So you all know that John Wayne was a famous actor. Some of you may know that he also directed two of his famous movies, “The Alamo” and “The Green Berets.” But did you know that he also had a major stake in the cattle game? It’s true. John Wayne was part owner of the 26 Bar Ranch.
Located in Eager, Arizona, on State Route 260, the 26 Bar Ranch was originally known as the Milky Way Ranch. It got its name because of its big white show barn which housed some of the top cattle in the area. The barn is now considered a local landmark. In 1964 John Wayne purchased the ranch and changed the name to the 26 Bar Ranch. Although he played a cowboy in the movies, and definitely knew a thing or two about the ranching lifestyle, the Duke wasn’t afraid to admit when he was in over his head. So, he partnered with two additional men to run the ranch. Ken Reafsnyder, associated with Knott’s Berry Farm in Los Angeles, and Louis Johnson, a cotton farmer and businessman, ran the ranch with Wayne until his death in 1979.
Wayne spent lots of time in Arizona even before purchasing the ranch. He filmed his iconic break-through film “Stagecoach,” in the state. He also filmed “Red River” there. And he and his family were known to visit the area frequently. Once he purchased the ranch, he frequently brought his kids to visit where they learned the ropes of real ranch work and riding horses.
Apparently, John Wayne’s love for Arizona was mutual because now there’s a stretch of the state’s route 347 dedicated to the Duke. It’s known as the John Wayne Parkway.
What Was Engraved on John Wayne’s Belt Buckle?
The Duke’s ranch sparked lots of interest from fans. During a Q&A session on “The Phil Donahue Show,” one woman asked John Wayne about 26 Bar Ranch. She said that she often noticed the cattle and barns and wondered if there was also a home on the land. Wayne said that there were two homes across the land where his partners lived. The woman also mentioned the belt buckle she had seen the Duke wear. She asked him if his cattle brand was engraved on the buckle.
“Yes I have a big silver buckle,” said Wayne. “And it says ’26 Bar’ which is our brand.”
It doesn’t get much more cowboy than that!