Waggoner Ranch: The End of An Era

Waggoner RanchThis is your lucky day, friends! I’ve got a business proposition for you! Waggoner Ranch, the famed eight hundred square mile piece of Texas history, is on the market for $725,000,000.00!  Now, I would just buy it myself, but I crunched some numbers and have decided to share the joy with a few thousand of my closest friends. I figure we could have a sort of timeshare! It will be great! But, I suppose you’ll want to know more about this fabulous investment opportunity, so allow me to get down to business.

Promised Land History

Dan WaggonerFor starters, you should know that you would be investing in a big ol’ hunk of Western history. Dan Waggoner established Waggoner Ranch in 1849. He started by buying land near the North Texas town of Decatur. He also bought six horses and 242 head of Longhorn cattle. Things went well for Dan and, as land was cleared for settlement around his parcel, he snatched it up, in his own form of “Westward Expansion.” In 1851, he purchased another 15,000 acres west of Decatur. He also continued growing his herds of cattle.

Waggoner RanchAfter Dan’s death in 1903, his son, W.T. continued expanding the ranch. W.T. said, “I want to run the most cattle, breed the best horses and work harder than anyone.” Under W.T.’s management, the ranch expanded to more than 500,000 acres! The serious rancher longed to find good fresh water for his cattle. But, drat it all! His attempts at drilling water wells revealed nothing but oil! W.T. made the best of it and leased around 250,000 acres to a little petroleum company named Texaco, in 1909. It’s like I always say: “When life hands you lemons, made lemonade. And, when life hands you oil wells, well, just kick back and count your money!” Okay, so I’ve never said that before now, but you would be surprised at how seldom this “problem” comes up in life!

W.T. had three children: Electra, E. Paul, and Guy. When Electra Waggoner married, W.T. decided it was best to keep the family as close together as possible, so to prevent her from moving away, he built her an 11,000 square foot home in Fort Worth, as a wedding present. Hmm . . . I guess that beats getting a toaster!

Quarter Horse Legacy

 Quarter Horse Poco BuenoWaggoner Ranch is also home to some of the greatest horse history in the world! E. Paul Waggoner purchased Quarter Horse Poco Bueno in 1945 for $5,700. When you consider that Poco Bueno is widely acknowledged to have been the most influential stallion in the history of the breed, $5,700 was a phenomenal bargain, even in 1945! He was named champion yearling stallion at the Texas Cowboy Reunion Quarter Horse Show. In the 40s, he was grand champion stallion at Denver’s National Western Stock Show, the State Fair of Texas, the Southwestern Exposition and Fat Stock Show in Fort Worth, and the American Royal Livestock Show in Kansas City. It was 1948 when Poco Bueno began his performance career as a cutting horse. He gained swarms of fans and became the first Quarter Horse to be insured for $100,000.

 Quarter Horse Poco BuenoOf the 405 registered AQHA foals sired by Poco Bueno, 222 of them were top performers. Daughter Poco Lena is known as one of the greatest cutting horse of all time. E. Paul Waggoner’s death predated Poco Bueno’s by two years. In his will, Waggoner left instructions that Poco Bueno was to be buried in a standing position in a grave across from the ranch’s main entrance. And, so he was. A four-ton granite marker was engraved with his name, picture, and the words, “Champion and Sire of Champions.” In 1990, Poco Bueno was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame.

It is that bloodline that continues today in the famous Quarter Horses of Waggoner Ranch.

The Dallas Dynasty

When the offspring of W.T. Waggoner begat future generations, things really got lively! If the prime time soaps of the 70’s and 80’s taught us anything, it was that every respectable dynasty has a rip-roaring family feud. And the Waggoners would have made J.R. Ewing proud!

Electra Waggoner BiggsFor years there was a major dispute between Electra Waggoner Biggs (niece of the original Electra) and the other Waggoner heir, Electra’s cousin, Bucky Wharton (son of the original Electra). At that time, they each owned half of the land, oil and mineral rights, and they had a very famous difference of opinion as to what should be done with the property. From the early 90s, until her death in 2001, Electra objected to plans to divide or liquidate the property.

The dispute did not die with Electra. In 2003, a district judge ruled in favor of liquidating the ranch. Bucky Wharton appealed the judge’s decision. That brings us to today. The Waggoner family heirs finally agreed to list the property, and that’s where we come in, all y’all!

The Lay of the Land

Waggoner RanchAt a current size of approximately 510,000 acres, Waggoner Ranch is recognized as the largest ranch in Texas to be contained by one fence. In fact, the ranch is spread out over six different counties. So, it would be really great if a few of our investors knew a thing or two about fence mending! Let me know if that falls under your skill set and I’ll pencil you in for that job.Wag8a

Wag8bThe Fort Worth Star Telegram reports that there are “two main compounds, hundreds of homes, about 20 cowboy camps, hundreds of quarter horses, thousands of heads of cattle, 1,200 oil wells and 30,000 acres of cultivated land.” Stargazer Mercantile can provide decorative accent pieces for the houses. I feel it’s the least I can do! Plus, if no one objects, I would like to help play with the newborn foals. I’ll just pencil myself in for that job.

Oils Well that Ends Well

Our purchase will entitle us to 42% of the ranch’s mineral rights. Why doesn’t it entitle us to all of it? The Waggoner family heirs will retain the balance of the mineral rights. The 1,200 oil wells produce 675,000 barrels of oil annually. But we’ll want to have the reserves assessed. Who knows? We might strike a lot more “Texas tea.”

Land o’ Goshen!

Waggoner RanchThe real estate brokers who listed the property are expecting bidders to come from all over the world. While they are expecting to see wealthy U.S. oil barons and wealthy foreigners who dream of being a cowboy step up to the plate, they probably have no clue about a wild card like us . . . I think we could really blindside them by showing up with our rolls of coins!

Okay, okay. I realize this may not actually work out for us. But you have to admit; it’s fun to consider!  Here’s a great video that will give you a better idea of what the Waggoner Ranch is really like, so that you can dream on!

Happy Trails,
Anita Lequoia

Teddy Roosevelt: It Takes More Than a Bullet to Kill a Bull Moose

Teddy RooseveltOne of my favorite stand-up comedy routines is when Jerry Seinfeld talks about the fear of public speaking. Seinfeld says, “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than giving the eulogy.” BA DUM TSSS! That bit gets me every time!

The fear of public speaking even has its very own medical term—glossophobia. Personally, I think maybe the fear of public speaking took root on October 14, 1912. Why? Because that was the day President Theodore Roosevelt was shot in the chest by a deranged stalker, but decided to go ahead and give his speech anyway!

A Tough Son of a Gun

Teddy RooseveltFollowing President McKinley’s assassination in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt became president, and in 1904, he was elected to a second term. President William Howard Taft was then elected the 27th President of the United States in 1908, which gave Roosevelt a nice little break, but he still felt that the office should be his one more time. When the Republican Party disagreed with that, Roosevelt formed his own Party—the Progressive Party, also known as the Bull Moose Party. “Bull Moose” was a reference to a reporter questioning Roosevelt about the experience of the Battle of San Juan Hill. He told the reporter, “I’m feeling like a bull moose!”

Bull Moose Season

Bull Moose SeasonRoosevelt was on the campaign trail on that fateful day in 1912 when a would-be assassin declared open season on the nation’s most powerful bull moose. The former President was giving fifteen to twenty speeches per day at that point, and since he most assuredly did not suffer from glossophobia, Roosevelt’s speeches occasionally lasted as long as an hour. His marathon speech making tour had landed him in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on the day he found himself on the wrong end of a .38 caliber revolver.

John SchrankNow that I think about it, John Schrank, the triggerman, was also on the wrong end of a .38 caliber revolver on that day. Schrank, a German born saloon keeper, had immigrated to the United States at the age of nine. Schrank strongly opposed Roosevelt’s bid for a third term as President. He later told police that the ghost of President William McKinley visited and told him, “Let not a murderer take the presidential chair, avenge my death.”

That wasn’t the first time Schrank felt McKinley had given him instructions. Schrank reported that years earlier he had a dream about McKinley. He stated, “I saw President McKinley sit up in his coffin, pointing at a man in a monk’s attire in who I recognized as Theodore Roosevelt. The dead President then said, “This is my murderer, avenge my death.”  Well . . .  alrighty then!

Schrank purchased a revolver in New York and began stalking Roosevelt on the campaign trail. He followed Roosevelt to Charleston, S.C., Atlanta, GA, Chattanooga, TN, Evansville, IN, Indianapolis, IN and Chicago, IL. Evidently tracking a Bull Moose required dedication! Schrank finally found his opportunity to open fire on President Roosevelt in Milwaukee, on that fateful day.

Dodge a Bullet

RooseveltWhile Roosevelt dined inside the Hotel Gilpatrick, Schrank waited outside. As Roosevelt stepped into the car that would take him to the Milwaukee Civic Auditorium, he turned to wave to the onlookers. That’s when Schrank went for the gun. Roosevelt’s secretary tackled Schrank, jostling him and disrupting his aim, but a shot was fired off. Where did it go? It seemed to have vanished in thin air.

Roosevelt's shirtAfter urging the crowd to not hurt Schrank, the Bull Moose candidate headed for the auditorium. He was in the car when he reached into his overcoat and felt the trickling blood. Until then, no one had realized Roosevelt had been hit.

RooseveltThe bullet had found its way to Roosevelt’s chest. But, why was it not a fatal wound? Miraculously, before hitting his chest, the bullet had hit his eyeglass case and traveled through the fifty pages of notes for the speech he was about to deliver! The manuscript had been folded in half and slipped into Roosevelt’s coat pocket. That wad of paper saved his life! That was one time when being long-winded turned out to be a good thing.

Stick to One’s Guns

Teddy RooseveltNot one to disappoint his supporters, Roosevelt remarkably continued on to the venue. Though doctors urged him to go to the hospital instead, Roosevelt knew a political opportunity when he saw one. The consummate politician marched onto the stage and opened his jacket, revealing his bloody shirt. He showed the audience of 9,000 his bullet torn manuscript and said, “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose. But fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet – there is where the bullet went through – and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best.”

And do his best he did! Roosevelt spoke for at least fifty-five minutes. Some sources say it was closer to ninety minutes. That was one whale of a speech!

TR7Afterwards, Roosevelt finally agreed to go to the hospital. X-rays revealed that the bullet was lodged in one of his ribs, here seen in the lower left of the film, arrow pointing to it. Doctors determined that it was safer to leave the bullet where it was. After spending eight days in the hospital, the Bull Moose walked around with a bullet lodged in his chest for the remainder of his life.

The Rest of the Story

Bullet in his chestSchrank was determined to be insane. He spent the rest of his life in the Central State Mental Hospital in Waupun, WI, passing away in 1943, of pneumonia. It is said that he never once had a visitor.

Sadly, after facing down both the number one human fear, public speaking, and the number two fear, death, Roosevelt lost the election to Woodrow Wilson. He may have lost the election, but no matter how you slice it, he won the speech…as well as our hearts!

Happy trails,

Anita Lequoia

Pie Town, New Mexico: A Slice of Life

Pie Town, New MexicoI love all things pie.  I love pies of the fruit, custard, fried, and chicken pot variety. I’ve always been partial to pie charts over bar graphs. I love the song, “American Pie,” by Don McLean. Heck, I even love Pi. So, when I heard tell about a place called Pie Town, New Mexico, I just knew that was a story I had to share. 

A Slice of Life


In 1922, Clyde Norman, a WWI veteran, filed a forty-acre mining claim. He had hopes of striking it rich, but he never found enough gold or silver to place him among the “upper crust,” so to speak. Norman needed a way to make money so he decided to turn to what he loved best. Like me, Clyde Norman loved pie. He also understood that lots of other people love pie. His mining claim might not have been lucrative, but it happened to be smack-dab along the route of both US 60—the country’s first coast-to-coast highway—and a very busy cattle trail.  The location was downright providential! Clyde NormanNorman began selling pies made from dried fruit. Some folks say that he made them himself. Others say that his niece did the actual pie making. But regardless of who made them, there was no shortage of customers. The cowboys on cattle drives especially took a shine to Norman’s pies. They spread the word up and down the trail, and soon the place they dubbed “Pie Town” was a regular cattle drive stopover.

He Finally Got a Piece of the Pie

Then along comes a man named Harmon L. Craig, a fella who knew a good thing when he saw it. That’s why, in 1924, Craig paid Norman for half-interest in Pie Town. How much did it cost him? I’m glad you asked! The going rate for half of Pie Town was “one dollar of good and lawful money and other good and valuable consideration.” I have no idea what “good and valuable consideration” might have been unless it was that Craig knew where to get his hands on a supply of aluminum pie tins. But I’m guessing that’s not it. Pie Town, New MexicoWithin a few years, Craig bought out Norman’s remaining interest in Pie Town. I’m not sure what he paid for it, but I’m betting it included plenty of good and valuable consideration. Craig became the town’s most prominent citizen. His buyout made him sole proprietor of the mercantile and a café. He also came to own a gas station/garage and a pinto bean warehouse. Pie Town, New MexicoIn 1927, the citizens of Pie Town petitioned for a post office. The Postmaster General wasn’t thrilled with the name of Pie Town and wanted the locals to choose something more dignified and worthy of the U.S. Postal Service. The Pie Towners wouldn’t budge on the matter and, in the end they were victorious.

Feed Your Pie Hole

The Dust Bowl refugesDuring the mid to late 1930s, Pie Town became a refuge for many Dust Bowlers who had left Oklahoma and Texas in order to feed their kids something other than dust. Harmon L. Craig helped the struggling new homesteaders get things in apple pie order. He sold land below market value and made loans that required no collateral and charged no interest. On top of that, his pinto bean warehouse provided farmers with a way to market their crops. He even taught the struggling homesteaders how to do practical things like make harnesses from old tires. Pie Town, New MexicoIn the mid-1930s, there were around 250 families residing in the greater Pie Town area. Craig continued to build the town and develop opportunities for locals, but don’t worry . . . the pies didn’t fall by the wayside. While Craig tended to the business side of life in Pie Town, his wife and daughters baked up to fifty apple, cherry or raisin pies a day.

Pie in the Sky

I was so touched by Harmon L. Craig’s kind heart that I wanted to learn more about him. Craig died in 1958, at the age of 81. With the help of the interwebs, I was able to locate an online obituary for him. Craig’s widow, Theora Baugh Craig, said, “He cussed a lot, but he cussed nice clean cussing.” Lawdy, that made me laugh! She also pointed out that when they were married in 1924, Craig promised her that if she stuck with him, “and would live on potatoes and beans like the rest of the ranchers,” they would make a little money. Theora said, “Old H.L. Craig could make a little money.”

As American as Apple Pie

Pie7Much of Pie Town’s history might have been lost and forgotten if not for the efforts of a man named Russell Lee, a photographer who worked for the Farm Security Administration, which was a part of FDR’s New Deal. That New Deal gave us some great old photos! Lee arrived in Pie Town in 1940 with the task of documenting how the Depression had affected rural America. In the June 6, 1940 issue of the Magdalena News, a reporter wrote, “Mr. Lee of Dallas, Texas, is staying in Pietown, taking pictures of most anything he can find. Mr. Lee is a photographer for the United States department of agriculture. Most of the farmers are planting beans this week.” pie-town-collage Not only did Lee provide us with photographs of daily life in 1940’s Pie Town, he provided us with COLOR photos. They are hauntingly beautiful images that are one part The Grapes of Wrath and two parts Norman Rockwell. They showed us the struggle of life in Pie Town, but they also showed us a thing or two about hope and the concept of community. In recent years, contemporary photographer  took his camera and lenses to Pie Town. His photographs show what has changed and what has stayed the same. Here is a remarkable slide show from NPR, of Lee’s photos and Drucker’s photos.

Fresh Pie

Pie-o-neerToday, Pie Town, New Mexico boasts a population of fewer than 100. As you might expect, some of the residents are ranchers, but there are also a few pie makers. Businesses like Pie-O-Neer and Good Pie Café still serve up happiness by the slice. Stop by some time, and have them serve you up a slice of American history! Have a look-see at what Pie Town is like today in this video from Team America Productions.  I think that you’ll be surprised to see how little it has changed from the Dust Bowl years.

Happy trails,

Anita Lequoia

Beautiful Jim Key: The Horse That Changed the World

Jim KeyPatience may be a virtue, but it is not one that I happen to possess. That’s why when I heard that Morgan Freeman had signed on to star in one of the world’s greatest horse stories, I knew there was no way I could wait until the movie was made to share it here at The Campfire Chronicle.


Let’s review the reasons why I am so excited:

  1. Hollywood is making an historical horse movie.
  2. The subjects of said horse movie are Dr. William Key and his horse, Beautiful Jim Key.
  3. Morgan Freeman is going to star as Dr. William Key.
  4. I love history.
  5. I love horses.
  6. I love Morgan Freeman.

Need I say more?  You can easily see why this news thrills my soul and makes my toes tingle. My plan was to get you excited about this news, too . . . a new Hollywood film about horses, YEEHAW!  But, by golly, the more researched this topic, the more I realized that the real story here isn’t about my beloved Morgan Freeman making this movie. . .it’s about the free man he’s set to portray. So let me tell you the story of how an African American slave became one of the wealthiest people in America and how his horse training methods forever changed the way Americans treated their animals.

Freeman’s Free Man

Jim Key PortraitDr. William Key was born a slave in 1833. When his master died, 5-year-old “Bill” was willed to a man named John W. Key, a tanner in Shelbyville, Tennessee. It is there that Bill demonstrated an affinity for animals, particularly horses, and he reveled in the task of training them. His also had a special way with his new master’s disabled father, and was often given the task of keeping his master’s father company. Bill had such a knack with the old man that the family was exceedingly appreciative and Bill was given a gift awarded to few slaves . . . an education. He was taught reading, writing, arithmetic and science. The mistress of the household even taught Bill elocution and etiquette. Following the Civil War, Bill Key was far more prepared for life as a free man than most slaves.

Bill never forgot the John W. Key family, especially when the tides of fortune turned.  When the family patriarch John W. Keys died, the family lost far more than the man . . . they also lost their comfortable lifestyle.  By this time, Bill Key was well on his way to becoming a success in life, so he stepped in to pay off the mortgage on his former master’s home. He supported John W. Key’s heirs and even sent their two sons to Harvard. When asked about his unusual devotion toward his former master’s family, Bill replied, “I was one of those fortunate men who had a kind master.”

ShelbyvilleBill opened a horse hospital in downtown Shelbyville. While he had no formal training, he was considered to be a veterinarian by the townspeople. He also opened a racetrack, a restaurant, a hotel, and operated a successful pharmaceutical business. Within five years, “Dr.” Key was one of the most prosperous men in Shelbyville. This gave him the resources to turn his attention to the sport of kings, horse racing, and his goal was to breed the world’s fastest racehorse. Dr. Key’s grand experiment in race horse breeding was foaled in 1889. . .but things didn’t quite work out as he had anticipated.

Lauretta Queen of HorsesThe foal’s dam was Lauretta Queen of Horses, an Arabian that had once belonged to P.T. Barnum. The sire was a Hambletonian by the name of Tennessee Volunteer. But, instead of the grand racehorse Dr. Key was expecting, out popped a spindle-legged foal that was unable to stand until it was several weeks old. Because of his early stumbling gait, the colt was named Jim after a town drunk. While the colt was not destined to win at the races, he was destined to become Beautiful Jim Key, the world’s most educated horse!

Training the World’s Most Educated Horse

Jim KeyDr. Key’s training methods were notable because he only taught through kindness. This former slave never raised a whip to a living creature. When Beautiful Jim’s dam died, the foal became belligerent whenever he was separated from Dr. Key. Being the patient man that he was, Dr. Key allowed Jim into his home and took him on the road with him when selling his pharmaceuticals!

For seven years, Beautiful Jim Key traveled with Dr. Key on his sales rounds. Throughout those years, Dr. Key continued to train the horse, pretty much to pass the time on long road trips. The horse learned to read and spell. Yes, you heard me right! He also learned to do basic math and to recognize the dollar value on currency. Seriously.

President William McKinleyThe horse was clearly gifted, but performance opportunities were limited by Dr. Key’s race. No matter how eloquent he was, or how talented he was, it was still the 1800s and Dr. Key was still an African American.  But, in 1897, Dr. Key was asked to serve on the “Negro Committee” at the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Naturally, Beautiful Jim Key went along! The horse made his stage debut in front of none other than President William McKinley. President McKinley offered high praise for both the horse and the training methods. In fact, he said that Beautiful Jim Key “is certainly the most astonishing and entertaining exhibition I have ever witnessed. It is indeed a grand object lesson of what kindness and patience will accomplish.”

Jim Key - Equine WonderWhen the press made note of the exhibition and the president’s endorsement, and New York promoter Albert R. Rogers was paying attention too!  Rogers and Key came to a promotional agreement, and for the next nine years, Beautiful Jim Key performed for wildly enthusiastic crowds all over the country. Their act was the largest moneymaker at the 1904 World’s Fair!  But more important was how impressive their act was in terms of content . . . they showed the world how the proper treatment of animals can yield amazing results.

Be Kind to Animals

Dr. KeyTo say that Dr. Key was kind to Beautiful Jim Key is quite an understatement!  The horse traveled in private train cars, drank purified water and ate hay that was fit for a star of his caliber. He also had quite an entourage!  He traveled with Dr. Key, two grooms, a veterinarian and Monk, a former stray dog that served as the horse’s companion and bodyguard. Monk had Jim Key’s back, in the most literal sense. The dog actually liked to stand on the horse’s back!

Beautiful Jim Key

Animal organizations took note of the excellent treatment Beautiful Jim received, and activists that might normally picket animal acts instead presented Dr. Key and Jim with awards! William Key was the first African American recipient of MSPCA’S Humanitarian Gold Medal, and Beautiful Jim Key was the first non-human recipient of multiple humane and literacy awards. Two million children joined the “Jim Key Band of Mercy” and signed his pledge. The pledge simply stated, “I promise to be kind to animals.” That’s a mighty fine pledge!

Wonderful Jim KeyIt is interesting that a disadvantaged man like Dr. Key and a handicapped horse like Beautiful Jim were able to change the way the world thought about training and caring for animals.  And that they accomplished it quietly, and by example, makes them very special heroes for the cause, in my book!

Out of Obscurity

Beautiful Jim KeyFame is a fickle beast and, while Beautiful Jim Key and Dr. William Key were hot stuff at the turn of the century, they were almost completely forgotten in the decades that followed. That’s another reason I am about to bust a gut over the upcoming movie! If, like me, you can’t wait until Morgan Freeman works his onscreen movie magic, you might want to check out the book that served as the basis for the screenplay, Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of a Horse and a Man Who Changed the World, by Mim Eichler Rivas.

Happy Trails,

Anita Lequoia