On the Pecos River........
In a Distant Part of Texas
by: Bobby McDonald
Located "on the threshold of the Trans-Pecos Region of Texas," Crockett County offers a unique experience for both the traveler and the wildlife enthusiast. Ozona, the county seat of Crockett County, boasts a population of only 3400 residents, and the entire county only has 3719 inhabitants. Some 300 residents live on remote ranches, in what we here in Northeast Texas would call "some mighty rough country," as they share the land with catclaw, cacti, mountain lions, rocky mountains, and jagged ledges, that make up a terrain with its own distinct beauty.
On a recent trip to Ozona, I had the pleasure of meeting some of those residents that live on a remote Crockett County Ranch, Paul Perner III and his lovely wife, Ginger. Can you imagine living in an area so remote that it was 60 miles to town, through 10 "bump gates" once you leave the paved road? What if you had to travel 130 plus miles, to the nearest Wal-mart in San Angelo? Well, that's the ranching life that Paul and Ginger encompass as their Perner Ranch is located on the banks of the Pecos River. "Our boys went to Ozona to school, and Paul and I did too," relates Ginger. "But, most of the time we lived in a house in town and the boys and I would come out to the ranch on weekends and summers. The ranch has been in my family for generations, dating back to the 1880's when my forefathers came out here, to one of the last frontiers in the state of Texas. These rugged surroundings are home to us, and as my Dad use to say, "This country don't breed weak ones or tolerate whinners.' We've become hardened by the environment and out of necessity!"
Ginger and Paul Perner III
Paul and Ginger have "weathered" the drought of 2011, but haven't been unscathed. They received only 3 inches of rainfall in all of 2011, and have thus far received only 9/10ths of an inch in 2012. "We've trimmed back our beef cattle herd and been feeding them out of a sack for the past 18 months," related Paul. "And, we're having to provide supplement to our Angora and Spanish Goats, as the range just won't support them, as dry as it is!"
When I arrived at the Perner's Pecos River Ranch, back in April, it was "kidding" season for the goats and Paul and Ginger were busy feeding orphaned goats, in an effort to save them and to have enough replacements to maintain their herd of Angoras. Angora goats are getting harder and harder to raise in this country, according to Paul and Ginger, as the predators continue to take their tolls.....Mt. Lions, Bobcats, Foxes, Coyotes, and yes, coons, all can be a threat to a tiny Angora Goat, born out on the range, as well as buzzards, and even crows. The Perners had moved their pregnant does to a trap near their home, on the river and were bottle feeding the orphan and weak kids, in an effort to save them. "It's a full time job, just keeping these little ones alive and fed," denoted Ginger. "But, we're wanting to increase our Angoras, in response to building back after the drought and are trying to save every one we can!"
The Perners shear their Angoras for their Mohair, twice a year, in February and then again, the end of August. "A typical adult Angora will shear about 5-6 pounds of mohair, twice a year," advised Paul. "And, the Angora's getting harder and harder to find, as more and more ranchers are choosing to raise the Spanish goats, that are easier to raise and more hardy range animals."
Ginger's Great-Great-Grandfather, William Peery Hoover and his wife, Laura McNutt Hoover, were the first settlers in Crockett County, when they arrived in 1881, to stake their claim on the Pecos River, and the Pecos River Ranch, now occupied by Paul and Ginger, was a part of the over 100 sections that Hoover amassed in the area, along the river. Ginger tells the story of how her great-grandfather, Jack Kirkpatrick was ambushed and killed as he made his way home to the ranch from the train station in Pandale, with Christmas gifts, back near the turn of the 20th Century. Ginger's great-grandmother continued the ranching tradition, following her husband's death.
Ginger Perner, displays one of the many beautiful mohair blankets that she markets, woven from their own
young adult mohair, at the Old Woolen Mill.
Paul and Ginger have lived out on the ranch since 1989 and continue the family ranching tradition. Hunting leases are one of the major income producing parts of the ranch and they have a number of hunting groups that continue to come year after year, coming so long that they are almost like family members. "We look forward to hunting season, every year, to see these friends, that come to us year after year," advised Paul. "It's a great time for everyone!"
Hunting leases is one of the major income sources for the Pecos River Ranch.
Paul took me on a all-terrain vehicle tour of the river area of the ranch, pointing out historic places, significant locations, and explaining the ranching operation. "The river is our friend, most of the time," advised Paul. "You can irrigate from it and raise some alfalfa and other grasses for hay. But, about once every ten or so years, it becomes your worst enemy. Our last major flood was back in 2001, and it washed fences, some hunting cabins, and even livestock away!"
Following a delightful afternoon adventure, with Paul and Ginger Perner, on the Pecos River Ranch, I drove through the ten "bump gates" and returned to Ozona, over sixty miles away, and spent the night. The next morning, I visited with their son, Paul "Pablo" Perner IV and his wife, Melissa, who are the owners and publishers of the Ozona Stockman, the weekly newspaper that has covered Crockett County for over 100 years. And, I visited the Crockett County Historical Museum, that traces the history of this remote area of Texas, and the hardy, hardy pioneers that continue to call it home!
One of the ten "bump" gates that you must navigate to reach the Pecos River Ranch, after leaving the
Crockett County Courthouse.....Ozona, Texas
Paul IV "Pablo" and Melissa Perner, owners of The Ozona Stockman newspaper, serving Crockett
County for over 100 years.