Three famous Western movies all started on the ranch surrounding the Wildcatter Restaurant near Graham, Texas, according to Dr. Kenneth Aboussie of Wichita Falls, Texas. And the great thing for residents of drought-stricken Wichita Falls is that this lush green resort is a quick 61 minutes from the city of 105,000.
“It’s really nice. They’ve got the marquees of those movies all over the restaruant. And the steaks are really good,” Dr. Aboussie said yesterday, July 25.
So when the successful dentist called with an impromptu invitation to accompany his wife Donna, their two grandchildren Haley and Grayson and him to the cooler and greener climate of the renowned restaurant it was an offer which had to be accepted by my wife Bonnie and me.
“The three movies are Lonesome Dove, the Searchers and the Sons of Katie Elder,” explained Aboussie as his vehicle sped south along Highway 281. “John Wayne starred in the Searchers and the Sons of Katie Elder. Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones were in Lonesome Dove.”
The movie Lonesome Dove was based on best-selling novel by Larry McMurtry who is a native of nearby Archer City, Texas. McMurtry also penned the bestseller “The Last Picture Show” which was made into a movie filmed in Wichita Falls and Archer City
Less than an hour had elapsed when Dr. Aboussie turned off the highway and onto the road whch led up the ridge to the summit where the Wildcatter Restaurant sat perched. Off to the right of the restaurant is the new western style Wildcatter Hotel which has been built since the restaurant has been in business. Several cabins set off to one side of the hotel. Big green trees were plentiful creating a beautiful view in every direction.
The first point of business upon entering the ornate restaurant was to locate the movie marquees. Dr. Aboussie led the way finding a marquee for Lonesome Dove and then for the Sons of Katie Elder. There were also marquees for several other movies. But no Searchers marquee.
As the waiter took down orders for steaks, Aboussie said, “You know the Searchers was based on the Quanah Parker story and the kidnapping of his mother Cynthia Ann Parker by the Comache Indians. And it began right here on the Wildcatter Ranch.” Quanah Parker was the son of Cynthia Ann Parker and Comanche Peta Nocona. Quanah Parker was last chief of the Comanche Indians. In the movie, “The Searchers” Cynthia Ann Parker was played by actress Natalie Wood.
There was a great view from the windows of the famous restaurant of towering green trees marching up and down mountainsides. It seemed as though we were in a different world from the flat plains which surround Wichita Falls near the Red River which was only minutes away.
“This area is just full of history,” Aboussie said, as we cut into our tender ribeye steaks.
Three friends from Graham recently purchased the restaurant. Tammy Morrison, Julie Ruddy and Beverly Smith bought it together. They’ve already formed a good partnership for many years as owners of the Dinnerbell Restaurant in downtown Graham. They are continuing the excellent service they provided at the Dinnerbell at the Wildcatter Restaurant located on the Wildcatter Ranch. Beverly is in charge of the kitchen, Julie runs the front and Tammy does the bookkeeping.
The restaurant and ranch have become destinations of world travelers for vacations and meetings. One of the employees motioned to a group of people in the largest dining area as being from Uruguay, Chile and Spain.
One of the owners said,” We’ve had visitors from the UK (Great Britain) stay here. Corporations such as Air Traffic of Olney have had meetings here.”
Aboussie pointed out a cemetery not far from the restaurant, saying, “The graves of the four actual people who were portrayed in one of the John Wayne movies lie buried in that cemetery. They all died at the nearby Brazos River during an ambush.”
The Wildcatter Resort Ranch on the Texas Range includes several activities for visitors in addition to the excellent restaurant. Some of the activities include horseback riding, archery, jeep tour and sporting clay shooting.
The restaurant and ranch are located at 6062 Highway 16 South just south of Graham. People may call 940-549-0035 for reservations or check the website for the Wildcatter Ranch. Reservations are reccommended. Possum Kingdom Lake lies only a few minutes away from the restaurant. With sixteen guest cabins and a hotel which can accommodate sixteen, the Wildcatter is a great resort for all sorts of activities in North Texas.
As Aboussie pulled to a stop not far from the restaurant as we left, he said, “I love that sign.”
Instead of the normal word “Stop” being emblazoned across it, the word “Whoa” appeared which is only appropriate for a ranch and restaurant which have seen some incredible history including Western movies and real-life drama down through the years.
Anyone interested in receiving free updates of future National Places and Faces articles may click on the subscribe link adjacent to this article.