Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato


Friday, April 20, 2012

Down Home Ranch

            I want to introduce you to Dr. Jerry Horton and his wife Judy.  These are two people that Gayle and I are proud to know and even more proud to call our good friends.  When we look at what Jerry and Judy have accomplished, Gayle and I are both genuinely humbled.

            Jerry and I were friends in college at San Jose State University.  We shared many experiences together, including a potentially dangerous adventure in Tijuana.  But the times I remember most with Jerry were the discussions we had regarding philosophy, religion, and theoretical concepts that may have been more of an exercise in mental gymnastics than providing a practical solution to the world’s problems.  But that’s what college students do.

            Jerry was always considered by the rest of us to be an authentic intellectual.  Unfortunately, during those heady days of undergraduate studies, Jerry moved from his Christian perspective to become a self-described atheist.  He was also way off in left field politically.  That’s common for students of philosophy or psychology. But wisdom comes with age and experience and Jerry eventually made the transition back to his starting point as a Christian.  And politically he made a big jump … to the right.  Imagine that!

            As an example, Jerry, Judy, Gayle and I went on a cruise with the staff of the National Review, including William F. Buckley, Judge Ken Starr, Judge Robert Bork, Senator Pat Toomey, and about twenty other internationally known folks.  It was an unbelievable experience to meet all of these people and smoke cigars with Bill Buckley.  To join Jerry on the starboard side of the ship was certainly different from our college days, when he was walking the plank on the port side.

            Due to his intellect, it’s no surprise that Jerry earned a Doctorate and became a college professor.  This image was consistent with our conception of Jerry Horton.  It was a surprise when Gayle and I visited Jerry at the site of Down Home Ranch in Texas early in its development. We pulled into the ranch to see Jerry in Levis and a cowboy hat with tools hanging from his belt as he worked on a fence.  It sure wasn’t the image of him as a college professor. Quite a change.

            Jerry’s wife Judy is also an example of someone with a large intellect that matches the size of her dreams and provides the tools to realize those dreams.  When you pair up Jerry and Judy, you have an unstoppable team.  Those aren’t empty words.

            They turned a large and bare piece of Texas land into a working ranch for adult “ranch hands” with Down syndrome.  When their daughter Kelly was born with this condition, they had many decisions to make.  When they finally chose a plan, it wasn’t only for the benefit of Kelly.  They thought about others like their daughter and began work on a ranch for other people with Down syndrome, appropriately called, “Down Home Ranch.” 

Down Home Ranch is a working ranch.  They provide jobs on the ranch, so the ranch hands actually earn money from their labor through the ranch production. There are activities, educational and practical learning experiences, chores, living quarters for the ranch hands and an experienced staff. It’s truly an unbelievable operation.  And it started with two parents wanting the best for their daughter and others like her who needed a healthy and happy living environment.

            Rather than explain this fantastic program, I want to ask all my readers to look at www.downhomeranch.orgor go to Down Home Ranch, Elgin, Texas. Let Jerry and Judy explain the ranch operation in their own words.  It’s very interesting and really worth the time. Please go to the Down Home Ranch website.

If you have an interest in joining the effort, you can add your name to the long list of folks who support the operation financially.  It’s a wonderful non-profit charity.  Please check it out. I guarantee that you won’t regret it.

            Again…www.downhomeranch.org or just type in Down Home Ranch, Elgin, Texas.




  1. Jerry and Judy are making a difference. Their Down Home film was inspirational

  2. Chuck - Thanks for checking it out. Judy and Jerry are two people who have actually made a difference in many, many lives.

  3. Though we all lived together during college days, I don't believe I've seen Jerry since then. It would be great to see him again and meet Judy. Down Home Ranch is an obviously wonderful place. You'll recall their daughter was the subject of a made-for-TV movie that ran quite a few years ago. A remarkable story.

  4. Rog -

    Gayle and I visited Jerry and Judy when there was very little there. Just trees and sage brush. We've been trying to get back to see first hand what they've accomplished recently. It's worth a trip there, Rog. They'd be glad to see you.

    We keep in contact and get photos, which indicate the ranch is really amazing with many amenities. They have given everything to that project and have provided an amazing life for their "ranch hands."

  5. Great story, and a couple to be admired for sure.
    My wife is in a unique position with her work to challenge folk to consider their Legacy. The story here certainly calls for soul searching. What ever is done for God will last. It strikes me that this just may be the bottom line for this unique couple.

  6. What type of work does your wife do?

    I agree that my friends have had a real impact on many lives. They offer summer camps and a number of events that draw in members of the public and, as Roger said above, there was a TV movie made about their project.

  7. Ralph, I first went to their website months ago when you posted something about these folks. What a great ministry they have.

    You know some great people! Them (and me)!

  8. I am truly touched by what a wonderful and Godly couple they are. What they are doing for the Kingdom is a tremendous blessing. I was directed to this site because of an article in my Backyard Poultry Magazine. I also have chickens,ducks,and geese. More importantly I have an adult disabled son, Zachery, He is 27 and living at home. He has brought great joy into our lives and always keeps us on our toes! I am deeply touched by the hard work, love and dedication they have put into the farm. I wish I did not live so far away, Pennsylvania, because I really would enjoy visiting and volunteering if allowed. My husband and I will keep you in our prayers. May God Bless you and keep you. May His face shine upon you evermore.

  9. Anonymous -

    Thanks for your inspiring comment. I'm sure Jerry and Judy would like to hear from you. It sounds like you have a lot in common with them. I think they have poultry and everything imaginable on that ranch, including the ranch hands, who have a very good life.

  10. Ed -
    Evidently I'm starting to repeat myself. I sometimes forget what I have already written about. But I'm glad you got another look at the Down Home Ranch operation.