My name is Laura Harding, and my dad and I have worked on this page about my newest hobby/avocation - raising and showing Texas Longhorn cattle. Although I enjoy my Longhorn cattle, I have to make sure everyone knows that I am NOT a fan of that 'university' in Austin with a longhorn mascot - I am a Texas AGGIE fan (see the TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY AGGIES). My mom and dad both teach at Texas A&M, and members of my mother's family have been Aggies for several generations. Texas Aggies also have first claim to the Longhorn - the Texas A&M Yearbook was called The Longhorn from 1903-1948.
I also have a webpage that describes my other activities, including information on Down Syndrome. Click HERE to go to that page.
My great-great-great-great-grandfather, Joseph Henry Polley, came to Texas as one of the original 300 colonists with Stephen F. Austin in the early 1800's. He raised longhorn cattle by the thousands during the period prior to the Civil War. An article in the May 1938 issue of The Cattleman stated:
"At his death (in 1869), his cattle brand JHP (connected) was registered in many of the cattle counties in Southwest Texas. The earliest recording was in Brazoria county in 1837. His herds of longhorns were estimated, by some, to be second in number only to the great King holdings. During the time when depradations were being committed by Mexicans, over 16,000 head were reputed to have been stolen or killed from the Polley herds..... Mr. Polley looked after his cattle scattered from Fort Bend county to Marble Falls, and from Corpus Christi to Austin. They were sold mostly on the San Antonio and New Orleans markets. Later his sons 'went up the trail.'....."
However, my ancestors did not stay in the ranching business, so there were no more longhorn cattle in my family until 1998 when I started my 'herd'.
In 1998, a friend of my mother, Ms. Christine Larsen (South Haven Ranch), suggested that I work with her and her small herd of Texas Longhorns. She then contacted the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America, and they arranged to have a young Texas Longhorn heifer donated to me to raise, train, and exhibit at Longhorn Shows around the State. The heifer was donated by Glen and Lyn Lewis of the Flying Diamond Ranch in Colorado! Christine helped me learn to feed and show the heifer that we named 'Starlight Express'. Since I live in town, the heifer had to stay at her ranch!
Below is a picture of me in October of 1998 with my first Longhorn
heifer, Starlight Express just after I met her when she was 10 months old. I trained
her to walk with a halter with the help of Mr. John T. Baker of Sunrise Ranch at one of
his Showmanship Seminars the day this picture was taken.
I showed 'Starlight Express' and Christine's heifer, 'She's a Lady', in several haltered Texas Longhorn Breeder's Youth Shows and at the Texas Longhorn Breeders of America World Exposition in Fort Worth in June 1999. Starlight Express placed fourth in her class in the World Youth Show at Fort Worth, but 'Lady' placed First in her Class, was named Junior Female Champion, and then was named Reserve Champion Female. I won a belt buckle, a leather plaque, and a tack box as prizes! Here are pictures of me showing 'She's a Lady' and with Christine after 'Lady' had been named Reserve Champion Female at the World Youth Show.
I also gave a speech about the ancestors in Starlight Express's pedigree and my Texas ancestors with Longhorn experience as part of the Texas Longhorn Breeders of America Gold Merit Program. I was named as one of two Newcomers of the Year at the Show and had a second Longhorn heifer donated to me! We picked up 'Happy Days' from Michael and Kelly Warner at the Final Cut Ranch in Bridgeport, Texas on October 9th, 1999 almost exactly one year after picking up my first heifer. She stayed with the Warners until October when she was weaned. Here are two pictures of me with 'Happy Days'. The first picture was taken in June at the World Show (see the belt buckle I won with She's a Lady!) where she was being shown at her mother's side. I helped Mr. Warner in the show ring with her.
I showed Happy Days at several Longhorn Shows including the 2000 Fort Worth Stock Show . On the weekend of March 11 and 12, 2000, we took her to a Longhorn Show at Glenrose, Texas. On the 12th, we held a birthday party for Happy Days since she was born at the 1999 Glenrose Show on March 13, 1999. The picture below shows Happy Days, Mike Warner, and me (with a Happy Face birthday cookie) at the party. Happy Days placed 5th in a large class at Glenrose, and I won a 3rd place ribbon in the Showmanship contest!
The day after the Glenrose Show (March 13, 2000), a heifer calf was born to my first Longhorn, Starlight Express. So two of my first three Longhorns have the same birthdate! The picture below shows me with my dad, Starlight Express, and the new calf that I call Starbaby!
In June, I exhibited several calves that I had qualified for the Youth Show at the 2000 Texas Longhorn Exposition. I showed Pattie Cake, a heifer co-owned by Christine with Larry and Cheryl Lonero; Happy Days, my heifer; SW One Fine Day, a heifer of Christine's; and Bow Regard, a young bull of Christine's. Starlight Express and Starbaby were shown in the non-haltered Show so I didn't lead her into the ring, but she was at Fort Worth with the others. I didn't win any Championships, but I got some nice ribbons with all my entries. Everyone said I did a good job in the show ring. I entered the Gold Merit competition again and gave a speech about how Texas Longhorn cattle helped win the American Revolution! (See "Texas Connection With the American Revolution" by Robert H. Thonhoff) With my speech and record book I was named First Runner-up in the Teen Division. I won a nice director's chair. I also was elected a Teen Division Director of the Texas Longhorn Breeders of Tomorrow. I can use my director's chair for that!
On June 18,2000, I participated in a week-long Ranch Camp at Sunrise Ranch in Liberty Hill, Texas. Each kid in camp takes a young Longhorn calf to camp with them! At camp, Mr. John T. Baker helped us halter-break our calves and teach them to lead and show! I took a 7-month old steer that we purchased from Christine. We named him Ol' Sarge and his special herd number is 13-0! (He is a Texas Aggie steer!). Ol' Sarge was easy to work with, but he did get out of the corral when a gate was left unlocked, and he hid with Mr. Baker's Longhorn steers! At camp, we got to do some swimming, skating, a hayride, and other camp activities too! I learned a lot and had fun too. It will be a few years before Ol' Sarge will have the size and horn to rival Bevo. (Take a look at the pictures below to see how he is growing out!) FYI, the current Bevo (Bevo XIII) was raised and exhibited as a young steer by a young man who just recently obtained his B.S. degree at Texas A&M University!
In the Fall of 2000, we exhibited at 4 Longhorn Shows. We went to the Tulsa State Fair in Oklahoma at the end of September (so my dad's relatives could see me show Longhorns!), the South Texas State Fair in Beaumont, a youth show at Dow Chemical in Freeport, and then the Ark-La-Tex Longhorn show in Lufkin in November.
At the Ark-La-Tex Show in Lufkin, I was one of twelve youth exhibitors that won a drawing for a donated Longhorn steer! My steer was donated by Bolen Longhorns. I am naming him "Spirit of Aggieland", but will just call him 'Jake'! So I had two "Aggie" steers to show.
In the Spring of 2001, we exhibited in shows at the Star of Texas Fair in Austin and shows at Glenrose, Brenham, and Waco. At some shows, I showed six animals - that kept us pretty busy. At the Youth Show at the 2001 Texas Longhorn Exposition, I placed second in the Teen Division of the Gold Merit Competition, where I gave a speech on "Selecting a Texas Longhorn Herd Sire". I was also 2nd in the Teen Division in the Hall of Fame competition based upon shows and other Longhorn activities during the year.
We didn't have any calves of the right age for me to take to Showmanship Camp at Sunrise Ranch in 2001, but Dr. Darlene Aldridge of Forest Creek Farms allowed me to take one of her young bull calves, Messenger, to camp to halter-break. At the end of camp that year, all of the kids and calves were taken to a show held in Huntsville, Texas - The East Texas Shindig! I showed Messsenger to Reserve Grand Champion Bull in the Youth Show. The trophies at the Shindig were the largest I've ever seen - you can only see a small part of the trophy in the picture below. The picture shows me with Messenger, Dr. Aldridge, the judge, and John Parmley, Dr. Aldridge's husband.
Texas Longhorn Riding Steers!
The Opening Ceremonies at recent Texas Longhorn Expositions have included 'bringing in the colors' by a group riding on Texas Longhorn steers (saddles, reins, etc.). We decided to train Ol' Sarge as a riding steer. After we got him accustomed to a saddle and someone sitting on the saddle, he was sent to Hico, Texas where he was trained to rein and ride by Janice Heinze, who has trained a number of riding Longhorn steers. The picture on the left below shows me riding Ol' Sarge the day we went to pick him up. He was only about 20 months of age, so he (and his horns) have grown a good bit more. He was a very easy steer to train. We will use him in parades and for pictures. We took him to Vacation Bible School at our church, where all the kids had the change to get their picture taken sitting on Ol' Sarge - about 70 kids; he got where he would automatically turn his head to pose for the picture after a kid was set in the saddle! The picture on the right shows me riding Ol' Sarge in the opening ceremonies at the 2002 Texas Longhorn Exposition. Look at how he's grown
The 2003 Show year turned out to be my most successful show year. It started in the Fall when my Dad and I took some of our animals to the Oklahoma State Fair and the Tulsa State Fair. My Dad showed Ol' Sarge in the Open Show (he was too old for me to show in the Youth Shows) and at the Tulsa State Fair, he was named Grand Champion! At the Ark-La-Tex Show in November, Ol' Sarge was Junior Champion and Spirit of Aggieland was named Reserve Junior Champion.
In January, Dad took Spirit of Aggieland to the Forth Worth Stock Show where he was first in his class (large belt buckle) and Reserve Junior Champion. Then in the Open Trophy Steer Show at the World Exposition in June, he was named Class Champion, Junior Champion (beating steers up to two years older), and then was named Reserve Grand Champion (beating the Reserve Senior Champion that was several years older!)! The pictures below show "Jake" at the World Show and his trophies (with me) at the Longhorn Showcase Sale in November 2003. We decided that it was time for me to sell "Jake" while he was a young Champion. I want to thank Mr. Bill Hudson and Hudson Longhorns for purchasing Spirit of Aggieland at that sale. The proceeds will help me both with my Longhorns and in funding future educational pursuits.
In addition to the success with our older steers, I had a good year with my heifers. At the Star of Texas Junior Heifer Show in Austin, Sunrise Sorceress (purchased from John T. Baker) was named Grand Champion Texas Longhorn heifer, and Tri-W Bon Bon (purchased from Tri-W Longhorns) was named Reserve Grand Champion Texas Longhorn heifer. I won a $1000 college scholarship at this show! The pictures show Sorceress with me, my dad and Matthew Head (who helped show her since I had two animals in the championship round) and me with Bon Bon.
At the 2003 TLBT Youth Show, I had two Class Champions (my first World Class Champions since Lady in 1999) with RHL Echo's Mistletoe, a young heifer, and RHL Red River, a young steer that has won his class in every show that we have entered!
I was also elected as a Senior Division Director of the TLBT.
The 2004 show year started off well. RHL Echo's Mistletoe won her class at the North Texas State Fair and at the Ark-La-Tex Show. RHL Red River won his class at the North Texas State Fair and at the State Fair of Texas (see picture above). We didn't take him to Ark-La-Tex so that I could show a steer from one of my heifers, Saint Michael Archangel, and he won the class. RHL Gladiator was Reserve Grand Champion Steer at the North Texas State Fair and was named Grand Champion at the State Fair of Texas (see below). Below is also a picture of me at the TLBAA Horn Showcase riding Ol' Sarge; look at his horns now! As mentioned above, we sold Spirt of Aggieland at the Horn Showcase Sale.
At the 2004 Fort Worth Stock Show and Linda Moore Classic, I had three animals win Autobahn scholarship money. Red River was first again, Mistletoe was second, and Echo's Cream Puff (the youngest animal in the show) placed third. I also placed third in Senior Showmanship! Most interestingly, the Fort Worth Star Telegram published an article about me and showing longhorns the day after the Longhorn show. It included a picture of me with Red River just before the Showmanship contest. Here is a picture taken after the Show.
At the Star of Texas Fair in Austin, Red River was the Grand Champion Youth Steer, and at the Heart of Texas Show in Belton, Gladiator was Reserve Grand Champion Youth Steer. I showed Red River in the Showmanship competition and placed second! The last show before the World Show in June was the Gulf Coast Association show in Brenham. We had a great show. I showed 4 Emperor's Echo heifers and won two firsts, a second, and a third. I showed Sidekick, that we had just steered, and he placed second in his class. Red River and Gladiator were in single entry classes, but were named Reserve Grand Champion and Grand Champion! In addition, Ol' Sarge was Junior Champion and Reserve Grand Champion in the Open Trophy Steer Show.
My Mom purchased a heifer in November 1999 for my dad, and then they purchased 3 mature cows (with great twist horns) at the November 2000 Eddie Woods Sale. We registered the Rafter H brand for our calves (Note that the 'rafter' is an L rotated over the H!), and we purchased a few acres in Edge, Texas to run our cattle. I now own 19 longhorns, including 7 young calves, and my parents have over 40 longhorns. If you can't come visit our Longhorns, send me an e-mail or visit our ranch website: rafter-h-longhorns.com
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