History of the STLA
1980's: The Colorful, Political, High-rolling, Years

The seventh annual STLA sale at the YO in 1980, set a new record average of $3,723. Jan Koehne and Red McCombs's secretary, Suzie Thomas, worked diligently to get a Longhorn Youth show into the San Antonio Livestock Show. The Expo committee was strongly opposed to Longhorns and would not give them barn space. They finally gave in and dedicated one aisle to Longhorns due to Phil Koehne's and Cliff Woerner's persistence. Happy Shahan was the show judge. The Koehnes also organized the 1981 and 1982 San Antonio Expo Longhorn Youth Shows. The 1981 judges were Maudeen and Travis Marks and H.C. Carter judged the 1982 show. The 1981 STLA Sale average was a disappointing $2,749. It was at this point that the YO encouraged the STLA to go their separate way.

Some trophy cattle private treaty prices had risen over $100,000 per head. Betty Lamb and Joe Kercheville owned a $210,000 YO/WR cow. H.C. Carter paid $100,000 for a cow. Many animals were syndicated for much more. "Classic" was the first animal syndicated for $1,000,000 by Red McCombs and Blackie Graves. By that time, the membership had grown to include: Kenneth Archer, Jerry Cook, Gary Henry, Johnnie Hoffman, and Blackie Graves. Several STLA members at that time bought ranches in the scenic Walsenburg, Cuchara, La Veta and Pagosa Springs areas of Colorado, and spread interests in Texas Longhorn genetics to that region of the country.

The STLA began hosting ranch tours and field days in the early 1980's that continue to be popular with members through to the present day. The STLA held its 1982 Sale at the Austin Coliseum. The sale average was $2,842. Cliff and Gail Woerner paid $2,200 for a Sicilian Donkey that Ben Settles and Sons donated to benefit the STLA Youth Association. However, hired sale producer John Stephens absconded with the money and was never seen again. The Tenth Annual STLA Sale was in the parking lot of the Houston Medical Center Marriott Hotel. Consignments were juried and sculptor, Jim Thomas created wall plaques for the champions. The sale average was $1,763. Although the sale prices were a disappointment, the 1983 Youth Show at the San Antonio Expo held the day before, was a great success. Mike Settles organized the show and Alan Sparger was the judge. That same year, the YO Sale held its first beauty queen contest organized by Betty Baker. Lashawn Wardlaw (Happy Shahan's granddaughter) won the contest and went on later to become Miss Rodeo Texas. The Queen's contest continued for several years with each affiliate presenting its representative for a national competition.

One hundred- eleven persons attended an early winter 1983 ranch tour organized by the Woerners that visited Phil and Jan Koehne's Las Abras Ranch where they viewed a newly designed semicircular squeeze chute and guests were served champagne, bloody marys, Mexican pastries and hors d'oeuvres. The next stop was H.C. Carter's ranch in Dripping Springs where guests were served hot chili around bonfires while hands drove up the herd and Walter Scott serenaded. The next stop was Bob Dulin's Lazy Five D Ranch in Blanco for hot coffee and a look at his fine paint horses and Longhorn herd. The group stayed the evening at Horseshoe Bay where cocktails preceded a prime rib dinner with speakers. The following day, the tour continued to Cliff and Gail Woerner's Panther Creek Ranch where they showed their specially designed Longhorn working pens. Guests were served a brunch of quiche, cinnamon rolls, meats and fruit. The final stop on the tour was John Roberts's JHR Ranch in Johnson City where guests toured his beautiful home and herds of Longhorns.

The elegant Texas Legacy Sale was held that year in Houston at the Westin Galleria Hotel. A spring 1984 tour attended by one hundred-fifty people visited the ranches of H.C. Carter where guests viewed the Longhorn herd that included the famous "Measles," Judge Tom and Nola Gee's Triple Creek Ranch for a bar-be-cue lunch, and Red and Charlene McCombs's for a look at their specially designed Longhorn chute and impressive steer and WR cow herd. They stayed the night at Horseshoe Bay where during dinner, cowboy artist Ace Reid, gave a hilarious talk on the early years, followed by a panel of speakers. Don and Linda Wylie brought their guest James Michener whom had spent the previous eighteen months in Austin researching his book Texas. The morning tour resumed at Don and Velna Jackson's Stonewall Valley Ranch for a wagon ride through the ranch to the house for brunch. The final stop was at Mel and Jan McDougle's ranch in Johnson City where they showed off their pens and chute designed specifically for Longhorns. Membership had grown to include: Robert King, Calvin Reidel, Jim Seal and Harvey Rasmussen.

The year 1984 marked the beginning of an economic downturn in the oil and Real Estate businesses in Texas. Savings and Loans began to fail and several Longhorn breeders were forced to declare bankruptcy, while many others opted to disperse their herds with the onset of hard-tirnes. Several members hosted sales in 1984 including the Woerner's Panther Creek Ranch Sale back-to-back with the McCombs Fiesta Sale in Johnson City and YO Sale in Mountain Home. These sales came complete with the extravagant parties to which buyers had grown accustomed. Sale prices remained high. The average at the McCombs Fiesta Sale was $9,435 followed by a Heifer Futurity that averaged $6,513. The high selling heifer went for $23,000 to Bob and Maizie Hamric. The YO high selling heifer went for $5,700 and their average was $3,633. Happy Shahan also held a sale that year and the STLA Sale was held at the Kerr County Fair Grounds. Eddie Wood produced the 1984 STLA Sale. The average sale price went down to $1,40643. The STLA purchased feed and water buckets for the event and were disappointed to find they vanished after the sale.

While the STLA sale struggled, the Youth Show in San Antonio continued to grow in popularity and size. Mike Settles and Mike Crocker organized the show and Dave Evans was the judge. Carol Nietenhoefer produced an excellent Queen's contest. During this era, the STLA sponsored "Longhorn Weekends" with many activities packed into a small time frarne. The sale, queen's contest, educational seminars, junior show, and open breed show were all organized to run as clockwork. Many hours of work and planning by several energetic, creative people, made these weekends a success.

The 1985 Youth Show was organized by Carol Nietenhoefer and judged by Ron Coble. Entries doubled to eighty- five head. Rosemary Densford headed the Queen's Contest. Radio personality and Longhorn breeder Ricci Ware was the show's Master of Ceremonies. Although membership overlapped, the Butler Boy Million Dollar Syndication, independently from the STLA, produced the Yellow Rose Sale during the San Antonio Livestock Show. That sale averaged $6,197. The following year, the same sale averaged dropped to $2,169 although nine hundred people attended it. Nola Gee organized a spring 1985 tour of the Chico Wright Ranch near Robstown, where coffee and donuts were enjoyed in the hom room, then on to the King Ranch near Kingsville, where Leonard Stiles guided the group through pens that included several straight-Peeler cows all over twenty years old with "Texas twist" homs. Lunch was served at the horse pavilion, consisting of Longhorn sausage made on the ranch, followed by a cutting horse exhibition. The tour was headquartered in Corpus Christi. Cajun humorist Justin Wilson provided excellent entertainment at dinner. The following day, the group visited Walter and Mary Elizabeth Scott's La Copa de Vino Ranch in Goliad where they were entertained and educated by Mr. Scott's vast knowledge of cattle. Over two hundred people attended the tour.

The STLA built a display booth for use by its members to promote Texas Longhorn cattle. They proudly boasted it was of higher quality than that of the TLBAA and cost $5,500 less. The Legacy Sale was held that year in San Antonio, back-to-back with Key Moore's Seco Springs Ranch Sale in Utopia. The 1985 STLA Longhorn Weekend began with a seminar on the seven Longhorn families chaired by Red McCombs. Speakers included Robert King-Butler, Robert Harrell-WR, Alan Sparger III-Yates, Wayne Wright-Wright, Walter Scott-Peeler, Darol Dickinson-Phillips, and Maudeen Marks-Marks. Panelists and guests were then treated to a Mexican dinner on party barges floating down the San Antonio River. The Bevo Syndicate offered a consignees' breakfast at the elegant La Mansion Del Rio Hotel on the river prior to the STLA sale held the following morning at Rio Vista Farms near San Antonio. After three consecutive years of declining sale averages, this sale set an all-time high. The average sale price was $4,400! Over four hundred-fifty people were in attendance. Tom Brundage paid $35,000 for a Red McCombs consignment, the Butler bred "Classy April." Twenty percent of Ben Settles's TLBAA National Grand Champion Cow, "Anita," sold for $44,000 to Robert King and Walter Schreiner representing Flying Longhorns (a group of Air Force retirees who held investments in other top Longhorn donors). The huge success of the 1985 sale is attributed to the hard work and promotion of Mike Settles and his production team.

The economy really hit a low point after 1985 and no STLA member stepped forth to put in the work required for another successful sale for several years. The Longhorn business was further impaired by a change in the tax laws that prevented embryo transfer from being written-off as a veterinary expense. By having to depreciate out ET expenses over a seven-year period, the tax advantages to that practice were dissolved. Leadership in the affiliate floundered and the association was left to "lie fallow" until better times. Several STLA members turned their focus to the national group and played host to the 1986 TLBAA Convention held in Austin at the Texas Exhibition and Heritage Center during the State's Sesquicentennial.

A popular event of the day was the "Texas Gold" National Heifer Futurity. Breeders brought their best heifers and showed them loose in a ring where a panel of five judges scored the heifers on a list of conformational points. The owner of the highest scoring heifer was awarded $10,000. Another event at the National Convention was a Calcutta where breeders paid entry fees to show cattle in a winner-take-all competition. J.B. Hunn was the Master of Ceremonies. Bud Callahan, foreman for John Duncan's Honey Creek Ranch in Hunt, was in charge of taking the money for the Calcutta that evening. The foreman and his wife Lana made off with the unknown amount of prize money in a scandalous disappearing act. It was unknown what possessed him to exercise such poor judgment. He was well respected among his peers, held a good job and had been nominated for a director's position. A great deal of alcohol was consumed that evening that may have come into play. Eventually, a $3,000 sum was recovered from the thieves. Bud resurfaced several years later in Austin in the Real Estate business.

Gail Woerner helped organize a Ranch Rodeo for the convention that included ranch teams competing in penning, branding, and roping events and a stampede race. She and other members dressed as rodeo clowns assisted the pros, breeders Bo Damuth, Jack Long and George Doak, entertaining the near 1000 person crowd of conventioneers and invited guests including residents of area orphanages and retirement homes. Gail was so inspired by the experience that she went on to write the book Fearless Funnymen; History of the Rodeo Clown.

The ranch teams also participated in a cowboy cook-off. A junior judging competition took place where youth and adults matched their skills and talents judging the same cattle. Another event was the "Steer-O-Rama" where steers competed in several classes performing a variety of stunts ranging from carrying riders to pulling single to eight-hitch loads. The Texas Longhorn Breeders of Tomorrow National Youth Show was held during the weekend event. Back at the Hyatt headquarters, there was a fashion show and National Queen contest. A lean beef seminar and Trade Show were highlights in town along with a Ladies' Luncheon on a riverboat on Town Lake. In spite of all the fun surrounding the convention, business meetings were riddled with political head butting that resulted in the resignation of a few influential breeders of the day. Upon the conclusion of the convention, farewell parties/ranch tours were hosted by John T. and Betty Baker and the Overton's.

There was no sale during the 1986 STLA Longhorn Weekend, that took place at the covered Livestock Performance Center between San Antonio and Castroville, but the Youth Show continued with phenomenal growth with one hundred-forty entries. Dr. Mike Foulds was the organizer that year and the judge was Alan Sparger, III. The Open Breed Show brought some legendary cattle into competition against one another. Among the entrants were "Sweet-N-Low," "Molly Brown," "Nutmeg," "GGG 125," "Fawnie 08," "Wichita Gold," and "Anita." Contestants were grateful for the facility due to a five-inch rainfall that accumulated outdoors.

Don Wylie organized the spring 1986 tour that two hundred people attended. It was headquartered at the YO Hilton in Kerrville. The group toured the Settles Ranch, Honey Creek Ranch, the Brundage Ranch and the YO. The first "TLBAA Ladies Choice Sale" was held in April of 1986, in Austin. This sale only allowed consignments by women. It is rumored the quality of cattle in that sale surpassed the average of the time. Some of the participants were STLA members Betty Baker, Billicarole Evans, Linda Fletcher, MM Le Pinkerton and Gail Woerner.

The year 1987 was a time of regrouping for the STLA. Many of its founders had become inactive during the economic downturn and interest had fallen off. A new energetic leadership emerged with innovative ideas that breathed life back into the affiliate. A letter to Mary Nan, director of the San Antonio Livestock Exposition, declined her invitation to participate in the Expo in 1987 for the many grievances the STLA held against the SALE management in 1986 including: 1) given last priority on scheduling not beginning the Longhorn show in the beef cattle barn until the Brahman show was completed after 8:00 pm, resulting in the conclusion of the Youth show at 1:30 am. 2) The SALE building superintendent turned off the power to the public address system right in the middle of the Longhorn show. 3) The space allotted to the Longhorns was overcrowded. 4) Exhibitors had difficulty obtaining passes. 5) Exhibitors were given insufficient parking. 6) Exhibitors experienced conflicts with feed concessionaires and 7) the previous exhibit space of both sides of a full aisle was reduced to one side. For these reasons, the Youth show was moved to other locations.

In 1988, the STLA participated in its first Longhorn show at the Austin/Travis County Livestock Show. Don and Velna Jackson served as the first Breed Superintendents and Chaired the Show Committee. The show was declared the State's largest Texas Longhorn Show of the time. Members proudly displayed bumper stickers advertising the event. The STLA presented Governor Mark White with a bronze trophy and made him an honorary member. The Governor declared the week during the Livestock Show "Texas Longhorn Week."

The STLA also held a popular Cattle Swap that year in San Antonio. STLA members participated in the San Antonio Folklife Festival with several pens of Texas Longhorns on exhibit. The group also participated in the Texas Beef Exposition held at the Austin Heritage Center where thousands of cattlemen and visitors from across the country and internationally attended a week long exposition to promote the Texas beef cattle industry. The week was filled with tours, seminars, trade shows, open shows, herd bull exhibits, sales and more. The STLA exhibited cow/calf pairs and Longhorn cross cattle. John T. Baker oversaw the cattle during the show. He purposefully placed the Longhorns at the rear of the multi-breed exhibit as an experiment to find how much interest they would draw. As expected, a crowd always managed to find the Longhorns. The Longhorn exhibit was organized by A.B. Menasco and David Karger. Don Jackson was instrumental in getting the Texas Beef Expo Advisory Board to invite the Longhorn breed to participate in the event.

Heated Board of Directors' meetings were commonplace in the 1980's and early 1990's. Many members who cared deeply for the organization and gave it generously of their time openly addressed differences of opinions. Outgoing officers were frequently awarded tooled leather notebooks, belt buckles or wall plaques. In 1988 and 1989, the STLA adopted a plan to advertise in appropriate medias within the geographical boundaries of its membership. Ads were designed to demonstrate what the Longhorn breed is all about, with the idea of destroying prejudicial myths while creating an interest to stimulate sales.

A late '80's tour attended by Carolyn Hunter and Riemer Calhoun from the National Office began at the Faust Hotel in New Braunfels and visited the Kercheville's Joshua Creek Ranch in Boerne where they viewed an A.I. demonstration by Bob Ferguson. Then they toured the Oberhelman Winery where they ate a picnic lunch before going on to the Jackson's Stonewall Valley Ranch. The evening concluded at Swamp Creek Tavern. Another tour group visited Mike Crocker's ranch near Poteet, then went to the Horn Hall of Fame in San Antonio.

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