About a two hour drive south of Dallas is Four Oaks Ranch—the country home of John and Rosemary Davenport, several friendly dogs and a herd of Longhorn cattle.
Sixteen years ago, the Davenports purchased 322-acres of pasture, creeks and ponds south of Cleburne, Texas and began plans for turning it into a working ranch, log cabin home and spectacular showcase of Texas history.
While walking the grounds and visiting the interiors of the main house, guest house and smoke house, it may seem like touring a museum—but this is home. Family holidays are spent at the ranch with grandkids exploring the great outdoors, friends gathered around one of several fireplaces, John on a tractor and Rosemary in the kitchen.
The main house is a story and a half “Saddlebag” style log cabin. The Davenports contacted a restoration company in Fredericksburg, Texas who located the 1870’s cabin in Missouri. It was transported to the ranch and re-assembled on site.
Once re-constructed, John and Rosemary set about turning the log cabin into the home-spun Americana showplace that it is today.
“I’m visual,” Rosemary says about her natural ability to decorate.
And she is extremely talented. I call on her frequently when I need the “just right” centerpiece or tablescape for a special function.
Rosemary loves “old things” and the stories that accompany them. She began collecting primitive klediments and transformed the cabin into the Texas frontier home that she and John had envisioned.
In the kitchen with Rosemary
In addition to decorating, cooking is another talent that Rosemary is famous for with family and friends.
“I learned the basics of down-home cooking from my mother, Dorothy Cox, but it was John’s mother who taught me the fine points of entertaining,” Rosemary said.
The day I visited the ranch, lunch was Texas brisket, ranch beans and a melt in your mouth apple cinnamon cake. (Recipe follows.)
However, within the next couple of weeks, the menu will make a seasonal change and turkey and dressing with be center-stage. Rosemary continues the tradition of serving her mother’s cornbread dressing at Thanksgiving— a much requested recipe.
Around the ranch with John
A short ride in the pick-up truck took us to the working barn and adjacent bunk house where built-in bunks would be every boy’s dream of a sleepover.
Soon the Longhorns joined us at the barn. Up close, their intent gaze makes you feel as though they are listening to what you have to say.
“Rosemary is the cow whisperer,” John said.
“They will eat right out of your hand, but pay attention,” John warned. “A quick turn of their head and their strong horns can do serious damage.”
Beautiful to watch, an added joy during my visit was seeing a mother nurse her calf.
One of John’s hobbies is riding dirt bikes and Four Oaks ranch is home to “Time 2 Ride,” a commercial, off-road motorcycle adventure park. John loves sharing his eight-and-one-half- mile track and “pee-wee” track with others who love the sport.
Besides the main house, the ranch offers a guest house, play-ground, play-house (a Christmas morning surprise from John to Rosemary) and several sitting areas including the conversation fire pit— perfect for enjoying a glass of wine or roasting marshmallows.
Even the lovely act of porch sitting takes on a whole new concept at Four Oaks. Unlike the urban pastime still practiced on our East Dallas big front porches, there is no people watching or waving at neighbors passing-by at the ranch. It is peace and quiet— God’s country, the dogs and the Longhorns.
2 cups sugar
1 ½ cups Crisco oil
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
3 eggs beaten
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup pecans
3 cups chopped apples (Rome, yellow peeled)
Mix sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs. Sift dry ingredients and mix. Add apples and pecans.
Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.
- 1 stick of soft butter
- 1 box of powdered sugar
- 8 oz. cream cheese
- 1 tsp. vanilla
Sauce to Drizzle
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 stick of butter
- 8 oz. sour cream
- 1 cup sugar
Bring to a boil. Serve Warm
John and Rosemary and their Golden Retriever, Ruby, commute between the ranch and their home in Dallas. They have two daughters, a son-in-law and two grandchildren. John is retired from medical sales and Rosemary continues to help her daughter with her showroom of toys at the World Trade Center.