Gracie is my horse. I got her when I graduated high school and she is the best horse ever! I got her from Champion Ranch. The owner of the ranch, Richard Walrath, donates several $10,000 scholarships to 4-H and FFA. I was fortunate enough to be awarded one. I wrote Mr. Walrath a thank you and he liked it so much that he told me to come and pick out a horse. He had two fillies that had been started and the minute I saw Gracie I knew she was the one I wanted. She looked like she could move. I grew up riding pleasure horses and had decided I wanted to try something different, so I traded for a mare that had been shown in working cow and reining. She got hurt and we had to put her down just a few months before I got Gracie. I was thrilled to get another little cow-horse. She is pretty good about not letting a cow by in the pens and it doesn’t matter how big of a fit a colt throws when you pony it: she will hold it. Everything I have learned and all of the new things I wanted to try she has been up for and has met the challenge. I have been able to take her with me to college and everywhere we have moved. Her personality suits me. My Granddad says that a person is lucky in life to have found one good woman, a good dog and a good horse. He always said everything he had was for sale at the right price except for my grandma, his dog Rosie and his horse Corky–that tells you how much he valued those things. I think Gracie is that special horse for me.
We set out in the suburban, cameras in hand, to take cattle pictures in the area. We had pulled over in a ditch and were hanging out the windows voraciously snapping pictures from the road along Circle C Ranch, when a grain truck pulled up behind us. It was the Circle C ranch manager and he said if we would come back when he was through feeding, he would take us around in the feed truck and we could take all the cattle pictures we wanted. There was a particular cow he wanted me to see, the one I’m calling Curly Q. She has enormous asymmetrical horns! She’s never had a calf, but they keep her around because she is so cool looking. I have never seen a cow with horns quite like hers and I am excited that I got some pictures. I really hadn’t realized until I started painting all these horned cattle, that none of them are exactly symmetrical and many are off quite a bit. I love the variation! We take our own photos for these original paintings and that is half the fun! The sun was lovely that afternoon and we had a blast looking at cows and taking pictures. It was a wonderful day in northeast Texas!
My sisters and I have always loved to listen to my granddad tell about his life ranching in east Texas. He tells about the cattle he has had and everything he has seen in his eighty-six years in the agricultural industry. Over the years Granddad has tried many different breeds of cattle—it’s not easy to thrive in the heat of Texas. He once tried a Brahman bull to put on his commercial cows. Brahman’s are known for their heat tolerance, hardiness and maternal instinct—and also big ears and a hump between their shoulders. Granddad picked up the new Brahman bull from the local sale barn in Paris, Texas. He said this bull was a good, stout fellow and he put him with the cows. The next day he was straightening troughs and walking around the cows, when the bull spotted him. Immediately, the bull started towards him. Startled by being greeted with such enthusiasm, and unsure of the behemoth’s intentions, Granddad stepped behind the nearest tree. The bull kept coming. When he was about a yard away from Granddad’s hiding spot, he abruptly stopped and put his head down. Granddad reached around the tree and started scratching him. The bull apparently loved being scratched because he promptly laid down right then and there. He turned out to be really gentle. Anytime a person would scratch him, especially when they scratched him behind his ears, he would just flop over! Granddad said he would drive the feed truck in the pasture and the bull would run up to the truck and try and stick his head in the window. If someone would scratch him from the window, he would lay down right beside the truck. My aunt and uncle were really little at the time and they loved that. They would jump out of the truck and want to feel his hump. Granddad said they were mesmerized by the bull’s hump.
Even though this bull was gentle in the pasture, he was like a whole different animal in the corral. You didn’t want to shut the gate on him. At that time, our corrals and alleys were all wooden planks. Granddad had gotten the cattle up, gotten them penned, and the next thing he knew, his bull had crashed through and broken the corral’s wooden gate. After having this bull for a while, he realized he wasn’t getting any Brahman calves, and had to sell the bull. Since the bull wouldn’t stay in the corral, Granddad had to park the trailer in the pasture and lure him inside with a bucket of feed to get him captured. He began pouring a bucket of feed in the trailer and the bull just walked right in to have his supper. All Granddad had to do was close the gate and hauled him to town. Though he was disappointed not to have any calves from that bull, he really enjoyed his personality and being around such a character.
The bull in the painting is one that our neighbors at Circle C Ranch have, and they were gracious enough to let me get a picture of him. He was fun to paint with his long ears and superior expression. We have found that Brahman influenced cattle are great for our area because they can stand the heat, and now we use the Brahman-influenced Brangus cattle for our registered and commercial herds.