How can one speak of the great Milby Butler foundation Longhorn herd without discussing that grand gentleman of Dayton, Texas, who has been one of the leading proponents of this family of Longhorns, F.M. Graves, better known as "Blackie." His nickname surely must have come from the color of his hair...pure white. But don't ever get the idea that it's snow on his roof. Surely there has to be a fire burning inside, for his activities and accomplishments are many. Blackie is or has been president of the American Rice Growers of Dayton, board member of American Rice, Inc., of Texas, board member of Texas Rice, Inc., Storage, and charter member of the Texas Longhorn Breeders of America, just to name a few.
Also, in partnership with his brother, Blackie co-manages a 4,500-acre farm of basically soybeans and rice. Just to oversee such a large farm operation plus a cattle herd of close to 500 head and the previously listed organizational responsibilities must take great planning and organization. But when Longhorn enthusiast rolls into Dayton, Blackie and his very gracious wife, Lorene, always try to make them feel at home. They are always willing to find time to show their prize herd of Longhorn cows.
Blackie's cattle are indeed something to be proud of. Of course, the knock-out punch has to be when you encounter the "leader of the league," Classic (by Bevo and out of Beauty), a long, well-structured white bull whose 61-inch horns go out and out and out. Acquired in 1977 at the Raywood Auction as a four-year-old, he then measured 59 inches. As everyone in the Longhorn association knows, Classic has today, the greatest tip-to-tip measurement (61+ inches) in the breed. One must wonder how he keeps his head from dragging on the ground.
Ten Longhorn breeders realized his superior Longhorn qualities when, in 1982, each put up $50,000 for 500 units of Classic semen, the total being half of the existing that was for sale. The result was a $1,000,000 value put on his existing stored semen and a closure of his public semen sales.
Classic's sidekick with the ladies of the pasure is the highly-respected bull Monarch, a bull that was acquired in 1977. Monarch, a white bull with 56-inch horns that are somehwat higher than Classic's, is closely related to Classic. He is by Classic's sire, Bevo, and out of Classic's full sister, Lady Butler. Blackie has stated that possibly Monarch could out-produce Classic when given equal quality females.]
Blackie has lately been using two other bulls on the daughters of Classic and Monarch. The first was in 1978, Dode's Boy, a white-and-red son of Conquistador acquired from W.D. Bartlow. He is also using an almost straightblack bull called Major 150 who is a home grown 1979 son of Man O'War and out of an old dark brown cow of Blackie's. Neither of these bulls possesses the horns of the two senior bulls but they certainly appear to have attributes that will complement the white bulls. Their offspring should prove very interesting in years to come.
One must credit Blackie with a great deal of insight in the selection and the mating of the Butler bulls. He is the first to say that he has just been "darn lucky." One would have to admit he certainly has been lucky to be in the right place at the right time to have acquired the bulls he has used. But he also had the knowledge and ability to pick these over other bulls that were available at the time.
Soybeans and rice have been Blackie's big agriculture crops - his bread-and-butter, so to speak. When asked which made him the most money, beans or rice, he smiled and said, "Neither - the Longhorns are carrying my farm operation now." For many years, the Longhorn operation at Blackie's was more of a hobby and was supported by the rice and soybeans when the farm was paying the way.
Blackie became well-acquainted with Milby Butler and his son Henry of League City partly through a common interest in Appaloosa horses. Blackie had been taking his Appaloosa mares to the Butler spotted stallion for a few years when he became acquainted with Butler's unique cattle. He developed an interest in the Longhorn herd and, in 1962, received Sam 15 as a gift from Henry Butler. A neighbor, Mr. Partlow, gave Blackie a Butler cow and his herd was started.
Then Blackie started acquiring a few Longhorn cows from Milby and Henry Butler. He obtained a few more at the auction after Milby Butler's death when the estate was settled. In all, Blackie was able to collect at least 20 cows that were branded with the brand of the Butler family. Sam, the light gray, straight Butler bull, was used on these original Bulter cows from 1962 until his death at the Graves farm. His offspring are some of the choice cows in the herd today; they have been some outstanding producers, especially when crossed with Man O'War, another straight Butler bull. Man O'War was acquired from Henry Butler in 1970, but traveled to Calhan, Colorado in 1977 to Dickinson Ranch to be A.I. certified and collected for semen sale; he ended up at Julius Roberts' Cuerno Largo Cattle Company out of Walsenburg, Colorado, where he spent his last days.
All one has to do is spend some time with Blackie and mingle with his friends, neighbors and associates in Dayton area to quickly realize the high esteem and respect felt by the people of this area for this grand gentleman. When asked about Blackie, the people all repeat the same thing, "a very humble and honest gentleman."
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