It may take a while to get there, but great places are worth the effort, and Fort Davis is a great place. This small mountainous desert town has so much to offer, and it is for this reason that the Mostyn’s fell in love with this part of Texas, bought a ranch, and became members of the community.
Fort Davis was developed in 1854 with the specific end goal of ensuring the safety of mail wagons, pioneers, and gold miners from the wild assaults of the Comanche, Apache, and Kiowa tribes. In 1961, the post was changed into a noteworthy national site run by the National Park Service and is thought to be one of the finest outstanding cases of boondocks fortresses in the southwest.
Besides its magnificent beauty, what makes Fort Davis so special are the wonderful people that live in town. With many generations of farmers, the passion for agriculture is still evident in many of its young residents.
Seventeen-year-old student Emily Merrill, from Fort Davis High School, is the perfect example of this passion, “FFA (Future Farmers of America) is a really big part of my life. It has given me the opportunity to show livestock, which is super, super fun.”
For years now, Steve Mostyn has bought Emily’s swine during the Big Bend Livestock Show. Now in its 72nd year, the annual event in January gives tri-county FFA and 4-H students an opportunity to compete for scholarships by showing their lambs, pigs, goats, and cattle.
The Mostyn’s ranch general manager Randy Glover, a Fort Davis resident since 1984, is thrilled about the Mostyn’s involvement with FFA members and their parents.
“It’s good to see somebody like Steve that has come to this community and has given these kids an opportunity to have the stock show here. Steve has this big barn, and they’ve been able to put it to good use. It’s worked out great for the kids. He has been real supportive of these kids. Not only letting them show their livestock here, but when it comes time for the sale, he has been very supportive.”
“An old man walked up a shore littered with thousands of starfish, beached and dying after a storm. A boy was picking them up and flinging them back into the ocean. “Why do you bother?” the old man scoffed. “You’re not saving enough to make a difference.” The boy picked up another starfish and sent it spinning back to the water, and said to the old man “I made a difference to that one.”
Steve and Amber Mostyn have been making a difference in people’s lives for many years. They give willingly and they give often. However, not all they give is put out there for the world to see; If they can make a difference in just one person’s life – to them, they have made a difference.
“I met him at the show. The first time he bought one of my pigs. And I went up to go thank him. I remember how he was in the back, and he always wears the same brown vest, a typical southern ranchman. I said, ‘Thank you for buying my pig, I really appreciate it.’ He then sticks out his hand and says, ‘You’re welcome.’ Instead of being a rough ranchman, which externally he seems to be, inside all of that he is a big softy and a big teddy bear. I think more people should get to see that side of him.”
Away from all the city noise, traffic, and business-related nuisances. The Mostyn’s beautiful ranch, “Sunrise Stable” provides a simpler but no less exciting lifestyle. This “Mile-high Ranch” in far West Texas, offers its guests tons of outdoor activities such as camping, sightseeing, nature study, picnicking, hiking, backpacking, day and overnight equestrian use, mountain biking, and hunting. Also, there are scenic drives and overlooks. I spent an entire afternoon climbing to the top mount Arabella. During the hike, I came across some of the most interesting wildlife I have ever encountered such as horses, miniature donkeys, hawks, eagles, and deer roaming the grounds. But the most impressive of all, was a group of sheep I spotted about 100 meters from the guest cabin. I talked to Randy about these sheep and this is what he told me:
“That’s an Aoudad sheep. Steve has seen them, but he hasn’t seen this particular group here. The Aoudad sheep get to be big, 400 to 450 pounds. A lot of people like to come to hunt them. They are a trophy animal, that’s what they are.”
The weekend was magical – the kind of beautiful spring weather that brings hope back to the prairies. It’s been a long, hard winter here, and spring has never been more welcome. Best of all? I had time to enjoy it. I wandered in the rocky areas, took pictures of the animals I saw during the hike, laid on a rock at the top of mount Arabella, and took lots of deep, healing breaths. I can see why the Mostyn’s chose this place just to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life to spend quality family time.
For the Mostyn’s in Fort Davis, the highlight of the year is the Big Bend Livestock Show. I spoke with Emily’s father, Mr. Steve Merrill, about the event hosted every year in January at the Sunrise Stable:
“It’s been terrific since Mr. Mostyn provided this place for us to hold the Show. It is indoors, it is a great facility, and it’s accessible to everyone. Randy prepares it and gives us the opportunity to set things up and utilize it the way we need to and want to. So, in that regard, it’s been tremendous.
Like Emily, I met Mr. Mostyn at the livestock sale. He was there as a buyer. He’s been very generous in that regard, for our kids in the whole area of Fort Davis. But also, I met his daughter Eva who is quite a vivacious young lady. And she enjoys the sale as much as he does, evidently. Got to meet him there and realized his generosity, and what he wants to provide for the show and for our kids.”
“I think dealing with livestock is a great way for kids to really grow and develop in a variety of ways. Responsibility, because they must look beyond themselves and their own needs by taking care of the needs of an animal. They must feed and make sure the animals are provided for. And so, it takes them outside of themselves, certainly look beyond themselves towards others.
I think it’s a tremendous way for kids to also learn to communicate. Because they are non-verbal skills. Instead of a person telling you what they want, a kid must read the animal’s body language. If you can transfer that skill into communicating with people, you become a better communicator. It is a healthy way for kids to learn responsibility, providing and caring for others, and communication skills.”
“Houston” is the name of the pig Steve bought from Emily. Then, he donated the pig back to Emily so she could continue its training in preparation for the Houston Livestock Show on April 19th, 2017.
“This will be my first year to go to Houston. I am super excited because I’ve heard the show in Houston is the best swine show that there is in the state of Texas. Basically, preparing for the show is working with my pig, almost every day and feeding it the right food and the right supplements. I really have no idea what I am getting myself into, so I am just going to see and hope for the best.”
“My pigs have always had a problem with their rib cages opening to produce product. And, this pig has naturally an open rib cage, which I appreciate so much. I’ve been looking for that trait for 9 years, which is the amount of time I’ve been showing. Also, his muscularity is broad and he is a bit square, and that’s what judges usually look for. However, an open rib cage is his best quality. All the flavor they say, it’s in the fat. We try to feed him these products to fatten him up a little bit. Make him more pleasing on your plate, maybe (laughing).”
Once Summer 2017 is over, Emily is thrilled to be starting her college education at West Texas AT&M majoring in agriculture and communications. She loves advocating for agriculture and is very excited to do that in the future.
As a retired school principal, Mr. Merrill understands the importance of higher education. Hence the reason he’s set up college funds for his children. Furthermore, he’s looked for innovative ways to grow the funds, including the use of livestock proceeds. As Mr. Merrill said:
“The money that Mr. Mostyn spends at the sale, like for Emily that’s her college fund. Those are funds she will use down the road. Also, we take some of the money and buy next year’s livestock. He is the one who provided the opportunity for my kids and for other kids. And, that’s a tremendous thank you because not everyone has his generosity. And not just spending the money, but he is there personally, to meet the kids, take the pictures with the families and the animals. And to do the things other people just don’t do. And we are grateful for that!”
In the meantime, Emily is doing what she loves most: showing her livestock and advocating for agriculture! There is a saying that livestock show-girls use, and Emily was sure to let us know: