As a third generation rancher herself, Sue wanted to do just that and be on the land. Her fondest memories included her dad. “I made every step he did! I would leave my bonnet next to his hat so he couldn’t go anywhere without me,” said Sue. Wilmer was one of five children. After his father’s death, the land was divided and straws were drawn among the children. Although drawing the short straw, Wilmer was fortunate when the property he got was filled with oil wells. Over time Wilmer accumulated more land, even buying out all his other siblings except two.
Wilmer Seay was a hard-working man who was always seen with a cigar in his mouth. The rancher and oil man quit school after the third grade declaring, “He knew all he needed to know,” said daughter Sue. Wilmer ranched all his life, driving cattle miles to rail cars.
Sue reminisced on her father waking extra early in the mornings, around 4 or 5 a.m. One time she asked him, “Daddy, why do you get up so early? His response, “That’s when I do my best thinking!” Sue recalls her father taking three and four-year-old, 1,400 lb. steers down to his ranch in Ringgold. Sue chuckles at the memory of her father driving his steers to Ringgold before asking what time the train came through. After the work of gathering them and starting toward Ringgold, he got all the way to the tracks in Ringgold when the train came through and scattered the entire herd. That left Wilmer searching for steers for three days. Sue said thereafter her father called the rail road every time before moving cattle.
Wilmer bought the ranch in Ringgold in 1938 from Carl Worsham’s Creditors Committee. Worsham, who came from a wealthy business, banking and ranching family himself, was one of two children born to W.B. Worsham. W.B. was known as a prominent banker and rancher, even owning his own bank at one time. His son, Carl fell right into his footsteps.
Carl Worsham died Sept. 29, 1935. Sue’s father Wilmer purchased the Carl Worsham ranch from Carl Worsham’s Creditor’s Committee. The property was approximately 4,000 acres. On the property was a home built by Carl Worsham. Built in 1919, the three-story home was a mixture of lavish light fixtures and wood all of European origin. Mr. and Mrs. Worsham were said to have imported all the wood and accessories to the home from Europe. Mrs. Worsham even manicured her landscaping to mimic that of an English garden. The majestic structure was complete with the top story as a dance hall. Sadly, the story is told that Worsham went into bankruptcy over the home.
In 1958 Sue’s father deeded the Ringgold ranch to her. Due to deteriorating conditions the third story of the house was demolished, leaving a single story and small attic which still stand today. The great walls of wood and mantel pieces adorned with murals of a peacock and wagon train can only make a mind wonder what the home once looked like in its time of glory. Tales have been told among ranch hands of sightings of a man in a white shirt. Some wonder if Carl Worsham still inhabits the ranch today.
Since then Sue has maintained the ranch as her father did, of course with his help along the way. The ranch gained ample help when Sue married Skeeter Dennis in November of 1950. With roots in ranching as well, Skeeter helped round out the total acreage to approximately 30,000 acres in Oklahoma. Skeeter’s father, Scott Dennis and Wilmer forged a strong working relationship that lasted their lifetimes. Sue mentioned that between the two there was never a cross word.
Sue attributed most of her ranching knowledge to her father. When asked what she took away from the man she adored most, she replied, “Honesty, caring about people and loving ranching and the land.” Many memories are still shared today of Wilmer’s “character.” Sue described him as being a caring man, always keeping a garden and giving fresh produce to others, a man who cared a great deal about working ranch horses, hated burs and sunflowers, sealed deals with a hand-shake and until his departure came out to the ranch daily to oversee progress. Wilmer’s granddaughter, LaDonna still enjoys thinking back to the days of riding around with her grand-dad, “We would drive around in his Cadillac in the pasture and come up on an abandon baby calf, throw it in the back and off we’d go!” Sue revealed her father was a strong Republican who told her, “You stand under the eagle, even if he _ _ _ _s on you.” When asked if she still heeds her father’s advice, her response was, “Yes, I still vote Republican. Daddy said!” Wilmer died in 1976.
Skeeter Dennis was known for his long-time involvement in the cutting horse industry. Skeeter was a lifetime member of both the National Cutting Horse Association and the American Quarter Horse Association. Skeeter was even presented with the AQHA Legendary Breeders Award in 2011. Sue describes her late husband as a “handful.” Together the couple had four children, Steve, LaDonna, Cindy and David. The two continued ranching with their family, building their empire of Hereford and Angus cattle up to 1,400 cow-calf pairs, 300 replacement heifers, and 50 bulls, along with steers and Longhorns. The family also built up an impressive herd of Quarter Horses with bloodline going back to top cutting horse and reining horse sires. Skeeter died in August of 2013. Today, LaDonna oversees the horses with a total of 25 head.
Dennis Cattle Co. is a member of the AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder Assoc., NCHA, American Hereford Association, Oklahoma Cattleman’s Association and Texas Cattle Raisers Association where they’ve been a member of since 1931. In 2009, Dennis Cattle Co. was given the “Excellence in Grazing” award by the Jefferson County Conservation District. Additionally, Dennis Cattle Co. offers semi-guided hunts. That includes hunts for deer, turkey, hogs and coyotes. Also, they do aerial spraying and hog hunts from helicopter. The tall, feisty rancher’s daughter still resides on the ranch today in a cabin built in a special spot near a creek where she and her father would go play in the creek and build towns, calling them old California. She now watches the sixth generation grow up on the ranch and play in those very same creeks. Sue now has the opportunity to pass onto her great-grandkids what life was like for her growing up, life lessons and valuable advice passed down from her father and from his to him. Priceless memories include expression lessons in Nocona when she was four or five, riding in the back of her dad’s pickup to the river, tap lessons and piano lesson she begged her parents not to take, cooking for branding crews, driving across an iced tank with her dad and so much more. Other interesting facts about Sue include, having a ticket to the Fort Worth Stock Show the last 82 years and only missing three years of it, and the fact that she wrote a cook book entitled, “Cooking in the Cabin.”
Undoubtedly life on the ranch sees down times. Sue has seen it from drought to floods. She doesn’t remember an actual dust bowl, but remembers bad dust storms. She saw a time when sugar and tires were rationed and you had to have war stamps for each. She saw a time of flood that baby calves washed down the river. She saw a time when people followed the river and oil boom, living in small shot-gun houses.
The change she remembers most is the present drought. Sue knows of tanks on their place that were there way before her that are dry today. The drought of the 50s holds no candle to the present in her mind. In her 84 years, Sue hasn’t seen it all yet. She is an avid traveler. She has traveled to almost every state except to the north where she has no desire to visit.
As a rancher’s daughter, granddaughter and wife, she has lived through it all. Above all she is a cancer survivor with an appreciation for life and a family lineage that will carry on for many generations to come.