Monday, June 21, 2010



By (c) Russ Barnes

FORT MCKAVETT, Texas.  Many successful people have explained that personal and business creativity thrives on limits.  If you desire a creative frame of mind to solve some problem or initiate some needed personal innovation, then a Texas ranch may be the place to hang out for a while.

My daughter, Sharon, recently found this to be true when we visited AC Ranches near Fort McKavett, Texas.  She is a filmmaker/producer in NYC, and graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.  


For exercise, Sharon took her daily run on the mostly deserted road in front of our ranch lodgings and witnessed stark limitation, the hard line of the big sky meeting scrubby land at the horizon -- and once even a rattlesnake stretched clean across the dirt road as straight as the horizon itself.  What she witnessed slowed her down and made her think differently.  “A bit more brilliantly,” she claims.

In the film business, as in most businesses, many creative problems and opportunities present themselves -- often as limitations to be overcome.  On the ranch, the magic fences serve as boundary markers -- more than hemming cattle in and keeping poachers out, they mark psychic as well as physical limits.


 Making a Texas ranch profitable, says John Sassin, is no different from any other business. Sassin, a 20-year ranch hand and head of a family aluminum re-cycling business in Dallas-Fort Worth, claims, “A place like AC Ranches gives you the perspective on how you might become profitable. The ranch clears away some of the noise that keeps you from thinking fresh.” 

On AC Ranches there are 150 head of Black Angus cattle for which the ranch has signed a contract with Whole Foods (Austin) to test the market for meat which has not been industrially processed.

Unlike most industrial farming operatives, Sassin points out, Texas ranches mostly free-range their cattle (within limits). And because of the rise of profitable industrial farms -- which, he notes, are "virtual concentration camps" for animals -- the vast ranches of Texas (and elsewhere) have seen significant decline in profitability.


 "I have been told by others," Sassin notes, "that the cattle business is 'unprofitable.'  I intend to prove otherwise by thinking creatively about change --  the greatest tool in any business venture. "  And yet, as he is well aware, change is often difficult to accept.

Sassin muses on how ranch life braces the spirit in opening to unusual solutions to life's problems, invoking the myth of  "the western" -- in both novel and film such as Lonesome Dove.

The 'romance' of a west Texas ranch in my opinion," continues Sassin, "is conjured up in the mind of an individual 'caught up' in the everyday motions of typical life; i.e. wake up, breakfast, get kids to school, go to work, get kids home, dinner, pay bills, homework for all, bathe, sleep, wake up, repeat."


He meditates a minute on his statement --  and adds, "It's a cycle which becomes mundane." Then he modifies a bit, "On the ranch one's life becomes in some regards the same but yet excitingly different."
[NOTE: DISCOUNTS, Premiums for outdoorsmen and their companions -- You must mention these articles to AC Ranches and you will get 20 percent off your selected hunting and outdoor journey.  Check out AC Hunting Ranches for rates and bookings at:  Contact Allen Spence for information about transportation from Austin or San Antonio:  (325-387-2085) Future articles will feature other hunting and regional premiums which you may access by contacting AC Ranches or this website.]


With the nearest sizable grocery store sixty miles away, and no significant access to 911, the limitations make one think differently, with more simplicity, and with a kind of blessed clarity.

"Here nature is your neighbor," Sassin points out. "For a change, instead of people, cars and traffic, there are deer and wild turkey to replace your ordinary morning and evening traffic as those animals cross the roads or fly overhead to their favorite feeding sites. Unlike in the fast lane on the highway, or the crowded avenues of the city, when a west Texas driver lifts up his hand up to signal you, the gesture is one that says 'Howdy' -- instead of something far less friendly.  Stress disappears."


John Sassin has no title.  Everyone on the ranch appears to be a CEO of some ever-changing domain on this 20,000 acre ranch. "I'm a Jack-of-all-Trades," Sassin claims. "This past week I got the fire engine running that we purchased at the Ft. McKavett Fire Department Benefit Auction.  She's a beauty, vintage 1964 Howe Chevrolet model pumper truck with all the 'bells and whistles.' We'll display it under the flag on the highway at AC-3 for everyone to enjoy."


John Sassin is a bit reluctant, because of competitive factors, to disclose details of plans to make AC Ranches profitable. But it is clear that there  is interest in building a wind farm on one of the ranch's high hills -- a clear departure from the "as usual" oil energy sinecures exercised by many Texas ranches.

But he is forthcoming regarding several innovative areas the ranch is considering. "Sight-seeing, bird and wildlife watching, bed and breakfast are some ideas I can mention at this time that we are exploring." It's a new concept in supporting open farmland and ranch-land -- called "agri-tourism."

Sassin has also initiated some farming on AC Ranches: fields of Sorghum and Milo  for wildlife and domestic animal feed -- as well as fresh vegetable gardens for human consumption at the ranch. Farming is not ordinarily practiced on ranches, which are conventionally for grazing herds, domestic and wild. But Sassin believes that growing crops may add to ranch profits. (More about this in future posts.) 

Many west Texas ranches add other dimensions, in addition to the sport of guided hunting, among them a place for creative re-thinking of one's life.


To see more articles in this AC Ranch series, go to: 

Other Links: 
The Ranch:

An Outfitting Guide Describes the Harvest -- Two audios range over topics covering outdoorsmanship. Click here:  Hunting Guide  

Sonora Texas information at:
Many thanks to Anne Tongren for providing her excellent editing skills.

1 comment:

David richard said...

Texas Parks and Wildlife is going to raise the price of hunting and fishing license in Texas again. They keep saying what a bargain the Texas license is compared to other states.Hunting in texas