Next morning, Tio
Kleberg r'ars back and stomps the bronze door handle of his office on the third
floor of the Kleberg First National Bank of Kingsville. Tio means uncle. He's
30, about 5'5", strongly built, pure handsome. He tells how the King Ranch
has always bred performance horses. Cap'n King gave $300 for the first
12,000-acre land grant and within a few months paid $700 for a stallion. Unlike
most ranches, the King Ranch has always used its mares, proved 'em out at
working stock, and put the best of them into the brood band. Everybody'll tell
you the King Ranch has got the best mares. At last year's sale, 25 yearlings
brought an average of $6,200. We have a progr'm, we don't just run to this
year's get-of-sire champion and breed every sort of mare to him; a long-term
line breeding progr'm that has resulted in uniform quality mares that'll put a
stronger stamp on their get than any stallion, don't care what ol' flintlock
In Tio's office
is a large painting of Monkey, the foundation sire of the ranch's main
contribution to civilization, rated hereabouts on a par with the Model T Ford:
the Santa Gertrudis breed of beef cattle. Monkey is at rest, lying in a field
full of his progeny. Maybe the original King rests, but his progeny don't.
That, uncles and aunts, is also what it's all about.
The thing is, the
horse-breeding progr'm got a little bit stagnant back awhile, and cutting
horses come into a boom, and even if about 60% of your good cutting horses had
King Ranch blood, it was time for an outcross to a new stallion. Tio and Joe
Stiles, his quarter-horse manager, spent six months traveling all over the
West, incognito, looking for the best. They picked Mr. San Peppy. They're going
to use artificial insemination to maximize his seed, maybe even inject the
mares with that new hormone and time their estrus periods to the horse's
cutting schedule. If he does what he's for, the King Ranch'll be on the tip of
everybody's tongue again.
The Brink's Ranch
is about 50 miles north of San Antonio. The Arc de Triomphe is nothing to the
Brink's gate. Just inside you realize that the entrance drive is uncommonly
wide, straight and level, and that it has lights along its edges. No roof over
the arena here, and under clear blue skies the lovely oak-and-mesquite Texas
hill country hosts crackling Canadian air. A Lear jet sings along the driveway.
Lunch is pure Brink's brangusburger (meat from an Angus-Brahma cross). The
crowd, again, is pure aficionado, plus a busload of Directors of the Western
States Floor Covering Association, carpets being a good share of L. D.
go-round, Mr. San Peppy ties with Jay Freckles and Mr. Johnie Gay Bar at 148
points apiece. The next day, Mr. San Peppy marks only 145 and Jay Freckles
produces another gorgeous performance, marking 150. In the finals, Mr. San
Peppy stands fifth among nine horses. To win, he would have to make up a
five-point difference, which means he'd have to mark a 152, say, and some ol'
calf'd have to ketch Jay Freckles goin' th' wrong way. Never happen.
Sitting there on
the powerful, dignified Mr. San Peppy, needing a miracle, Buster Welch turns
for a metaphor to the miraculous Dallas Cowboys. "We're gonna have to just
back into that ol' pocket just like Starback, an' th'ow one of them ol' Hail
Marys." There's just no light under Mr. San Peppy as he works. Can't see
the legs for the flying dirt. He has maniacal locomotive poise, synchronous
knowledge of the cow's forthcoming stunts. All four corners work ad hoc. He
draws prolonged coyote-song from the cognoscenti and the floor-coverers alike.
Buster works him on two good calves, quits each in the center, turns back to
cut out a third and the buzzer sounds. The judges both score him 76, for a
On Jay Freckles,
Bill Freeman needs only a 147� to win the cutting. That would be the poorest
he's done in four days. His first cut is clean, centered; he sets up the cow
and just proper tears up the arena with it. Freeman is pushing Jay Freckles;
he's after not just the overall win but Buster's 152. He's marking high on this
calf; good calf, athletic, fast. He quits the calf perfectly when he's got the
good out of it, and goes back into the bunch for another.
This time, two
calves slant out in front of him, a mostly Hereford and a mostly Brahma. Bill
slants the horse with them, commits him to the Brahma, and Jay Freckles breaks
out sharply to divide the two calves. Right then the Brahma ducks his head and
puts on a tough move, shoots right along Freeman's leg. He passes through the
bunched herd and then he bangs the back fence so hard it rocks and wobbles. The
judges give Jay Freckles a 139.
Tio Kleberg is
rightly pleased. Harvey Brinkman hands Buster one more Jim Reno trophy. He may
wind up with as much Reno statuary as Leon Jaworski. A couple days later, in
Houston, Jay Freckles turns in three stunning runs and beats the champion, Mr.
San Peppy, by two points overall. But right in the middle of the second
go-round, that Canadian radio station ups and sells Jay Freckles for 35 grand
to Jim Milner—right out from under Bill Freeman, the only rider lately who's
been able to keep Jay Freckles from biting the cows.