Last month, I had the opportunity to travel 12 hours from our cow-calf operation in Readyville, TN out west into Oklahoma. My family and I ventured to the top of the state to a small town called Miami, where I toured a Junior College. The following day, I insisted we visit Stockyard City due to my visit back in the summer when I traveled to Oklahoma City for the AQHA World Championship.
Stockyards City was founded on October 3, 1910 and known as the “packing town”. By 1915, the most significant meat companies were established in OKC including Morris, Wilson, and Armour, which would serve as the suppliers for the national source for meat packaging. At the time, meat was packaged and sent on refrigerated rail carts across the country. However, in 1961, the packing plants were forced to close due to harsh conditions that society frowned upon.
During my visit, I toured the Oklahoma National Stockyard which currently sells an average of 10,000 head of cattle a week. To our luck a cow/calf sale was in progress, so we sat in. I walked up the board walk to get to the sales floor and all I could see was stockyard from every view. It was simply amazing to see the hundreds of head of cattle being herded by cowboys into their pens. When I got inside the building it resembled any other sales floor I had even stepped on back at home, other than the flat screen TV’s that scrolled EPD’s and sale weight information. A few minutes into the auction, I realized that most of the buyers where the “regulars” or the stockers who attended nearly every sale. After about 3 hours of watching hands thrown up for the next purchase, we decided we were going to leave and walk around the street of Stockyards City. As we were driving back to the main road of the town I noticed the two story Armour Packing Company building still standing so of course I had to stop to take a photo.
After the long day we decided to eat at Cattlemen’s Café located in the center of the square. When we sat down the waiter informed us of the rich history in that establishment as well. “Back in 1945, Cattlemen’s was owned by Hank Frey, a gambler of sorts. In a smoke-filled room at the old Biltmore Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City, Frey was running out of luck and money in a dice game attended by a local rancher, Mr. Gene Wade. Frey put up Cattlemen’s as the pot if Wade could roll a ‘hard six,’ otherwise known as two 3s. Wade put up his life savings, which was a sizable amount of money. With one roll of the dice, Gene Wade was in the restaurant business.” the waiter said. He then proceeded to point out the ’33’ brand on the wall of Cattlemen’s Hereford Room. That night we enjoyed a fresh steak from the stockyard right next door and I may have been tricked into eating lamb fries.
The Stockyards still serve as the top spot in livestock market sales across the county. More than 102 million head of livestock have been sold at the Oklahoma National Stock Yards in Stockyards City since it opened in 1910. The history rich area was a great tourist attraction filled with good food, cattle trailers, and western apparel. I would highly recommended stopping by Stockyards City if you’re ever venturing through Oklahoma. The experience was truly amazing and awakening to my small town cattle operation.