Dec 16, 2011
by WLJ


May 4, 1925 - Dec. 9, 2011

Leonard R. Brooks, cattle buyer, cattle feeder, butcher shop owner, cow/calf operator and veteran registered Quarter horse breeder, passed peacefully on Friday, Dec. 9, 2011, in Jamestown, CA. As he made the difficult calls, youngest son, Lee, said it best, “Every morning he awoke at 5 am. This morning, he peacefully departed at 5 am, with all his dignity intact!” At his father-in-law’s request, Leonard and his wife, Patricia (Price), moved permanently from Bakersfield to the ranch in 1967. The 7,000-plus acres has been in Patty’s family for over 100 years.

They, along with some family members, immediately went to work improving the native grass pastures and availability of stock water, updating the genetics and rapidly increased the carrying capacity for their expanding cow herd and yearling operation.

“Leonard was 20 years ahead of the times,” echoed longtime friend Bob Barrett and son Ronnie. He had the advantage of having observed many successful ranches, packing companies, and feed yards throughout the U.S. Leonard took the best and innovated the practical application to the changing times.

“Information was a very valuable asset,” preached Leonard to his family, friends and employees. Leonard had his own “information network” for the first 78 years of his life…he knew who was buying what and for how much, he knew where open butcher cows would bring the most, where good quality horse hay was plentiful, which ranches had the best feed and water, where to buy cows as good or better than his and Patty’s, what to charge for pasture gains, what the exchange was on the Canadian dollar, what was happening on the southern border, etc. Now, Leonard’s friends and family all better understand where his youngest son Lee learned his “interrogation skills.”

Against conventional wisdom, Leonard went to fellow cattle feeder Sam McElhaney in Arizona and over time bought 100 Charolais bulls. When they delivered the first Charolais-sired calves to the community corrals, after weighing the first two drafts, even Leonard thought there must be something wrong with the scales. Word of the Brooks ranch ‘big buckskin or white black-nosed calves’ got around.

Some of the first Brangus Super Baldies in the west wore Brooks ranch’s IHeart brand. By the mid-70s, Leonard and Patty had over 4,000 cow/calf pairs and 135 mares. Even by 2011 standards, that was a sizeable operation.

In order to accommodate their increased cow herd and the need for summer pasture to balance the ranch’s strong native feed, Leonard and Patty leased several ranches.

Fifty-plus years of breeding Quarter horses became bigger than life.

Leonard explained to Lee that he had an attraction to horses since boyhood. As early as the ’60s, Leonard had a few mares. The horses were raised as practical as the cow herd, bred, foaled and raised outside.

In the rolling to steep native grass pastures, the purchase of AQHA race horse Bar the Door from Schwabacher’s Quarter Circle 5 Ranch was a precursor to buying Plumb Dry that Leonard developed into the 1984 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity World Champion. He sired over 500-plus foals, including Lee Brooks’ Cutting Horse Plumbs Sensation with earnings over $80,000.

In 1979, the Brooks family built a large on-the-ranch enclosed horse complex, consisting of stalls, pens and indoor training facility. They hosted cuttings and cow horse events as well as their production sales in the building.

Not long after Plumb Dry won the Snaffle Bit Futurity, Leonard experienced a major health scare, prompting Patty to encourage a rapid downsizing of their cattle operation.

Leonard discovered the internet in 2002. He doubled his information data bank! From his own computers he promoted Brooks Ranch Quarter Horses, tracked the markets for horses and cattle and with daughterin-law Miriam’s help, did some very effective marketing. His telephone bill was still substantial, but he was not intimidated by the new information age.

Leonard was always up for the challenge. He demonstrated many times that necessity was the mother of invention. In the spring of 1964, the fed cattle market threatened to end their cattle feeding business. So he and Patty opened their own butcher shop to retail the cattle they had on feed. Full-page ads in the Bakersfield Californian launched Stockdale Meats. “We feed our own cattle… selling only American USDA meat,” Western Livestock Journal printed in an editorial about Leonard. He was always aggressive in solving the lack of feed, and in later years, he was able to solve most market challenges by enlisting marketing stalwarts Ellington Peek or H. Skinner Hardy. Admittedly, the only real problem that Leonard couldn’t improve on was the weather.

Leonard served in the Marine Corps during World War II. He worked for the Rudnick Family at their feed yards and Piute Packing Houses in Bakersfield and Modesto. His livestock education included working with Hardy’s father, Col. Harry T. Hardy.

In retrospect, last September, Leonard began to implement his “bucket list” on his terms. He negotiated and documented one of the best grass leases in the West. Witnessed the start of a promising grass year. He was able to enjoy Thanksgiving at home with his family and watched the NCHA Cutting Futurity on his computer during his short stay in the hospital. He methodically said goodbye to those he treasured most and reiterated his exit plan on his terms. On his peaceful way out, his parting words to loved ones…”That’s the way it is supposed to be done!” He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Patricia Price Brooks, sons Ron (Gerry), Lee (Miriam), daughter Eileene Dambacher (Jim), stepson Price Mailloux (Barbara), stepdaughter Deniece Mailloux (Audi Rice), and numerous grandchildren and greatgrandchildren. He is preceded in death by his parents, Munsel Brooks and Jesse Jackson, and sons Rod Brooks and Robert Brooks.

The family requests that friends wishing to make donations in memory of Leonard contact their favorite charity, cancer organizations, Andy Peek Memorial, or Small Miracles Foundation of Oregon.