The annual cattle drive is one of the main memories of growing up on the Jones-Jackson farm.
Larry Jackson and his sister, Becky Watts, say the family’s cattle drives made national news back then.

The annual cattle drive is one of the main memories of growing up on the Jones-Jackson farm.
Larry Jackson and his sister, Becky Watts, say the family’s cattle drives made national news back then.

Becky is the proud owner of a family treasure — a photograph album their Mom made for their Dad as a Christmas present. It was filled with 8x10 photographs of the historic drive made each spring and fall. Larry is pictured on horseback in some of the later drives.

The family tradition each May was to round up 300 to 400 head of cattle and drive the cattle 50 miles to McDonald County. Each Thanksgiving weekend, the same three-day trip, brought the cattle back to their farm, located along Center Creek.

The cattle had over 3,000 acres along Big Sugar Creek to graze over the summer while pastures in Jasper County rejuvenated. The last cattle drive was in 1967. Prior to that the story about the bygone tradition of driving cattle made news in the Kansas City Star, St. Louis Post Dispatch and local papers in Carthage, Neosho and Springfield. Their Dad, Wayne Jackson, was interviewed on the Huntley and Brinkley television news.

Family traditions and love of life on the farm were celebrated as the brother-sister team were recognized as owning a Century Farm by University of Missouri Extension. Other sisters recognized were Kathy Braden, Crowley, Texas, and Virginia Snodgrass, Webb City. Another brother, Greg Jackson is deceased.

A 160 acre plot was purchased in 1908 by Rama and Rebecca Jones, their grandparents. Rama loved the land and continued to purchase adjacent farms to build a 385 acre farmstead. Their only child, Mary Ruth Jones Jackson inherited the farm along with her husband, Wayne Jackson.      

Hard work is a family trait.

Larry and Becky work together to keep the farm in tip top shape. Larry loved the area and purchased 150 acres of land adjacent to the farm. They raise cattle and put up hay. The area is rich in wildlife.

As Larry was growing up, the farm family raised milk cows and chickens. The crop land was farmed by using mules that his Dad broke. He recalls snapping corn and throwing the ears into a wagon at harvest time. His father purchased his first tractor, a Farmall H in 1947.

“He was the first man in Jasper County to raise 100 bushel corn,” Larry says.

Today between floods and droughts, Larry says it too unpredictable to plant crops and keeps the ground in grass.

“After all the stuff raised on this farm, cattle have been the most solid (revenue source) after all these years,” Becky says.

Her husband, Rick Watts, is also a big part of the farm operation, handling all the record keeping and bookwork.

The women in the family work alongside the men.

“My Mom could do everything the guys could do and kept everyone fed,” Becky says.
Their mother, Mary Ruth Jones Jackson, also raised a huge garden and sewed most of the clothes for the family.

When baling hay, many of the remaining family members help out. Larry’s children include Kendra Tilton, who lives on the farm with him and his wife, Sharon. His son, Andrew Jackson, is studying agribusiness and animal nutrition at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield.

Also playing a big part on the farm are Becky and Rick’s daughters, Karen Watts and Kristy Watts. Their son, Kevin, was learning to work the ground when he passed away in his late teens.

Many memories of by-gone years are recalled. Becky says they attended Erie School, a one room school house down the road. The family attended Dudman Springs Methodist Church, where their Dad was a deacon and their Mom led a youth group.

One of their Mom’s last wishes was to host a community get together at the church, located just west of their property. The event, last held in 2007, had 150 people turn out.

Larry recalls a story his grandfather told of a barn that burned. To replace it, he sawed lumber from the trees on the land to build many of the structures in the 1930s.

“Grandma Jones talked about the wagon trains and Indians that traveled on the old Sarcoxie Road, which was located along Center Creek,” Larry said.

While their memory banks are full of good times and hard work, the family takes time to enjoy life together. They all love to hunt and fish.

“That is probably the only recreation we have,” Larry says.