A Sign of Things To Come

Along a lonely stretch of two-lane highway between Union Springs and Montgomery, Alabama, a small sign speaks to the history and reach of King Ranch. It’s not as easy to spot as it once might’ve been, but it still hangs as a proud beacon to Captain King’s legacy, built alongside a small creek in South Texas about 1,000 miles away. The land surrounding this sign is very different from that of the Wild Horse Desert, with piney woods and broom straw replacing the mesquite trees and scrub grass, but the sign seems at home just the same. It’s often overlooked, no doubt, with the speed limit moderated by log trucks, and the ditch ever present, but the sign at the humble entrance announces that a Santa Gertrudis breeder and cattleman live and work behind that gate.

Beginning in 1910, King Ranch decided to cross its Shorthorn and Brahman breeds in pursuit of a blend better suited to the heat and native grasses of South Texas. The result was a monkey, or a bull named Monkey, born in 1920 and destined to become the foundation sire for the breed, making this the centennial anniversary, give or take, of the Santa Gertrudis line. Over those many years, the breed has become known as a steady performer, mostly for their ready adaptation to heat and harsh climates, good beef production, and excellent mothering ability. That last characteristic plays well among breeders across the South, a region known for its polite gentility.

The Santa Gertrudis line, though, has ventured far from its South Texas beginnings. In 1950 the Santa Gertrudis Breeders International Association was established, and the following year they were exported to Australia. The cattle, not the association. State and regional affiliates help keep breeders informed on best practices here in the US, ensuring breed integrity for many years to come. And it all started along a little creek in South Texas where Captain Richard King chose to plant his flag.

Times are tough right now, and we face new challenges every day. Even in these circumstances, though, we can all take a step back, embrace the necessary changes, and put an eye to the future. It may seem like the Wild Horse Desert right now, but we’ll come out of this pandemic stronger than we were at the start. That’s what Americans have always done. So wash your hands, maintain a safe distance, and keep your family healthy. And plant a flag to mark the spot where you begin your new journey.

15 Comments

  • Jim Tanner says:

    Captain King left a legacy that will never be matched.

  • Steven Knotts says:

    What a lovely ranch so full of history. I’m looking forward to somehow finding this book. I still carry King Ranch leather goods, going on 40 years.

  • John sharber says:

    Great history about one of the largest, oldest and best ranch in America. Some book have been written about the ranch and are worth the effort to get one.

  • Don’t forget your other breed Santa Cruz. We love those beautiful red cows with white tip tales and no horns.

  • Curtis Chubb says:

    “And plant a flag to mark the spot where you begin your new journey.”
    The “A Cattle Centennial” is moving – not only the words, but the images.
    Thank you.

  • Mary Ann Wells says:

    Thank you for this tiny insight into the S Gert beginning.

  • Robert R Howell says:

    Being raised in South Texas I knew of the King Ranch and some of it’s history. Realizing at a young age (taught by my farmer parents) that having a dream, and working hard to accomplish the dream were important parts of success and the King Ranch story embodies this belief. I read about the King Ranch because I wanted to add ranching to our farm operation when I became a teenager and more involved in the farm business.
    Unfortunately, my father became ill and we had to cease operations and sell the equipment. I maintain my beliefs in accomplishing one’s dreams thru hard work and am glad I read about the King Ranch early in my life and learned what combining those two attributes will do for someone.

    I always try to stop at the King Ranch store in Kingsville, Texas when traveling to Harlingen, Texas as I enjoy seeing what is new in the store and continue to try and find a new pair of driving gloves like the old ones I purchased there years ago and am about to wear out.

  • Lou Von Esh says:

    I became interested in the King Ranch for two reason; I am friends with a rancher family in Valentine, NE and I own a Ford F150 King Ranch. Your stories are really interesting and while most of us have heard about the King Ranch all our lives we really knew little about the history.

  • Lou Von Esh says:

    I am out of words for the day thank you.

  • Kathleen Frank says:

    I have always been in awe of the King Ranch, and so enjoy your web site.
    The history, horses especially, and your shop too.
    Keep up your ground breaking legacy, and thank you .
    Sincerely,
    Kathleen Frank

  • Tom DeLuna says:

    I love the King Ranch history, i grew up and worked at the Norias Division with the rest of my DeLuna family when Mr. Kleberg was still around. I still have a brother and brother-in-law who live and work there. I joined the U.S. Air Force in 1970 after high school, served over 20 years active duty, and I still work for the Air Force doing my part to keep America safe. I traveled the world twice, to some places i’d rather forget, but i always love coming back to visit the King Ranch, so many memories and so peaceful makes me forget of all the dark places i have been. I have read and enjoyed about every book out there on King Ranch history, glad to have been a part of such a legendary place.

  • Susan Williams says:

    I grew up at Plymouth Oil Camp in Sinton, Texas next to the Welder Ranch and have always loved the ranch history of the King Ranch. The tour of the ranch is awesome and when we took the tour and went by the building where they were demonstrating the weaving of the saddle blankets with the big wooden loom, the famous kineos (I bet Mr. DeLuna knows whom I am speaking of) was there and showed us some rope things. The kineos are the heart and soul of that place and speaking with a Mr. Covarubbiaz some years back the communities of houses and the school for the kids reminded of growing up in an oilfield camp. I hope they have reunions

  • Jason Murphy says:

    Greatest leadership story I have ever read.

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