Over the past seven generations, the men and women of the Saunders family have become legends in Texas ranching. Headquartered west of Fort Worth in Weatherford, Texas since 1934, the family owns and operates Saunders Ranch, a successful cow-calf, yearling and equine business with cattle-raising roots dating back to the mid-nineteenth century.
It all started with Thomas Bailey Saunders raising cattle in Gonzales, Texas as early as 1850. Later in 1902, his grandson, Tom B. Saunders II, became the first cattle dealer at the Fort Worth Stockyards and his cattle company was the largest in the United States for much of the early turn-of-the-century period. Thomas B. Saunders III, the next generation in succession, furthered the cattle business, helped found the National Cutting Horse Association and, in 1934, established the Twin V livestock brand and Weatherford ranch property that the future Saunders’ generations still call home today.
Next, Thomas B. Saunders IV saddled up in the family business at age 12, groomed in the Fort Worth stockyards by his father. Later he moved to the Weatherford property, while working the ranch, publishing books on the rich culture of Texas agriculture, and raising a family there with his wife Ann.
Today, his son, Thomas Saunders V, along with his wife Lynn and two grown daughters, Madalynn and Leslie Ann, oversee the day-to-day dealings of Saunders Ranch and represent the sixth and seventh generations in this family dynasty.
Everyone pitches in to keep the business running smoothly. Lynn, who met Thomas V when they were just kids, and was “part of it all from the beginning,” runs the ranch office and still does all the accounting. Daughter Leslie works in marketing and tends to the web site and social media for Saunders Ranch. By profession, daughter Madalynn, is a livestock risk protection advisor and uses her skills to assist in the calendar of operations for their own livestock, alongside her father, as well as help with risk management decisions.
In addition to overseeing the cow-calf and stocker outfit, Thomas V, also provides the crew and livestock for multiple arenas across the United State. His passion is breaking and training all-around ranch horses and sharing that knowledge with others. He has supplied stunt work, cowboys, bucking stock and cattle for several large level events including the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, Rodeo Houston as well as for motion pictures and television shows.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch things aren’t always sunsets and silver spurs, even in the best of times.
“It sounds cliché to say ‘we need more rain’ or ‘weather and markets are the toughest part of ranch life,” says daughter, Madalynn. “But it’s the truth and will continue to be a wildcard you can count on every season, every year, and every generation.”
“Unwanted market forces and being on-call 24/7, every day of the year are other unavoidable challenges of ranch life,” elaborates Madalynn. “But, living and working in a neighborly, faith and family-oriented environment provides rewards you can’t put a dollar on. I know Pop (Thomas V) would just say that he has been blessed to grow up the way he did, and to be able to provide and eventually pass down an agricultural lifestyle for his own offspring as well as nieces, nephews, and future generations.”
Thinking about her own childhood, Madalynn recalled not really having stereotypical vacations like other families. “Pop’s job carried him off to many places including Montana, California, and Arkansas to provide horses and livestock to ranches, events and even movies — and he always took the family along for the adventure. Those memories will never fade.”
Other rewards of ranch life are eating well! “My favorite meal is a Ribeye Steak, or really any other good cut of beef prepared by my wife Lynn who is an excellent cook,” shares Thomas V.
Madalynn agrees that the meals served up to the Saunders family by her mother Lynn and grandmother Ann are delicious. “There’s not much they can’t cook, we sure lucked out there. My personal favorite is the Chicken Fried Steak.”
In the summer of 2022, the Saunders family will share more of their story when featured in Season 3 of Texas Beef Council’s original show, “BBQuest”.