Story by Anna McDougal, OSU Library intern
The Cowboys in Every County team took a lengthy drive over to Ellis County and met up with Oklahoma A&M alum, Duane Jenkins. Duane attended OAMC (now Oklahoma State University) in the mid 1950s, majoring in agricultural education. His lifelong dream had always been running a full-time cattle operation and in the late 1960s, he made this dream a reality.
About Ellis County and Higgins
Ellis County sits right on the border of Oklahoma and Texas, so if you can’t decide which state to call home, this county is the right one for you! Because of the county’s placement, it became a transportation corridor for military and trade. Without many large employers, the county’s economy has always relied on agricultural efforts. Wheat and cotton are common crops as was broomcorn back in the day. Did you know that Shattuck, Oklahoma, in Ellis County shipped more broomcorn than any other place in the nation in 1907? That’s a lot of brooms! Ranching is another major occupation for Ellis County residents, including Duane. Our Cowboy alum technically lives in Higgins, Texas, but the ranch he owns also resides in Oklahoma. With a lot of room to roam, Ellis County provides a great place to watch the beautiful Oklahoma sunsets and to enjoy the great outdoors.
Duane Jenkins was born in 1934 in Shattuck, Oklahoma. As this was in the middle of the infamous Dust Bowl, Duane fell ill with dust pneumonia before he was a year old. His presence today is a testament to the hardiness and strength of Oklahomans. As a child, Duane attended school in a rural, one-room schoolhouse before transferring to Shattuck in the fourth grade. This allowed him more opportunities for involvement, including his time spent with the FFA. It was through this that he began raising Angus cows. He and his brother purchased their first pair without a pickup truck, holding the calves in front of their legs on the floorboard. Duane had always grown up on a farm and began milking cows when he was only five years old. Although neither of his parents attended college, they always encouraged his education from a young age. In 1952, Duane graduated from high school and didn’t have to consider where he would go for his undergraduate degree. Oklahoma A&M College was the only place Duane had considered.
Duane headed out to Stillwater and purchased a place northwest of town with his brother and father and kept around 130 head of cattle on the land while he went to school. He came to OAMC to study animal science (animal husbandry at the time) but quickly became dissatisfied with college. He went home to return to farming life only to be told to return to school and earn a marketable degree by his father. There wasn’t much to do on the family farm at the time since the wheat crop wasn’t in tip-top shape, so his father continued to encourage Duane’s education. Duane returned to Stillwater and enrolled in agricultural education, a degree that he earned in 1956. With a college education under his belt, Duane married his girlfriend whom he had met at a barn dance back home. The newlyweds moved back to Ellis County where Duane became the Ag teacher in Fargo, Oklahoma.
For nine years, Duane taught in Fargo while keeping cattle on the side. His dream had always been to open a full-time cattle operation, which he finally did after almost a decade of teaching. Duane and his family found the perfect location for their ranch in the “Oklahoma Strip of Texas” that runs along the state line. Littlerobe Ranch now resides in Higgins, Texas, and has been a dream come true for Duane. Every year the family hosts a huge cattle sale out on the ranch with about 160 buyers coming from all over the state. Duane’s time at Oklahoma A&M served as the foundation for allowing his dream to become a reality and will continue to influence the way he runs his cattle operation.
Here are a few more image from our trip to Ellis County:
We still have a few more counties to go! Do you know a loyal and true alum living in Oklahoma with a story to tell? We would love to hear from you. Nominations are still being accepted for Cowboys in Every County. For more information, call 405-744-7685 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.