Tuesday, September 22, 2009

As I'm sure the suspense was killing you, I'll tell you that the decision for yesterday afternoon was to visit the King Ranch.

The King Ranch is amazingly huge, but still felt like a small farm. I suppose that was the image the tour guide wanted to give, but it worked for us. The ranch was founded in the early part of the 19th century by one of those dirt-poor LEGAL immigrants we don't seem to like anymore. He brought cattle from Mexico, along with other legal immigrants to work the ranch and care for the critters. The people he brought came for jobs, homes and care he promised and provided. Hmmm...How did he do it, with no government program? But I digress...

The ranch has developed it's own breeds of cattle, the Santa Gertrudis and Santa Cruz. Each was developed at the ranch for a specific purpose. The Santa Gertrudis were developed to produce high quality meat, replacing the Longhorns, which had been used for beef prior to this. (The ranch still keeps a herd of Longhorns, for historical preservation purposes.) The Santa Cruz

were developed to produce high quality lean meat, without that nasty, horrible marbling that causes us to have heart attacks and drop dead, thereby not buying meat anymore. King Ranch keeps herds totaling about 30,000 head. That's a lotta beef!

The ranch has also become well-known for it's Quarter horses, with a line developed at the ranch for use there. Here's Package of Sugar, one of two Quarter horse studs at the ranch.

He is quite the attention-seeker, making sure we saw all sides of him as he preened and showed himself off to us. (At one time, they also raised racing Thoroughbreds, but don't do that anymore.) They told us that only 10-15% of the horses are sold each year, and the ranch keeps a herd of about 350 working cow horses. We met one of the cowboys, Lolo,

while on the tour. He told us a number of stories about the ranch. One of the most interesting was about Assault, the 1946 Triple Crown winner. The horse had stepped on a stake in a pasture, permanently deforming his foot. His trainer decided to destroy him. Lolo, who was 9 at the time, asked if he could be allowed to nurse the foot. He was, and the horse recovered...obviously! He always limped on that foot, but he managed to win despite it. Lolo was also the first person to ride Assault, when he (Lolo) was 13.

The ranch is ginormous, this particular section being larger than Long Island. And it was started by a dirt poor, legal Irish immigrant in 1853. Hmmm....

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