John's Journal...

A Sister's Get Back: From Poverty to Riches

From Starvation to Salvation

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: If you tied Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Fort Griffin, cowboys, bar girls and a shoot ‘em-up Wild West adventure together with two wildcat oil men and a broken-down truck, you’d get the unbelievable tale of Stasney’s Cook Ranch in Albany, Texas. The Stasney’s Cook Ranch, once one of the largest shallow-well oilfields in the world, produces some of the finest hunting in the nation today. Every hunting and fishing trip I make to Stasney’s Cook Ranch always produces a trophy, which is often not the animals I take or the fish I catch, but rather the stories I hear, the people I meet, and the photography I shoot. Recently, I took a hunting trip to the Stasney’s Cook Ranch. For the next two weeks, you’ll read one of the wildest tales ever told and find out about this fine hunting spot in the Lone Star State. Full of betrayal, luckClick to enlarge and riches, this tale is one of the most-fascinating tales to come out of the Old West.

Matilda Cook and her husband, W. I., convinced Matilda’s brother, James H. Nail, to sell them part of his ranchland. “He bragged all over town that his sister and brother-in-law would be broke within a year because he’d sold them the worst part of the ranch,” Johnny Hudman, ranch manager today, says. “At that time, the Cook Ranch was about 17,000 acres. The Cooks pretty-much starved to death trying to make the ranch a cattle ranch until 1926, when wildcatters drilled a discovery well.”

In the 1920s, a couple of wildcatters, Roeser and Pendleton, came to the Cooks and made a deal with them to drill a test well. They were two men with a big idea and low cash reserves who decided where they wanted to drill a well and marked the spot. The two men returned to camp and got their truck and drilling equipment, but their truck broke down. Luckily, they had enough money to go to town and get the truck fixed. Then, they once again began driving to the spot to drill the well. On the way, their truck broke down again. Out of luck and money, they set up their drills at the place where the truck broke down and Click to enlargestarted drilling an oil well. At 1,240 feet, they hit a gusher producing 1,000 barrels of oil a day, forever changing their lives and the lives of the Cooks. The wildcatters drilled eight gushing wells, each producing 1,000 barrels of oil a day. The field of wells became known as the Cook Oilfield. Many of the wells drilled in the 1920s still produce oil today.

“The Cook Children’s Hospital was created by Matilda Cook and funded from money produced by the Cook Oilfield,” Hudman reveals. “Today, part of the proceeds from the oil still provides funds for the hospital. In 1989, 82-year-old Eska Stasney bought the ranch. Eska and her husband, an oil pioneer in the area, had the old ranch house completely refurbished, because by that time, it had become a snake den and a bee hive. Mrs. Stasney told her son she bought the Cook Ranch because she knew he loved it. Since his father-in-law once raised cattle on the ranch, and they quail hunted on the ranch, Mrs. Stasney told her son, ‘I bought the ranch so you and your bClick to enlargerother, John, would come home more often. I knew that if I bought this ranch and fixed it up, you’d at least spend time here during quail season.’ There are about 100 oil wells on the Stasney’s Cook Ranch today, and these wells produce about 300 barrels of oil a day.”

Much of the oil money is used today to feed and manage the wildlife and the other animals on the ranch, like the longhorns, the bison and the elk. “The oil money allows us to be in the cattle and the hunting business,” Hudman explains. “The Stasney family is very interested in their heritage, and they believe a cattle ranch should stay a cattle ranch, and a wildlife ranch should be preserved as a wildlife ranch. The Stasneys don’t depend on the revenue from each of these businesses to ensure the future of the cattle and the wildlife.”

To learn more about Stasney’s Cook Ranch, write P.O. Box 1826, Albany, Texas, 76430, or call (325) 762-2999, or visit

Tomorrow: Longhorns

Check back each day this week for more about "A Sister's Get Back: From Poverty to Riches "

Day 1: The Story Behind the Tale
Day 2: From Starvation to Salvation
Day 3: Longhorns
Day 4: Wildlife, Too
Day 5: A Realistic Look at Texas Trophy-Deer Management


Entry 450, Day 2