by Debbie Coffey Copyright 2015 All Rights Reserved.
It has been 2 1/2 years since the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) last gave the public a tour of any BLM Long Term Holding Pastures, which are used to warehouse once wild horses that were rounded up by helicopters used by BLM contractors and permanently removed from America’s public lands. So much for the BLM’s claim of transparency.
Millions of readers follow Ree Drummond as she blogs about ranch life, her children, and her husband, whom she calls Marlboro Man. Photograph by Sylvia Plachy. (Source: The New Yorker)
Ladd Drumond, his brother Tim and their dad, Charles, are partners in Drummond Land and Cattle, which has a BLM contract for Long Term Holding pastures for our wild horses. Ladd is married to “The Pioneer Woman,” Ree Drummond, a Food Network cooking show host/blogger/photographer/cookbook author who writes folksy blogs about her life on their ranch in Oklahoma. Kind of like she’s a pioneer woman. Except in real life, Ree is wealthy and has both a house and a nice lodge on her ranch. (Nothing like the real pioneers, who had to trod across the plains in a covered wagon.)
In a 2013 article on Modern Farmer about America’s 100 Top Landowners (“The who’s who of modern American land moguls”) the Drummond family was listed as #17 (the 17th largest landowner in the U.S.), with “433,000 acres.”
While some of this land may belong to other Drummond family members, Ladd and the little missus are getting by.
It was estimated that Ree’s blogsite income was about a million dollars or more per year just from display advertisement alone. She also makes dough from her Food Network cooking show, her cookbooks, her book, the movie option based on her book “Black Heels to Tractor Wheels,” based on her life (and persona) as “The Pioneer Woman.”
But Ree didn’t exactly fall off the back of a turnip truck. Her father, William Dale Smith, is an orthopedic surgeon and Ree grew up on the grounds of a country club in Bartlesville, OK. Ree went to the University of Southern California, lived in Los Angeles, before she met Ladd.
Besides all of the fingers Ree has in other pies, she and Ladd renovated a building for an office and a deli in Pawhuska, OK, near the ranch. It’s good to know Ladd won’t starve, especially since he claims he only makes $100,000 profit per year.
He seems too modest. From 1995-2012, Drummond Land and Cattle has received $1,573,102 in USDA farm subsides. $81,458 of the subsidies were since 2011, when Ree started her cooking show on the Food Network. Let’s just look at 2003-2012, when Drummond Land and Cattle has had the BLM contract to warehouse wild horses:
BLM CONTRACT FOR WILD HORSES + USDA SUBSIDIES
To be fair, Ladd did seem to try to save a bit of money by using his kids as ranch hands. Here’s a photo of Ladd and Ree’s little cowboy son in the saddle in the top photo. (He’s the short one in the brown jacket.) However, the BLM contract requires that the horses have “management by individuals who are knowledgeable and experienced about the behavior and nutritional requirements of equines…” (I assumed this meant adults, not 7 year olds. Or adolescents, who aren’t listed on the contract as key personnel.) Other people have noticed the child labor, too.
On Nov. 9, 2010 the BLM had a tour of the Drummond long term holding pasture, but only allowed credentialed media. However, at a blogging event held by Ree Drummond, bloggers got to see and take photos of the wild horses. And although you can no longer see many wild horses on any public lands, or even on the private property where the BLM warehouses them, Ree and Ladd and their friends can see the wild horses right out of the windows of their house. Any time they want to.
Ree has written stories about and posted photos of our wild horses on their property on “The Pioneer Woman” blog, uses photos of the wild horses at the top of her facebook page, and uses footage of the wild horses running on the promo for her cooking show. Could her use of these photos/video of our wild horses have made her image seem a little bit more “pioneer-like,” and, in part, contributed to her (and also Ladd’s) fame and personal financial gain?
It seems like Ladd Drummond wrote about the wild horses on Ree’s blog (after articles about Ladd Drummond were posted on this website). Boy, his writing is so good that it almost seems like a professional PR person wrote it!
Ladd, Tim and Charles Drummond, partners in Drummond Land and Cattle, are listed as key personnel on the BLM contract. A 2007 story in Tulsa World revealed that Charles R. Drummond, his sons Ladd Drummond and Tim Drummond, and nephew Thatcher Drummond, received more than 40 speeding tickets in the state in the last decade. At least 18 of those were dismissed in their home county.
The article states: “The four members of the Drummond family have been clocked by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol driving 95, 97 and 112 mph, all speeds listed on tickets that have been dismissed by judges in the county. Although the Drummonds paid a fine and court costs on all dismissed tickets, the tickets do not go against their driving records.
And here’s my favorite part of this story: “Osage County Special Judge John Boggs, who approved many of the dismissals as an assistant prosecutor and later as a judge, said he had no idea how fast the cited speeds were…Boggs said he had been to several bar association parties at the Drummond ranch but does not believe that he gives the family special treatment.”
The Pioneer Woman has written about Ladd’s cousin, Thatcher Drummond. Thatcher, who seems to have been arrested for speeding and driving under the influence in 2008, is the son of Tom Drummond, who was a president of the Osage County Cattlemen’s Association, on the tax committee for the National Cattlemen’s Association, and chairman of the tax committee for the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association.
The Drummonds are active in the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, which was listed on United Organizations of the Horse original website as “opposing” the “prevention of cruelty to equines bills that make it a felony to market, transport, consume or use of horses for human food.”
Charles R. Drummond seems to be listed as a partner of Drummond & Hull Oil Company. Charles and Ladd Drummond have been listed as shareholders and on the Board of Directors of a company called docplanet.com, an e-commerce company that provided pharmaceuticals to office-based physicians. Docplanet.com, was previously called docsales.com, which was previously called Golden Pharmaceuticals. According to a 1999 Los Angeles Times article:
“The Internet is a financial miracle. Just ask Santa Ana-based Docsales.com Inc. Three months ago, it was a dog of a company called Golden Pharmaceuticals Inc. that lost money in 13 of its previous 14 quarters and had been virtually ignored by investors. It also is a defendant in 47 lawsuits in three states related to personal injury claims by consumers who used the Phen-Fen diet drug combination it sold.
Since the BLM places our wild horses on private property, this invites questions about the people who oversee the horses and about the proximity of the horses to homes and to activities in the area, as well as any supposed “oversight” by the BLM.
While the Pioneer Woman seems nice and I’m sure we’d all like to race through town (don’t worry about any speeding tickets) to go visit and have some blackberry cobbler, there’s a nagging feeling about the unfairness in seeing a select few people have the privilege of unfettered access to our wild horses, that we, The American People, don’t have access to any more. Even while our tax dollars pay for every aspect of the BLM’s mismanagement of the Wild Horse & Burro Program.