Certain cattle have a mysterious quality about them a charisma that demands, at a glance, that you stand up and take a look. One such animal was an old, golden Texas Longhorn cow called Fort Knox. In her senior years, her horns measured up in the 48 inch range. Her ears, were a little bit droopy, she was fertile and kept in good flesh for at least twenty years of her life. She is survived now by numerous sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, in prominent herds around Colorado, San Antonio and all over Texas. This is a story about Fort Knox and her life as documented by the numerous people who owned and appreciated her during her nearly quarter of a century on this earth.
Fort Knox was raised in the Doad Partlow herd at Liberty, Texas. Uncle Doad Partlow tremendously loved Texas Longhorns and was actively involved in the breeding and raising of good Partlow-branded Butler cattle until his stroke in the latter years of his life. His family continued to pursue the breeding and raising of Texas Longhorn cattle as Uncle Doad had always done. Besides Fort Knox, the Doad Partlow herd produced a number of good cattle including Conquistador, Colorado Cowboy, Miss Liberty #10 and many others.
There was an interchange of blood-lines among Doad Partlow and Sam Partlow cattle, as they traded bulls and cows back and forth over the years. But the Sam Partlow herd is know today largely because of his breeding of Rose Red, a cow which many people feel is one of the most valuable in the industry. All the Partlow cattle were heavily saturated with the Butler blood. It is believed that any variation from the Partlow Butler line-breeding was the infusion of a little WR and just a touch of Peeler blood, years past.
It is believed that Fort Knox’s golden color was behind the distinctive name that Partlow chose for her. She had a bright, glistening coat that shone in the sunshine, as gold as any Longhorn cow known. Fort Knox was purchased with the entire Doad Partlow herd and transferred to Dickinson Ranch in Calhan, Colorado in March of 1979. She was then purchased by Stan Searle and gave birth to her first Colorado calf. She had another calf the following year and then failed to breed back. Dickinson Ranch then regained ownership of Fort Knox in the Colorado National Sale as an open cow the following year.
This was at a time when a number of these good old Butler cows were so old they had quit breeding, but with new scientific technology and hormone shots available, some of these old cows could be cleaned up, cycled and would begin working again. Fort Knox was taken to Dickinson’s embryo transfer facility and immediately started in a series of treatments for embryo production. She seemed in excellent health with no visible reason for her failure to conceive.
She was super-ovulated, inseminated, and it appeared that she was gong to flush 12 to15 eggs. At the day of flushing, the sterile medium was introduced in the uterus of the cow which normally is then recovered and the embryos are floated out in the fluid. But, puzzlingly, 100cc, 200cc and then 300cc went into the cow and nothing came out. After quite a bit of searching, the problem was identified as a hole about the size of a silver dollar in the bottom of the uterus. Apparently, this cow had given birth to a calf that had come backwards or some unusual situation had caused her uterus to be torn to shreds. She had healed to a point, but then the uterus had ceased healing.
After researching the problem at Colorado State University, surgery could be done and the hole sewed up and a fifty-fifty chance of recovery was projected. It would have been an unusual operation, and was not recommended. As long as this hole was there, a continual infecting of the drainage of the fluids back and forth from both sides caused an infection in the system that would never allow the cow to breed under any conditions.
After numerous research efforts and recommendations by vets concerning the wild long shot of getting this cow into production, everyone recommended that she go to slaughter and that would be the end of the problem.
That was not the goal of Dickinson Ranch. These great, old historic cows can still make a contribution even though the world thinks they are ready to go to slaughter. Za Johnson, embryologist at Dickinson Ranch started a series of infusions with Fort Knox. The antibiotics injected into the uterus caused her to get control of the infection that had plagued her, probably for over a year. It took over six months of regular injections. Suddenly there was no hole in the uterus.
The long suffering old cow was placed back into the embryo program. She had healed herself in fine fashion and began producing embryo pregnancies with the vim and fertility of a young cow. At this time, it was believed that she was over twenty years of age. During one year in embryo transfer Fort Knox produced six embryo pregnancies. These sons and daughters have all been born now, and some are in the Dickinson Ranch breeding program. Others are scattered around the country.
A decision was made that after a number of embryo pregnancies were produced, Fort Knox should be bred and carry a natural calf She gave birth to her last calf and raised a beautiful black and white son of Impressive as her final contribution to this life. Her calf was in excellent condition, her udder was in perfect shape, and the quality of her milk was very rich, as evidenced by the health of the calf.
DeWitt Meshell, of Trinity, Texas, has always appreciated the Partlow cattle and had mentioned Fort Knox on different occasions. After weaning the calf, she was given to Meshell as a gift from Dickinson. Fort Knox went to Texas in December 1984, and was believed to have been approximately 24 years old at the time of her death. Her beautiful skull is the property of Meshell and may be seen at his ranch.
Fort Knox was one of the greatest cows of the breed: she did everything as best as she could, right up to the very last. The quality of her udder, her soundness, her alertness and her fertility are a tribute to this distinguished Butler Longhorn family and the entire Texas Longhorn breed.