Peeler Ranch History
Ranch history is seldom simple and pretty, yet people most often portray American ranches and ranching families as such.
The Peeler family ranching history is a similar picture from great times and events to dismal droughts and sell outs.
Early Texas Statehood & Civil War Reconstruction
Justin’s great, great, great, great grandfather is recorded to have fought in the Texas war with Mexico which occurred from 1846-1848.
Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving drove their herd of 2000 Texas Longhorns up what became the Goodnight-Loving Trail. Goodnight established his ranch in south eastern Colorado at the head of the Apishapa Canyon. Julie and Justin own a large part of this ranch, Goodnight’s first Colorado ranch, where you can today still see the Goodnight Cattle Pens, a Goodnight homestead, and the Goodnight Cemetery. Presumably, this Peeler Ranch was the cattle drive stopping point in the movie “Lonesome Dove”.
There are accounts of Goodnight’s cattle drives of Texas Longhorns crossing the Hog’s Back in southern Colorado on the way to his Apishapa Canyon ranch. This trail would have required Goodnight to cross another of Julie and Justin’s Colorado ranches, their Model Ranch.
Julie’s family settled in Texas years before they registered their first cattle brand in 1876. Julie’s family still has the same brand registered, 142 years later. This is the first publicly recorded date her family “stamped” their ranching heritage.
Justin’s great, great grandfather,Tom, was a TSCRA brand inspector in and after 1877. Tom was involved with cattle drives, trail driving and checking brands on cattle headed up the trails. Tom was influential in saving the Texas Longhorn breed by convincing one of his sons, Graves, that Texas Longhorns were “good cattle to own.”
The first recorded, public records showing a Peeler ranching in Atascosa County, Texas is 1882. The Peeler 7PL cattle brand was recorded in 1882 along with a deed to the first Peeler ranch lands in Atascosa County by Tom Peeler, Justin’s great, great grandfather. Today Justin has this brand registered in Atascosa County, Texas. It is used on Justin and Julie’s original, registered, foundation herd of Peeler Texas Longhorns founded by Graves Peeler.
Tom and Alice Peeler had their first child, Alonzo (later to become Alonzo, Sr.) in 1884. Among seven eventual kids, Alonzo had a younger brother, Graves, whom is well known for being a Texas Ranger and a TSCRA Brand Inspector circa 1926 and for helping save the Texas Longhorn breed from extinction due to the influx of English breed cattle. Graves also played in the first football game between Texas Agriculture and Mechanical College (now Texas A&M University of the famous SEC) against Texas university (quite ironically having a neutered longhorn as their mascot.)
Alonzo, Sr. and Graves ended up living and ranching in southern Atascosa County, Texas and adjacent, northern McMullen County.
Tom Peeler was shot to death in 1897 by a hired gun (outlaw) stemming from Tom’s law enforcement days where he caught and testified against members of a prominent family stealing cattle. The family hired the gunman to kill Tom.
Being a young Texas lawman, Graves is reported to have heard from an Arizona lawman of the hired gunman’s hideout location in Arizona. Graves apparently disappeared from Texas for several weeks. A while after Grave’s return, report funneled to Texas that the outlaw had been found shot dead in his Arizona cabin located far up a remote canyon. Apparently, Graves was never questioned.
The turn of a century… Age of Oil, Great Depression, WWII, and Contemporary Texas
Alonzo M. Peeler (Sr.) continued Peeler family ranching as “he started ranching on his own at the age of twenty.”
Although not the year Alonzo M. Peeler, Sr. began ranching, this is the year that is “fun” for the modern Peeler family to use as a “start ranching” year… perhaps because the land purchased in/after 1913 by Alonzo Sr. is where modern Peelers have extracted their cash enabling them to continue “living the Texas ranch-family life”. Only a part of this ranch still remains in Peeler family ownership. Justin is the only of his generation not to sell out. His parents own the majority.
1940 is one of the most defining years in the history of the A.M. Peeler Ranch at Christine, Texas. Justin’s father was born.
This was a another defining year in the A.M.Peeler Ranch family.
1962 was the year Justin’s great grandfather died; Justin’s father and mother married (still married!) and inherited some and began purchasing the majority of the A.M.Peeler Ranch from Justin’s great-grandmother to help her in retirement/older age. Justin’s parents also moved back to Atascosa County and have remained there.
Justin’s father owns and continues to operate and grow his part, the vast majority, of the original A.M.Peeler Ranch. Without Justin’s father’s commitment and vision, there likely would be no A.M. Peeler Ranch left for future Peelers.
The first recorded buck enrolled in the Boone & Crockett record books is taken off the A.M.Peeler Ranch.
Justin’s parents have three children, sister, brother, then Justin (the youngest) and eventually nine grand children. All three of the children are still involved with horses, cattle, goats, pigs, sheep, chickens, bearded dragons, goldfish, turtles, etc…. Each of the children have kids of their own.
While driving a three-wheeler, Justin crashes into his cousin’s three-wheeler. This leaves Justin with only 9 1/2 fingers. Justin’s finger never grows back, but his cousin comes back.
The late, great Dr. Paul Wilson, Justin’s high school government teacher and favorite high school hunting buddy, gave Justin a copy of Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac with a sincere message written by Paul to Justin. Dr. Wilson’s gift and the lessons within A Sand County Almanac helped build Justin’s vision of holistic management in nature.
Justin graduates from Texas A&M University with a degree in biomedical science. Realizing he is not and has not been committed to becoming a medical doctor, he heads to southwest Alaska to work at a fly fishing lodge for the summer fly-fishing season.
During the winter months, Justin travels to the island of Bocas del Toro on Panama’s Caribbean coast to explore starting a flyfishing lodge for bonefish, tarpon, snook and/or permit. Local politics and the lack of vast shallow water flats made this expedition a failed business idea.
Justin returns to Alaska, however in the southeastern part, and works another season at another sport fishing lodge.
In late summer after spending a month fly fishing in Washington, Oregon and Guatemala, Justin started a commercial hunting lodge, Macho Creek Lodge, on his father’s part of the A.M. Peeler Ranch. Justin’s cousin (the bad 3-wheeler driver leading to Justin only having 9 1/2 fingers) helped Justin start the lodge.
Justin was resented and hated by some and eventually most all of his family for returning to his once home, the A.M. Peeler ranch. Justin’s naivety toward the hatred did not immediately allow him to see how much he was hated and not wanted to return home, to the ranch. Oh well. Bucking bulls don’t want you on their backs, but people still get on bulls backs. “Hold my beer, and watch this!”
Justin’s grandmother, on the Peeler family side, passed away.
Upon her death, a trust was divested giving Justin, his sister and his brother each an inherited, divided portion of the A.M. Peeler Ranch.
Justin inherits part and acquires entirety of the legendary Grave’s Peeler foundation herd of Texas Longhorns.
Peeler Farm (the original Peeler Farm) is inherited yet sold by one of Justin’s siblings. This is the start of both of Justin’s siblings selling 100% of their land inheritance entailing all their land portions of the A.M.Peeler Ranch. Heartbreaking.
Julie’s family built, grew, still grow, and maintain family partnerships. Julie’s family has a longer history than the Peeler family of ranching and agriculture business and has very quietly ranched and still ranches a sizable amount of cattle; however, Julie and her family also own and operate diverse assets in timber, farming, world-class hunting, wind, water development, oil and gas and other real estate development ventures. Julie works with and maintains her interest in her family’s ranching and real estate ventures.
Julie’s two brothers were in The Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets and became the first ever brothers to be elected by the A&M student body and serve at the same time as Yell Leaders at Texas A&M University. They additionally and separately held positions as Red Pot for Bonfire, Ross Volunteers, and Parson’s Mounted Calvary. The wake of their tenure and extracurricular life as girl-chasing, hell-raising cadets and students at Texas A&M University Corp has been referred to as “legendary.”
Justin’s siblings begin to cash-out and sell some and/or all of their inherited family ranch lands.
While on a two week hunting horseback pack trip to the Yukon with her father, Julie harvests a caribou which is in the top 25 in the world.
Julie and Justin moved to the A.M. Peeler Ranch. Aside from Justin’s father, they became the first Peelers since Justin’s great grandfather and great grandmother to live on the A.M. Peeler Ranch. Aside from Justin’s father, Justin and Julie are the only living Peelers to ever have lived on the A.M. Peeler Ranch.
138 years of ranching… THE BLACK SHEEP & extractive family ranching
The 9-11 attack and resulting economic downfall gave Justin an emotional and financial-whipping with Macho Creek Lodge. However, he restructured the lodge business while Julie brought home a stable teacher’s salary. With much mentorship from two mentors, Justin began investing and developing small real estate deals.
One of Macho Creek Lodge’s clients takes a massive whitetail buck gross scoring 225 1/8″. The buck is the second buck from the A.M.Peeler Ranch registered in the Boone & Crockett record book.
A third Boone & Crockett whitetail buck is harvested at Macho Creek Lodge on the AMPeeler Ranch and which is entered in the Boone & Crockett record book.
On March 1, 2009, after the stock market crashed in September of 2008, the decision was made to close down the commercial hunting part of Macho Creek Lodge which had started in 1994.
THE BLACK SHEEP… After closing the commercial hunting lodge, Justin decided to attempt to redefine and rebuild ranching and to find ways to make TRUE profits from ranching in Texas, something virtually unheard of and mostly unbelievable to conventional, industrial ranchers in Texas. To his childhood family in South Texas, he presented the idea of “holistic management… planned grazing… ecology… grass-fed beef… selling beef directly to customers… financial accountability… communication… collaboration… honesty and selflessness….” To this idea, Justin further became his childhood-family-joke and was further talked about as “… crazy, unreasonable, not listening to ‘the family’, etc…”, THE BLACK SHEEP. However, continuing to always read, study and question, Justin further diverged and immersed his time in learning about successful agriculture systems and ranching around the world, especially in non-subsidized countries. He eventually began managing his ranch within a holistic context, a view he had read many years past, yet had unknowingly mostly practiced through all his years of land and natural resource management.
Justin gets another crazy idea after three years of holistic planned ranching. After making ranch profits in finances, ecology and people on the A.M.Peeler Ranch, he believes a ranch can be purchased (albeit in certain areas at certain prices), built, and managed with a holistic mindset, and paid for from the agriculture enterprises. He believed he could build and manage a truly sustainable ranch.
Justin creates and sells a real estate deal in order to purchase his and Julie’s first of six mostly contiguous ranches in Colorado. He begins building a ranch and ranching business in the American West in a way which most everyone says, “It can’t be done.”
Justin becomes the only remaining heir, sibling of his generation, the forth generation of the A.M.Peeler Ranch ownership, to continuously maintain ownership, control and management of his part of the A.M.Peeler Ranch. His parents still control, own, and manage the other part, which is the majority, of the A.M.Peeler Ranch. Once apparently 65,000 acres, the A.M.Peeler Ranch had digressed to around 23,000 acres.
Julie and Justin’s kids become part owners of the A.M.Peeler Ranch. Each kid also started his/her own ranching/livestock ownership company. Frequent meetings are held to plan their businesses.
Another tough, extractive, heartbreaking year for the Peeler name. One of Justin’s siblings finishes completely selling for cash all of the land that sibling inherited on the A.M.Peeler Ranch. Likewise, in November and although having no more inherited lands remaining, the other sibling (and spouse) had the repetitive, continued, strong, financial support of parents to financially cover yet another industrial agriculture/cattle-feeding venture that worked out very not-good. A crushing, non-sustainable, divisive year… financially and socially extracting further from the A.M.Peeler Ranch and family members.
However, Julie and Justin purchase another Colorado ranch, the largest ever of all Peeler Ranches, modern and historical, in any state, including Texas. The efforts to grow and accumulate biological capital and regenerate soil, our ecosystem, finances and social capital… is growing and continues!
Peeler Land & Livestock, LLC is created by Justin to be a replicable, sustainable, model ranching company. It hires its first and lead crew as Manager of Colorado Ranches to help orchestrate and build the idea.
The year of the Chinese virus… and a joke of an election, on both sides.
Albeit not often, Justin purchases and brings to the the AMPeeler Ranch outside yearling cattle. Many arriving sick, Justin and crew must revisit how to “take care” of sick cattle. They pull out their last purchased bottle of antibiotics (a symptom of a problem, not a cure). The date on the 7/8 full bottle of antibiotics was 2012. Antibiotics are a too-common crutch necessary and supporting a broken industry called “Texas ranching”.
Meanwhile, Justin and Julie procure another ranch to help in rebuilding and reinventing ranching. It is the second largest ranch of all Peeler ranches, behind only the flagship Peeler Bow & Arrow Ranch in Colorado, yet only slightly larger than the overall A.M. Peeler Ranch in south Texas. Regenerating the land, communities and profitable ranching business remains the core of their mission and vision.
“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
If we teach by (extractive-degenerative-agriculture) modern agriculture example, how will any future generations learn successful agriculture? Destroying ranch land, finances and families is a run-away train driven by greed, arrogance, dishonesty and selfishness, especially in Texas.