I have had to say goodbye to many of my friends this year and in the last few years. This seems to be the curse of growing older. It is also the curse of friendship. We all mourn the passing of all that we hold dear in our life. But those of us who have faith also are instructed to rejoice for our friend has made the front door of Heaven and we hope to follow.
Fifty dollars and a shotgun. This is the story that Ralph Chain loved to tell about the acquiring of the homestead at Canton Oklahoma. This homestead that was purchased by Ralph’s grandfather and was the base and headquarters of the Chain Ranch. Most of those in the cattle business know the name Chain. With two ranches in Oklahoma, three in south-central Kansas, and two in Eastern Kansas, there was a lifetime of stories that Ralph had in the family building of the ranches.
Graduating from Seiling Oklahoma (which my spell check always says is wrong) he went to Harding University at Searcy Arkansas. His first intent was to become a missionary. But he came home to the ranch. This ranch where the story starts he lived his entire life on.
Ralph was always on the go and there was always a sense of adventure about him. He would go to where there were cattle to buy and there was always an interesting story about how the trip went. He would get into an airplane and prove the existence of guardian angels because most people who would fly under the conditions and to the locations he went to would die in crashes.
Ralph would be involved with buying the last herd from the Bell Ranch in New Mexico and did business with the King Ranch in Texas. Yet in all of his daring was a simple faith and when loss or tragedy would strike he would go on and not let set backs hold him back.
He would marry Darla England and move her from the “big city” of Seiling to the ranch near Canton. The name England will be familiar for those in Oklahoma since Darla’s brother was the famous weatherman on TV in OK City for decades.
Storytelling was a big part of Ralph’s life. He would never brag but tell the facts as they happened. He was very concerned that the younger generations would lose out on their history and not know what happened before them. He was President of the Cowboy Storytellers Association of the Western Plains for many years. He loved the job and it was only his health that let him turn over the duties to someone else and be President Emeritus.
There were so many organizations and institutions that he was a part of that it would be impossible to list it all here. However when Ralph was inducted into the Great Hall of Westerners at the Western Heritage Center Cowboy Hall of Fame, it will be remembered that he gave one of the best acceptance speeches that the organization had had to that date. He had the crowd laughing at his stories where he was still teaching the history that he had lived through.
Many times in the last few years Ralph would end up in the hospital and have everyone worried about how he would come out of it. Each time he returned to the ranch.
He loved taking care of the land and he spent many hours on his bulldozer pushing cedar trees and building ponds. He referred to his dozer as his golf cart. The fact that the ranch headquarters being saved from burning last spring was as much the preparation that the ranch hands did as the fact that Ralph had kept the area clear of the cedars that were the biggest factor in the fires in the area.
I am saddened that I could not attend his funeral. Health and the world always seem to stand in the way of doing things that I would like to do. But I will always remember the stories and the smile that Ralph always had when I would see him.
Fare thee well good sir and God speed Ralph Chain.