growing.

Cheryl McCally grew up loving horses – at age 14 she was training them “to support her horse habit.” She was educated as a legal secretary, but spent most of her spare time learning the horse business. Bob, an executive vice president and regional manager for Sam P. Wallace Inc., travels extensively, so he leaves much of the ranch business in Cheryl’s hands.

Their 50-acre spread in Pilot Point – the heart of horse country – keeps about 40 horses and three stallions, which are bred to outside mares. The mares stay at the 17-stall barn during breeding.

McCally Arabians is a smaller ranch than the Phillips’ or the Causey’s, but it’s an excellent example of a rapidly expanding breeding operation. The McCallys are both committed to the success of the ranch, but, as Cheryl says, “It’s a job that consumes our whole life – 15 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. But it’s a lot of fun and we love it.”

Cheryl travels to drum up business, attending shows and keeping her eye out for promising horses. She is also their breeding manager and trainer, while Bob handles the syndication rights (the process by which owners sell shares in their horses). Bob says, “We considered syndicating Sir Gazon for a million and a half, which would break down to about $30,000 to $50,000 a share.”

The Arabian horse is really the foundation for the quarter horse; a new breed of horse is being developed in which the Mc-Callys have an enormous interest. This breed, called the National Show Horse, is a cross between an Arabian and a saddle-bred. “We are considered one of the forerunners in the breeding of the National Show Horse,” Bob says.

PERRY BOLIN – BOLIN HEREFORD RANCH

Perry Bolin is a hearty old-timer who says that his achievements in ranching and business are largely due to his being “dumb enough and country enough to take an opportunity when it came along.” His philosophy is that most of us don’t know how to do much of anything until we’re “around 30 or so, then we do it fiercely for about 20 years and taper off when we’re 50 or so.”

Bolin’s dad was a cotton picker – “just a country farmer.” Young Perry left the farm for Dallas when he was 20 and “just went door-to-door looking for a job till I got one at the Wilson Packing Company.” From there he sold baked goods and bought his first two cows with a borrowed $55. He left the cows on his father’s farm and didn’t get into cattle raising seriously for a good 20 years. Bolin married and went back to Allen, where he built a career in general merchandising. As he began to make money, he started buying parcels of land throughout the Piano area, plus ranches in Southwest Texas. After the 1955 drought, he sold most of the cattle he had acquired but kept 10 registered cows and one bull. Meanwhile, he was teaching his two sons the fundamentals of the ranching business – from mowing and baling hay to working the cattle – while quietly acquiring various Mobil Oil station franchises across Collin County. With a solid foundation in the oil business, he decided that the time was right to return to his real interest: raising cattle. In 1970 and 1972, he bought two ranches and now works a herd of about 250 registered cattle on the Bolin Hereford Ranch on Parker Road in Plano.

Bolin laments the passing of some of the old-time ranchers – the real characters “like old Hoss and Boss Rasor,” whose great-nephews still work the Rasor Ranch nearby. He also misses some of the energy he had when he was younger. “Being young… I forget what it feels like,” he says. “I remember what I did, but I forget how it felt. It’s kind of like trying to remember what a hot summer day feels like when you’re sitting in the dead of winter. You can remember what it was like, but you just can’t feel it.”

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