Henry Clay Koontz, IV

July 31, 1934 - July 19, 1985
Role: Rancher
Known for: Premier Brahma breeder

Henry Clay was a world renowned cattle breeder, a true artist hosting buyers from throughout the major cattle countries including Argentina, South Africa and Australia. Henry embodied the legacy of his premier cattle breeding family. His great-grandfather John Keeran, who had been a stockman in Virginia, moved to California, struck gold and bought part of the De Leon Land Grant at the tip of Lavaca Bay. There he established himself as a Texas stockman and founded the California Ranch. John’s son, Claude, partnered with the infamous Shanghai Pierce, bringing the first Brahma cattle to Texas. Henry’s mother, Armel Koontz Baker, daughter of Claude Keeran, became the largest breeder of Brahma cattle at that time (1930s) and only the second woman to ever sit on the board of a stockman’s association. Henry was born to this life. His childhood was unusual even in a culture of eccentrics. “We never minded a fuss.” As Henry tells it, it was needed to “stir the juices”, and Henry’s stories attest to an overflowing, fermenting cask. From the permanent wave machine to the antiquities statue in the field to the string of tutors and the elocution teacher, Henry, and his two sisters, Emily and Diana, may have lived in isolation, but were never deprived from getting the full life experience. As a breeder and seller to cattle royalty, Henry loved to hold court at his ranch. It was a finely orchestrated game of social negotiation before ever getting to the details of the sale, and Henry and his wife, Mary Sue, were masters. His mother taught him the ropes--"when buying look as poor as possible, and when selling look as rich as possible". Henry, like every one of his ranching colleagues, had a bond with the land that went beyond life itself. As Mary Sue said “There is so much grief, and a ranch is so much earth, so much life and death…you deal with it every day….death is very present just like life is very present here…a real sense of life and death with a real respect for both and a fear of neither.” Tragically Henry was killed by a drunk driver in the summer of 1985 and the world lost a truly amazing spirit.

Introduction to Henry Clay

Louise S. O'Connor
Voice of Henry Clay Koontz IV
Henry Clay - I'll tell you another funny story about… About that time or period when the tutors were all at the ranch. One time they were gonna have the Brahma association were gonna come out and appraise mama's cattle for registration. And at that time she had some old brahma cattle that was just practically impossible to get 'em in the pen, I mean it would take about 20 hands and she'd get mad and chase them with the corn, cuss 'em all out, sometime fire 'em one day and hire 'em back the next. But she was getting ready for this big cow working so she called call Frenchy from the beauty parlor to come out to give her a permanent wave. And this old house had a front porch up on it, so Frenchy and Sue from the beauty parlor came out with one of these permanent wave machines and the permanent wave had a cable that went to each one of the curlers, you know that went on your hair. And so mama was sitting up there in the chair and the cattle were stampeding, jumping fences, and everything else and mama couldn't see out the window there and she had down and cut that son of a bitch tree down, god damn I can't see the cow, what's going on. They are jumping fences, she was yelling telling Frenchy to hurry up and get this permanent wave thing off. So about that time she'd bought this old bull called Headache and paid three thousand dollars for him and he jumped into the yard, slipped on the sidewalk and broke his leg and mama had 'em scooting, she couldn't see what was going on, she was cussing 'em out, and had 'em scooting the permanent wave machine all up and down the porch and cussing ole Frenchy and Sue out trying to see what was going on. Get this son of a bitch off my head goddamn and of course the cows were jumping the fence and so forth and so when she finally got it off she told 'em, she said yeah she said you think you're gonna break… Of course the Negras loved some fresh meat and she was feeding them all goat at the time. Yeah you think you're going to have some fresh meat, she says but I'm giving the whole damn thing to Frenchy to take to town to give to the preacher. So, uh, Frenchy says what am I going to do about the permanent wave machine. She says, just leave the son of a bitch where it is and take this bull with you. She had it all gutted and cleaned. They're not getting a damn bite of it. And so that was… oh yes just marvelous.