A HISTORY OF THE TURNER RANCH

A HISTORY OF THE TURNER RANCH




 Two hundred and fifty years ago the English, in Herefordshire, began
selective breeding of cattle.  The Turner Ranch staff completed the task
their English cousins started centuries before.

In the 1870's, a head of 250 Herefords were imported to try and improve the
wild longhorns that were descendents of the Spanish cattle brought to the
Americas in the sixteenth century.  The Herefords were from the cool,
temperate climate of England with plenty of water and good pastures.

Surprisingly enough, the Herefords took readily to the harsh climate of the
Southwest.  It was not felt by many that the "fragile" Herefords could
survive on the semi-arid range, the droughts of the summer with heat well in
excess of 100 degrees and winters where temperatures dropped far below
freezing.  The Hereford did so well that in 1881, an additional 3,600 head
were shipped over and headed west.

The Hereford did so well on their own that the idea of crossing them with
the longhorn was abandoned and the pure blood breeder came into existence.
In 1881, Gudgell and Simpson of Independence, Missouri imported a bull from
England called Anxiety 4th.  Today, every major line in the United States
and most of Mexico and Canada can trace their herd's sires back to this one
bull.

The purpose of selective pure blood breeding was to bring a deep-bodied,
broad loined, short legged, massive hind quartered animal to our dinner
tables in a relative short time.  In the early days of Hereford breeding, it
took four years of grass feeding to get an animal to 1,000 pounds and ready
for the butcher shop.  Today, the animal can reach weights of 800 to 1,000
in just two years, which increases the rancher's profits and provides twice
as much meat for the American dinner table.

In 1898, Robert Hazlett of El Dorado, Kansas bought a sire from Gudgell and
Simpson which was from the line of Anxiety 4th.   Hazlett became the
best-known purebred breeder in the country with sires known as Beau Brummel
and Lamplighter.

In 1936, Hazlett died at age 90 and his herd of 604 purebred Herefords were
dispersed.  The prime buyer of most of these animals was the Harper and
Turner Ranch of Sulphur, Oklahoma.

Both Turner and Harper had learned the fragile truth of paper fortunes in
the oil fields of east Texas and the real estate schemes of Florida land
development.  They now decided to invest in  ranch land as the only true way to hold onto the assets of their hard work.

During the fall and winter of 1928-29, Turner and Harper put together their
pennies and dimes from a few oil royalties and acquired six parcels of land
in Murray, Johnston and Pontotoc counties and purchased the 9,300-acre
ranch six miles east of Sulphur.  They almost immediately went to Hazlett in Kansas and bought 26 pure bred heifers and a sire.  When Hazlet died they bought most of the remainder of his herd.


The ranch was originally stocked with 250 cows and 250 steers, which were
raised in the traditional ranching manner of prairie grazing.  When the
Hazlett Hereford herd of 26 heifers was added in 1937, Turner and Harper
decided to go to pure bred breeding.

In 1938, Turner bought out Harper's share in the ranch but continued to be
Harper's partner in the oil business until 1955 when he sold his share in
the oil business to a group of veteran employees.

Selective breeding from the sire lines of Turner Ranch Ruperts, Tones,
Beaus, and Bocaldos has produced many champions.  By 1948, the Turner Ranch
had produced heifers and sire bulls that generated $800,000 in sales, a
considerable amount of money for the time.

In 1948, a new bull named TR Zato Heir from the Hazlett line was added to
the herd.  The previous year, Roy Turner was elected Governor of Oklahoma
and his traveling became restricted.  His ranch foreman Jim McClelland
became the primary scout for new blood lines.

McClelland had traveled to Bismark, N.D. and spotted a bull named Zato Heir
L-22nd on the Patterson Ranch.  McClelland called Turner at the state
capitol and told him of his find and said he needed to come look at the
bull.  Turner told him he was a might busy running the state and go ahead
and buy the bull.  But, McClelland insisted and Turner flew to North Dakota
and studied the genetics and bloodline of the bull.  The two men agreed that
Zato Heir was their future champion and paid $15,000 for the bull.

Zato Heir L-22nd name was changed to TR Zato Heir on registration papers and
so began the truly famous lines of the Turner Ranch.  In the coming years
the heifers and bulls produced by Zato Heir would make him the first
$1,000,000 bull in history with the actual value of Zato Heir set at a cool
$250,000.

While taking a tour of the LBJ Ranch in Texas which is now under the
protection and control of the National Park Service, the tour guide told
this writer that the Hereford herd on the Johnson Ranch came from the Turner
Ranch at Sulphur, Ok.  Other people who have been seen on the streets of
Sulphur assembled for the big annual bull sale were the actor John Wayne and
country singer Jimmy Dean.

The name Turner Ranch is known wherever Hereford cattle are raised and it's
contribution to better agriculture is legend throughout the ranching
business in America.

For more reading on the history and bloodlines of the Turner Ranch, it is
suggested you try a book called "The Turner Ranch" by Roy P. Stewart.


Contributed by Dennis Muncrief - June, 2003