It’s in Their Blood & Hearts: The Ranching Way of Life
by IBBA Assistant to the Executive Vice President Yvonne “Bonnie” Ramirez
The ranching way of life is something that many dream of living. Tradition. Heritage. History. Legacy. What comes to mind when you think of or hear those words? For Bob “Bobby” Helmers and his family, those words resonate in more ways than one. There’s a long, rich history at Bar H Brangus that dates back well past 100 years. There are five generations that hail from Bar H Brangus in Christoval, Texas. Being in the cattle business is something that runs deep in their roots. It’s in their blood and in their hearts.
In the small West Texas town of Christoval, which can be found 25 miles south of San Angelo, Texas, you can find a rare phenomenon. There’s a beautiful and historical story to be told. Bob Helmers, who owns and operates Bar H Brangus, recollects the history of the ranch. He said [the headquarters part of the ranch] celebrated its 100th anniversary this year. Though that portion of the ranch celebrated 100 years, the biggest part of the ranch has been in the family for well over 100 years. In 1968 Bob, himself, started ranching.
Helmers’ involvement with Brangus was by happenstance. In 1972, he set out on a mission to purchase Angus cattle. “I was looking for Angus, because I had more history with Angus cattle, but I couldn’t find the cows I was looking for,” Helmers said. “Mr. Jim Cawley, a long-time Brangus breeder of El Dorado, Texas, was going straight registered Brangus, so I purchased his commercial Brangus herd with the idea that I would put Angus bulls back on them.”
Recanting history, Helmers said, “The longer I had Brangus, the better I liked them and their calves, so I started buying Brangus bulls and registered Brangus cows.” And as they say, the rest is history. Helmers joined the International Brangus Breeders Association (IBBA) in 1975. He still has the original certificate he received from the association for becoming a member. Helmers had a few registered Brangus cows before 1975, but he did not become an official IBBA member until three years after purchasing his commercial Brangus herd.
Bar H Brangus operates on nine sections, which make up about 5,700 acres. “That’s small by West Texas standards,” Helmers laughed. Bob’s wife, Sandra, grew up on the ranch. She is a third-generation rancher of the land. Her grandfather purchased the land in 1917. Bob and Sandra have two daughters, Staci and Paige, who are fourth generation ranchers. Staci is married to Monte Jenkins, and they have two children, Blake and Macy. The Jenkins family resides down the road in San Angelo, Texas. Paige is married to Joe Franklin, and they both live on the ranch. Joe plays an integral role in the ranching operation. Joe has a Bachelor of Science in Range Management from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. He, also, earned a Master’s of Science in Range Management from Texas A&M University in College Station. Joe worked for the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for over 33 years as a rangeland management specialist. He has utilized his education and professional experience tremendously by applying those skills to the day to day operations at Bar H Brangus.
Bar H Brangus operates on a simple and respectful philosophy. “Take care of the land, and it’ll take care of you,” Helmers exclaimed. That philosophy coupled with persistence is what Helmers said made Bar H Brangus successful. The family continually tries to improve the pastures, land and cattle. “We fight adversity just like everyone else,” Helmers said. “We fight the market, drought, brush, predators, feral hogs, but we address the issues; we don’t ignore them.”
Ultimately, his goal is to make the ranch better for future generations. His kids and grandkids are involved, and he wants to make sure that the ranch is left to them better than when he and his wife got it. “We try to make it better each and every day,” Helmers said. These efforts and hard work have proven to be very fruitful over a long period of time. The ranch has received several accolades, including being awarded the 2016 Excellence in Rangeland Management award from the Texas Section Society for Range Management. They were the only winner in the state for that category. Previously, Bar H Brangus was selected as the recipient for Outstanding Conservationist in Schleicher County, as well as Outstanding Wildlife Conservationist in Schleicher County.
“Since I retired from NRCS in June of 2014, I have become more hands on involved with the day to day ranching operations like tending to brush work, fencing, helping Bob rotate cattle, etc.,” said Franklin. The ranch, also, supplements their income with managing wildlife. They mainly have white-tailed deer, but they, also, have a few exotics like blackbuck, antelope, axis deer, and Texas dall sheep. “We manage our deer herd like our cattle herd,” Joe said. The family strives to improve all aspects of the ranch day-in and day-out. As a team, they work together to make improvements to the ranch. “Since I’ve been on the ranch, brush management, the forages, cattle, and wildlife have constantly improved,” Joe humbly mentioned.
Helmers is active in the Brangus breed, not just by being a long-standing member, but, also, by serving on leadership positions representing Brangus. Currently, he is president of both the Hill Country Brangus Breeders Association and West Texas Brangus Breeders Association. He previously served on the board for the Texas Brangus Breeders Association as the first vice president. Recently, the ranch hosted visitors from Australia. “We had about 14 cattlewomen and cattlemen from Australia come out to the ranch,” Helmers said. “Dr. Perkins, also, came up to talk to them, and then we gave them a tour of the ranch. They enjoyed it, and we sure enjoyed having them.”
Bar H Brangus has a rich history; they are a legacy in the making. How can you go wrong with continuing to apply two simple, yet practical philosophies of persistence and “taking care of the land because it’ll take care of you?” Long live ranching; here’s to preserving the ranching way of life!