Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Off Topic - A Piece of West Texas History is up for Sale

Time for a break again from the serious stuff. See the added note below for the really fun stuff.

Imagine my surprise when I saw this article on the front page of Bloomberg. It's about a ranch up for sale in West Texas that has been in operation since 1849. The connection for me is that this ranch is only a few miles from the farm where my Dad grew up. I can recall him taking me fishing at the lake that sits in the middle of this ranch when I was a kid. For a kid growing up in the city, it seemed like the coolest place on earth. The real west, not the Hollywood version :)  

A few memories from those days:

- We were fishing on Lake Kemp one time and I happened to look down while my Dad was busy reeling in a fish. To my surprise I saw he had stepped on and killed a baby rattlesnake (about 8 inches long) that he didn't even see come up from behind him. Nothing distracted Dad if he was catching a fish :)

- My Dad's family owned a cotton farm and a cotton gin in this area for over 80 years. I recall visiting when the cotton harvest was in progress and the gin was running full steam. In good years the area would produce huge volumes of cotton. 

- This was (and is) a working ranch with lots of real cattle and real cowboys. Again, coolest place ever for a kid. I actually did not know until this article it was still a working ranch.

- This area was once inhabited by Indian Tribes. Indian Chief Quanah Parker was a friend of the Waggoners (see page 3). My cousin (who still farms in this area) has a great collection of arrowheads he found over the years working his farm. My cousin grows peanuts there now instead of cotton.

- Lots of real coyotes and wolves roam in the area. The coyotes howling at night are a haunting sound. 

-The big blue sky goes on forever out there. If trees are your thing, this is not the place for you. On the other hand, you wonder what people who talk about overpopulation are worried about when you are in this part of the world. :)

- One thing you don't forget about West Texas are the people. Some of the friendliest people on earth live there.

Below a few quotes from the article. Also, be sure to check out the video. It still looks like it I remember it from years ago even today.


“It takes days to see it all,” says Bernard Uechtritz. The real estate broker is steering his black Ford F-350 pickup over one of the hundreds of miles of roads ribboning the W.T. Waggoner Estate Ranch 175 miles (280 kilometers) northwest of Dallas. Squinting into the sun, Uechtritz gestures to the sky on his right. “Everything you can see, as far as the eye can see, is the ranch,” he says. He points straight ahead, then behind him, then left. “Each horizon is this ranch.”

Uechtritz (YOO-tridge) is one of two brokers entrusted with the singular task of selling the Waggoner ranch and everything attached to it, from the 29 tractors, to the cut-rock polo barn, to the emptied bottles of Old Taylor bourbon in an abandoned hunting lodge. At 510,527 acres (207,000 hectares), or 800 square miles (2,072 square kilometers), the Waggoner sprawls over six counties and is bigger than Los Angeles and New York City combined. At almost three-quarters of a billion dollars, the asking price is more than quadruple the biggest publicly known sum fetched by a U.S. ranch, $175 million for a Colorado spread in 2007. The Waggoner is one of the 20 largest cattle ranches in the U.S. and is known worldwide for its quarter horses.

It’s been owned by the same family almost as long as Texas has been a state. Last year, a judge in Vernon—a town of about 11,000, 13 miles north of the ranch—ordered a sale of the property and appointed Uechtritz and a co-broker to market it worldwide. The ruling of District Judge Dan Mike Bird ended more than 20 years of litigation between opposing branches of the Waggoner family who couldn’t agree whether to liquidate the property or split it up among themselves.

“It’s history,” says Uechtritz, a blue-eyed, square-jawed 50-year-old who can pass for the Marlboro Man—until he greets you with “G’day” in his Australian accent. “What we’re doing here never happened before and will never happen again.”      . . . .

Added note: 

Just for fun a reader here and myself proposed the idea that Disney should buy this area and operate the existing ranch (preserving its history) for cash flow while building a world class theme park/dude ranch on this land. They could even have a second park like Animal Kingdom in this area. The area is a little remote, but some Disney magic could fix that with a bullet train from the DFW airport to the park area. If you want to really go futuristic then we could go for a hyperloop to get people there in minutes. They could easily implement wind and solar power systems for this too. I can already imagine a 3D ride called 'Soarin Over Texas'. Not to mention they would have millions of people in Texas and Oklahoma within a three or four hour drive to the location (to establish a season pass base attendance).

We think this is a great idea. The only problem we see is that Disney has no interest whatsoever in doing it  :)

Added note: 7-29-15: The Dallas Morning News runs this update article indicating the ranch will likely be sold to someone that will preserve it by year end.

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