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Bar B Ranch

101 years and counting.

Story courtesy of The Quarter Horse Journal
Story by A.J. Mangum

For more than a century, the Barby family has made its living on horseback, herding cattle on the sprawling Bar B Ranch, east of Beaver, Oklahoma. The family's long tradition of producing superior working horses earned them the 1996 AQHA Best Remuda Award and added a new chapter to the story of a ranch already steeped in history.

HERITAGE

The Bar B traces its roots to a 160-acre homestead settled in 1896 by Otto Barby, the American son of German immigrants. Born in 1865, Otto spent his early childhood first in St. Louis, then on his father's Kansas farm. At 13, he struck out on his own, finding work as a cowhand in the Oklahoma Panhandle.

After 18 years herding cattle, Otto married and settled on a quarter-section homestead along the Beaver River, making his first home in a dugout carved from the open range. He soon replaced the earthen shelter with two rooms moved from an abandoned stagecoach hotel three miles away. As neighboring homesteaders found financial survival difficult or impossible, Otto financed their escapes, stretching the boundaries of the ranch dubbed the Bar B. His herd, which had consisted of 75 steers in the beginning, grew with his land holdings.

By the time of Otto's death in 1954, the two-room shelter on 160 acres had evolved into an elaborate 16-room home at the center of a 130,000-acre ranch running 4,500 head of cattle.

EVOLUTION

During the Bar B's early development, Otto Barby began a horse breeding program, ensuring the ranch would always have a steady supply of working horses. Active in the Cavalry Remount program from the 1920s to the 1940s, the ranch crossed government-furnished Thoroughbred stallions on its mares, supplying both Uncle Sam and Bar B cowboys with saddle horses.

The ranch's first registered Quarter Horse, a son of Midnight Jr, arrived in the late 1940s, introducing new blood to the Bar B remuda.

"From Walter Merrick, (Otto) bought this horse named Proud Johnie, out of a mare called Joyce," says Stanley Barby, Otto's grandson and the head of the modern-day Bar B Ranch. "This was just after the Remount program and he was used on a bunch of those part-Thoroughbred fillies."

After Stanley and his wife, Junetta, were married in 1959, they purchased a stallion of their own, the Cowboy-bred Rondy's Pal. The couple began raising their own horses, breeding Proud Johnie's daughters to their stallion. "Later, my brother Lloyd and I bought Kiowa Dusty, a horse that's really the foundation of the herd we have now," Stanley says. Kiowa Dusty was by Joe Norfleet and out of the Oklahoma Star Jr mare Susette Clapper. Shown in reining, cutting, halter and western pleasure, the 1955 stallion earned a performance ROM in 1959 and a Superior in cutting in 1962.

THE BAR B: 1997

Today, the Four Sixes-bred stallion Gray Badgers Tip, a 10-year-old, runs with the Bar B mares, passing the blood of Peppy San, Poco Tivio, Grey Badger II and Doc O'Lena to his get.

The ranch's broodmare band has been culled to just 15 head with Hancock, Driftwood, Grey Badger and Kiowa Dusty breeding. The Barbys plan to add mares with similar breeding and build the herd to between 20 and 25 head. There also are more than 20 weanlings, yearlings and two-year-olds kept on hand as eventual replacements for the ranch's 15 saddle horses.

Since Otto Barby's death, the total acreage of the Bar B has decreased, but the modern cattle operation still runs 10,000 yearlings on 45,000 acres of wheat and grass pasture. Farming, hunting, oil and gas interests also thrive.

The need for a stock horse hasn't changed with the years, though. Even in an age of four-wheelers and pickups, the diverse terrain and rolling sandhills of he Oklahoma Panhandle make a horse the required mode of transport on the Bar B. With miles of fences to check and thousands of cattle to tend, gather and rotate among pastures, the ranch's horses are not luxury items.

"We're horseback every day," Stanley says. "The horse is the main tool in our operation and without good ones, we couldn't get along."