| Minnie Lou Ottinger Bradley|
(Matriarch, Bradley 3 Ranch
|Born|| December 15, 1931 |
Hinton, Caddo County
|Spouse|| Billy Jack Bradley (married since 1955; living apart since 1995)|
Minnie Lou Ottinger Bradley (born December 15, 1931) is the matriarch of the 11,500-acre Bradley 3 Ranch in Childress County in the Texas Panhandle. An inductee of the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, she is a trailblazer for women in the field of livestock breeding and ranch management. She is the first woman to have been president of the American Angus Association. The Bradley 3 is located entirely in Childress County but has a Memphis address and an Estelline telephone connection, both communities in Hall County.
Bradley was born in Hinton in Caddo County in western Oklahoma, to Ralph Thomas Ottinger (1904–1970), who was employed in road construction, and the former Zulema Young (1903–1987), a teacher. Bradley had three siblings: Helen, born March 20, 1930, Ted Calvin, born August 27, 1938, and Linda Sue born November 24, 1943. Bradley later lived on a wheat farm near Hydro on the line between Caddo and Blaine counties. Even as a nine-year-old, Bradley participated in the 4-H Club, having shown lambs and pigs. At the time, girls were not permitted in the Future Farmers of America, but, spurred by her uncle, Ted Ottinger, she became focused with a career in livestock and ranching, She graduated with honors from Hydro High School, where she was a member of the state championship girls’ basketball team in 1948.
From 1949 to 1953, Bradley attended Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, where she was the first female student to major in animal husbandry and where she met her future husband, Billy Jack Bradley (also born 1931). The couple married in 1955 and had two children, Monte Jack Bradley (1958–1984), who died in an automobile accident, and Mary Lou Bradley-Henderson, an accountant] who came to work with her mother at the ranch on her brother’s death. Billy Jack Bradley left the ranch in the middle 1990s for personal reasons and resides in Vernon in Wilbarger County, northwest of Fort Worth.
The Bradley 3 Ranch began in 1955 during a time of drought with three thousand acres purchased by Minnie and Billy Bradley, and his parents, Raymond Jack “Rusty” Bradley and the former Lois Chaney, originally from Electra in Wichita County. The family maintains that Rusty Bradley’s father, Rufus Jack Bradley, had in the 1870s been a wagon boss on the famed XIT Ranch west of Amarillo although that ranch did not actually exist until 1885. The Bradley 3 (originally three ranches) began raising Angus cattle some two years after its founding. The ranch uses Angus bulls to increase the production of Hereford cattle.
In the center of the ranch is a slightly elevated area on which one can see the lights of Childress, eleven miles to the south and Memphis, some nineteen miles to the west. On that same spot during the day, one sees only endless ranchland covered in short grass, mesquite, juniper, and black Angus. Not even a water tower dots the horizon from the Bradley 3. The Panhandle has been described as one place on earth where one can see the fartherest and still see the least.
Running the ranch
Bradley’s herd usually numbers about four hundred to five hundred heifers and two hundred bulls. The ranch is owned by Bradley and her daughter, Mary Lou, and Mary Lou’s husband, James Henderson. Mary Lou is hence the fourth generation of Bradleys to ranch in north Texas. The Bradley 3 supplies seedstock to commercial ranchers in the Southwest.
There are only two full-time workers for the ranch. The cows require human assistance at birth, a process known as “pulling calves” from the womb. At 2 a.m. during calving season, Bradley boards her pickup truck and drives past the pens, and with her searchlight looks for pregnant cows in distress and, as needed, summons for help. She cooks all three meals for the ranch, sometimes serving a half-dozen persons. For each meal, she uses beef from her own feed yard and packing facility.
In 1986, the Bradleys developed B3R Country Meats in Childress. They were instrumental in defining national standards for natural beef products. In 2002, the company was sold to George Gillette. Bradley supplied the steaks for the presidential inauguration of George W. Bush on January 20, 2001.
In addition to her breakthrough work at Oklahoma State, Minnie Bradley was in 1952 the first woman to win the International Livestock Judging contest held in Chicago, Illinois. She was one of the first women to serve on the board of directors of the trade association, the American Angus Association, the largest beef organization in the world with 36,000 mostly male members in all fifty states. She became its first female president in 2004. Nevertheless, Bradley rejects the role of "pioneer for women." She has no plans to retire so long as her health permits her to continue operating the ranch.
In 2006, Bradley was inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, having joined the ranks of some 180 other trailblazers, including Dale Evans Rogers, Patsy Montana (1908-1996), Patsy Cline, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Georgie Connell Sicking (1921-2016). Bradley was honored principally for her role in encouraging women to enter the fields of livestock breeding and management. On receiving her award, Bradley retorted that she was unaccustomed to being in a room with so many women, for most of her life had been spent in the company of men on the ranch.
She teaches in the ranch management program at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. Andrew M. Bivins, part of the management team of his family’s historic JA Ranch near Amarillo, graduated from that same program. Bradley also hosts students from other universities.
Leasing land to hunters
To maximize the output from their holdings, the Bradleys like most ranchers lease their lands during hunting season. Minnie Lou has issued ten suggestions to her temporary tenants. One is “No litter”; anyone caught littering, and that includes cigarette butts, will not be invited back to hunt on Bradley 3 land. She insists that guests treat her as a friend, not as a business associate, and that they stay in communication: “We have a busy ranch, so I like to have hunters call ahead of time and let me know when they’ll be there. All of my hunters are great at communicating when they plan on being out and are always quick to let me know if they see any problems on the ranch.”
Bradley said that the ranch leaves no time for hobbies. “I’m always trying to improve the ranch. It’s not the biggest, but I want it to be one of the best. It’s only 11,500 acres, but there’s a lot of work to do – controlling brush, improving the grass. We’ve gone from 250 cows to about 400 cows and that takes some work. We’re in the heart of the Texas deer and quail country, too, so we lease out some land to hunters.
In 1998, then Governor George W. Bush presented Bradley with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Land Stewardship Award. In 2004, the Bradley 3 was listed among the top forty beef producers in the nation by ‘’Beef’’ magazine. The Bradley 3 also won the Outstanding Rangeland Stewardship Award presented jointly by the Texas division of the Society for Range Management and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association in Fort Worth. The award recognizes outstanding land management activities. Bradley, for example, protects the forage that feeds her beef and the brush that sustains the wildlife population.
Bradley accepted the award at an awards chuckwagon luncheon held at the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge south of Muleshoe in Bailey County near the New Mexico boundary. “My lifetime goal has always been to leave the ranch in better condition than when I came here,” she said.
Bradley is included in the "Listing of Great Texas Women" sponsored by the University of Texas. Bradley said that if she "knows what I'm doing, I'll get the job done whether I'm a man or a woman. I've always said--just know your trade." She has been featured in various ranch magazines. She was the focus as “trail boss” in a 2008 segment of Bob Phillips' Texas Country Reporter syndicated television series.
Bradley in perspective
Bradley contends that the Angus have been good to her. In an interview with screenwriter Anne Rapp, Bradley acknowledged that "Most women don’t want to live out this far. You either love it, or you hate it. I love this old country. It’s the best friend I’ve had for fifty years, and it’s never let me down. It’s taken care of me, this old country. So I take care of it.”
On March 18, 2011, Bradley addressed a symposium, "The Heritage of Ranch Women in Coleman County," sponsored by the Circle C Cattlewomen of Coleman County. The event was held in the Coleman Library.
- Cowboy Journal, Oklahoma State University, Fall 2004; no longer on-line.
- 3 Ranch, Ltd., no longer on-line.
- Texascooppower, May 2007; no longer on-line.
- National Angus Conference Speakers: Minnie Lou Bradley. Angus Journal (September 25, 2000).
- Lessons Hard Learned: Best way to improve averages is to keep getting rid of the bottom 10, 15, 20 percent. Beef magazine (October 1, 2007). Retrieved on September 19, 2019.
- Angus: Setting the Pace for the Beef Industry: Minnie Lou Bradley. Angus Journal (September 25, 2000). Retrieved on September 19, 2019.
- "Bradley Honored by Cowgirl Hall of Fame," The Cattleman; no longer on-line.
- Getting Along with Landowners: Respect the Land as if Were Your Own. Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine (August 2003). Retrieved on September 19, 2019.
- Jolley: Five Minutes With Minnie Lou Bradley. Cattlenetwork.com. Retrieved on September 19, 2019.
- The BEEF Top 40: Minnie Lou Bradley. Beef magazine. Retrieved on September 19, 2019.
- Great Texas Women. utexas.edu. Retrieved on September 19, 2019.
- , Texas Country Reporter Episode Guide, February 23, 2008; no longer on-line.
- Tai Kriedler, West Texas Historical Association announcement, February 22, 2011.