I love the history of America’s very unique western culture of horses, cowboys, native tribes and, of course, cattle. As Express Ranches has become the beef industry’s largest source of seedstock females, one of my favorite stories about the west is the story of Jesse Chisholm and his now famous Chisholm Trail.
The Chisholm Trail was an economic engine fueled by horses, riders and rails in the decade between 1867 and 1877. In its time, the Trail was considered one of the wonders of the western world, a 1,200-mile cattle highway that transported 5 million head of cattle from the rich Texas herds to the railheads in Kansas to feed America’s burgeoning populations in the east. My beloved Oklahoma was a major artery along this trail loosely following what is now state highway 81 through such cities as Duncan, Enid, Ft. Reno, Kingfisher, Chickasha, Yukon, Tuttle, Hennessey, Concho and many more.
As an industry leader, I can relate to Jesse Chisholm, an entrepreneur of his time who first carved out the trail to transport his trading goods to his customers. He realized he could create a new marketing niche in the post-Civil War era by exploiting the new technology of rail service to bring fat herds of Texas livestock to the hungry mouths of Americans in the east who were demanding the delicacy of western beef. Today in 2017, we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of Chisholm’s entrepreneurship.
When we were buying and building 10,000 acres representing Express Ranches in Oklahoma, it was vital we preserve the last golden marker of the Chisholm Trail on the northeast edge of our land. I love to stand on that spot and imagine what it was like 150 years ago to see the dust rise in the distance heralding the arrival of another herd and its riders. Herds ranging from 300 to 10,000 head would thunder across the land with the sounds of hooves, leather cracking, riders bellowing orders and cattle bawling their protest. I imagine the hardships of driving millions of animals across hundreds of miles of often dry, brittle unyielding land. But I also think about what joy a rider would have in moments of solitude gazing across the massive expanse of the prairie watching the sun slip behind orange hills in the distance as an exhausting day drew to a close.
I’m thrilled that learning about the Chisholm Trail is embedded in the curriculum of Oklahoma’s third graders across the state. We are committed to helping keep the vision of the Old West alive today in the lives of our young people. On October 21, we are joining in Oklahoma’s statewide celebration of the Chisholm Trail with an open-to-the-public festival that begins with a VIP anniversary drive of more than 150 horses and riders dressed in clothing of the period. 20 Oklahoma cities are teaming up to create a mini-trail for families featuring crafts, art, music, ranch animals, old-fashion chuck-wagon food alongside modern food trucks. We want our children to relive a tiny piece of the Chisholm Trail experience.
The lessons of the trail are simple. Ride hard when the sun shines, use teamwork when the storms come, always protect the herd, and remember the land is greater than you.