The century-old tale has been passed down through six generations of ranchers, undiluted by time. In 1893—fifteen years before Oklahoma would become a state, Oscar Chain traded $50 and a shotgun for 160 dusty acres situated between the North and South Canadian Rivers in Dewey County. Looking over the ranch today, it seems to me that the founder of the Chain Land and Cattle Company got a fabulous bargain. With 60,000 acres spread over seven different properties from Oklahoma to Kansas, the ranch has diversified into so many different markets that Oscar Chain might not even recognize it any longer. But things haven’t always been so rosy.
“One day the ranch accountant burst into my office,” says Ralph Chain, chuckling over the story. “He told me things were so grim right now that my granddad got a bad deal.” At eighty-something years of age, Ralph can remember most of the hardest times, times when the land didn’t seem worth even fifty bucks and a gun. He recalls the dust storms that chewed up the prairies and spit them back out, unrecognizable.