Reasons to Buy Ford In Grand Rapids, Michigan

King Ranch: The Heart of Ford Truck Country

February 11th, 2013

Check out this article and video from Ford Social about King Ranch, the place that inspired Ford’s decked-out F-series trucks of the same name!

The great American cowboy is not urban legend; he’s not confined to history; and he’s not a caricature most accurately served up in the reels of a classic Spaghetti Western. He’s alive and well. I know because I spent two days with him and his comrades at the 825,000-acre sprawl where it all began—the historic King Ranch in Kingsville, Texas.

What started here when a stowaway-turned-steamboat-captain purchased a Mexican land grant in 1853 led to the very first registered breed of American cattle. And in 2001, the ruggedness and bold attitude of this Texas holy land inspired an original King Ranch breed of Ford trucks. On this typically humid South Texas morning, that tradition is in true form.

I find myself shaded from the sun by two shadowy figures on horseback. To my right is Adan “Bull” Alvarez, whose six-foot-five frame would dwarf me even without his current position on top of his stallion. To my left is Robert Silguero, a calm man who sports a subtler figure. The even tone of his voice speaks of experience and leadership out here on the range. They are fourth- and fifth-generation cowboys (or Los Kineños—King’s men—as they are often called) respectively, and the life here is all they’ve ever known. “When I was a kid, all of my idols were cowboys,” Silguero explains. “So here I am.”

Alvarez gets sentimental about his life spent in spurs. “Our dads would take us out with the cattle all the time,” he says. “It started as far back as I can remember. Once we were able to start walking, we were in the trucks, riding around the pastures.”

Driving has become a more and more practical part of the cowboy routine. With fewer men and higher cattle counts, riding 30 miles on horseback just to reach a cattle pen is not an option. Alvarez has arrived in a three-quarter-ton Super Duty hooked up to a 24-foot livestock trailer. “I’ve got to put 10 to 12 cows in there—1,100 pounds apiece. You’re looking at quite a lot of weight.”

As the gatekeepers of the King Ranch cattle crop, both Alvarez and Silguero oversee herds of up to 4,000 head, and each keeps a watchful eye on roughly 30,000 acres of pasture. They are just days away from marking and branding a full herd, and they need to work each head through the pasture beforehand to beef up responsiveness and obedience.

Behind them, fellow ranch hands unload their horses from a selection of the nearly 80 signature all-white Ford trucks in service on the ranch and begin to saddle up. It’s time for a feed run.

As the ear-splitting dinner bell rings, a herd of Santa Gertrudis cattle are roused from their idle state and follow behind the food-dispensing cube wagon that is hauled from the back of an F-250. Calves trail behind their mothers and dash between the legs of bulls, hoping to scoop up the scraps of feed that escape their elders.

I’m soaking up this timeless scene with Dave Delaney, the Ranch’s General Manager of ranching and wildlife. A Virginia man whose thick drawl has taken on a hint of a Texas twang, he explains the importance of this ritual as it relates to the lay of the land.

“What makes cattle and wildlife so compatible is that they both use brush and forage together,” he shouts to me over the commotion of the feeding herd. “Stewardship of land is a huge part of our tradition—and what’s more sustainable than having cows on native range, eating grass for 159 years in the same country?”

In spite of the feeding frenzy that surrounds me, the cherry-red beasts are far from aggressive as I ride alongside the feed truck for a closer look. If anything, they’re skittish. Soon many of them will be providing nourishing dinners for families around the globe—supplying ribs to Japan or rib eyes to New York. But for now, Alvarez, Silguero and the rest of the crew carefully look after each head as it travels through this desolate southern landscape.


The symbol of King Ranch is the iconic Running W, which is branded into the hides of the horses and cattle. The meaning of this emblem has somehow been lost to legend. Some say it represents a rattlesnake; others opine that it mirrors the shape of the Santa Gertrudis creek, or even the arc of a Texas longhorn’s sweeping mantle. Nonetheless, it’s instantly recognizable, and through the vision of the King Ranch Saddle Shop, you’ll find its trademark curls have been burned into everything from handmade briefcases to badges on Ford trucks.

Once the first mercantile store south of San Antonio, the King Ranch Saddle Shop is now a global name. Case in point: The shop’s General Manager, Rose Morales, while giving me a lift in one of the Ranch’s co-branded Ford trucks, informs me that I missed a visit to the store from Prince Albert II of Monaco by just a few days.

Everything in the store is made in house (100,000 square feet of leather flow through the fingers of the store’s craftsmen each year), but one particular attraction for many visitors is the work of resident saddlemaker Robert Salas.

Salas’s craft is done entirely with the brute force of his large, rough hands—each palm worn to its own rugged, leathery finish thanks to 39 years of labor. Each of his saddles is composed of roughly 120 individual pieces and can take anywhere from 65 to 120 hours to complete.

He takes a rare break to tell his tale, but even that is not time wasted. Salas recounts stories of 72-pound saddles built for professional quarterbacks and how state law enforcement recovered stolen examples of his work, never pausing as he oils old saddlebacks to their original shine.

“In this shop, a lot of the saddles that come in have been handed down over two or three generations,” he tells me. “These cowboys might have a saddle that was made in this shop back in 1950, and it’s still in very good shape. They are the ones keeping up the tradition.”


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