Opening Words from Sun. March 3 by Andie Jackson: “Pearl Jackson’s Ranch”

In 1904, my husband Bob’s grandparents moved from Iowa to Indian Territory, which was later called Oklahoma. Land was cheap there. While Bob’s grandfather practiced law, Bob’s grandmother, Pearl Jackson, bought land. Which is why, in 1981, Bob became the owner of a 12,000 acre tract of land near Tulsa.

Bob was practicing tax law in St. Louis. He wanted to sell the land, but couldn’t find a buyer at that time. He was advised that until he sold it, he’d better use it somehow, because otherwise, the locals would trash it. Reluctantly, he began to operate it as a cattle ranch.

He found a ranch manager. The two of them spoke every week – long, slow, country-type conversations – figuring out together how to handle everyday problems. Bob visited the Ranch four times a year, spending a couple of days each time. He learned about cattle. Also, about grass and hay, and how to protect native grasses by controlled burning; also about farm equipment and vehicles, fences and barns, and strategies for dealing with neighbors and hunters and poachers and vandals and oil operators and sometimes even cattle rustlers. On his visits, he photographed wildflowers and birds and vistas of unoccupied land.

Bob grew to love the Ranch, and came to feel that it should be preserved as open land. We decided to give it to The Nature Conservancy, subject to an arrangement called a conservation easement. Bob died in February 2023, and I became the owner of the Ranch. I completed the transfer to The Nature Conservancy on November 1, 2023.

They will be calling it the Pearl Jackson Crosstimbers Preserve. (Crosstimbers refers to a region and a type of terrain, described as “a mosaic of thick forest, open woodland, and prairie patches”).

It wasn’t until people started thanking me for my generous donation that I focused on the fact that the Ranch was very valuable. I had never thought of it as an asset. To me, it was just the place where Bob went to do his ranching.

Bob could have continued his efforts to sell the land. Instead, he chose to engage with this thing that had come unbidden into his life.

There were sacrifices connected with that choice. But because he chose to engage with the Ranch, his life was changed, other people’s lives were changed, and 12,000 acres that Pearl Jackson accumulated almost a century ago will be saved from development, hopefully forever.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.