Sunday, October 28, 2007
Back When I Was About Fifteen Years Old, I Got To See ...
a part of Texas few people are privileged to see, The Waggoner Ranch. This is the largest ranch in the nation and in the State of Texas under one continuous fence. It is in excess of 500 thousand acres in size. My father was a geologist and was working for an oilman at the time that had leased a portion of the drilling rights. I remember my father driving through the massive stone gate into the expansive ranch. He took me and showed me the huge barns than once held hundreds of horses, he showed me the remains of the expansive polo fields and race track that the landed gentry had enjoyed decades earlier. He took me and showed me Santa Rosa Lake, a huge totally private lake some 7500 acres in size. He drove me over a good portion of the ranch though we could not have seen more than a fraction of it in one day. I saw huge herds of cattle. Expansive wheat fields, horses and oil storage tanks. He showed me the grave of Poco Bueno a horse so prized it was buried in its grave standing in an upright position upon its death. He told me stories of going on a goose hunting trip on the ranch twenty years earlier and seeing so many geese flying in the air, the entire sky was dark, covered with thousands of the majestic birds. He told me of getting to go crappie fishing one spring some twenty years earlier. Wading along the shore of Santa Rosa Lake catching a slab sized crappie on every cast. I wanted to know when we could go fishing and hunting and he advised we could not. He explained that twenty years earlier he was working for a different oil man who was more well connected than his current employer. He said the hunting and fishing on the ranch was usually enjoyed by only the most wealthy and politically connected people. He told me how the Waggoners built a huge empire driving cattle north to market in the mid 1800's. He explained it was not easy obtaining the vast ranch. He said they had to fight the fierce Comanche Indians and the Kiowa and Tonkawa and Apache Indians at times. I guess they earned the ranch in blood, sweat and tears. Sadly the ranch is in danger of being broken up. If so the once great empire will pass into the history books. The next to last photo above is of the Waggoner mansion at Decatur, Texas. The last photo is of "Thistle Hill", a mansion located in Fort Worth, Texas and was a wedding present for one of the Waggoner daughters built around the turn of the last century. Many times when I used to deer hunt in the 1980's and 1990's I used to think about all of the trophy whitetail deer on the Waggoner ranch that probably never saw a hunter and lived to a ripe old age. What I would have given to be able to go hunting there. At least for one magical day spent with my father, I got to see the playground of the rich and famous.
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