farm at Tellico in the 1980s.
“It was a lifestyle to us and it was a normal lifestyle to us,”
Robin says. “Jo Ann never made us feel uncomfortable when
we saw her in North Carolina.”
Robin says Diane and Jo Ann talked on the phone almost
daily. As Cow Creek financial manager, Diane paid the
bills for the corporation and the family, including Jo Ann’s
expenses in North Carolina. Robin says her mother knew
intimately about the corporation’s financial affairs but did not
ENDLESS MONEY SUPPLY?
To outsiders, the money from the Sloan family well seemed
In the 1970s, TL’s list of financial obligations included:
• Expenses for the ranch, including the construction of a
• Purchase of Tellico, land and improvements;
• Purchase of land to acquire the Orange Avenue Compound
and improvements, including the pool, tennis court
and new office complex;
• The planes and yacht;
• Debra’s boarding school expenses and later college expenses
at schools in Boston and at Western Carolina University,
where she would graduate;
• Support for Tee Sloan, TL’s son from an extramarital
• Support to help Kathy and her new husband as he attends
the University of Florida; and
• Private schools for Diane’s kids.
And then there were the incidental luxuries like new cars
for the kids when they came of driving age. “At 16 he’d say,
go down and pick out a car and when you find something
call me,” Darren says.
How do you support such obligations?
“There just ain’t that much money in cattle,” says 87-yearold
Alfred Norman, a longtime ranch foreman who grew up
on Cow Creek and whose father was foreman of Cow Creek
from the mid-1930s to the early 1950s.
With narrow margins earned from raising cattle, TL is
confronted with finding additional ways to raise cash. He is
expanding his groves, leasing property to tomato and other
farmers and shipping cattle to Puerto Rico. Marl mining —
used in Florida road construction — also brings in revenue
while creating a huge reservoir at the northwest corner of
SPREADING HIS WINGS
In one of his first forays outside the ranch, he spreads his
wings and pursues one of his greatest passions: aviation.
In 1971, he forms a partnership with Charles D. Ellis and
Aubrey McCracken, Sun Aviation, and purchases the Piper
Aircraft franchise at the Vero Beach airport. He is quoted in
a newspaper article as saying the new company includes
everything from sales and service of aircraft and equipment
to charter flights and flying lessons.
He says he got into the business because of his experience
flying. Sun Aviation several years later will also begin operating
at the St. Lucie County Airport.
With other investors, he begins buying and building apartment
complexes under the name Southern Properties. These
include Cinnamon Tree Apartments in Jensen Beach and
Southern Courtyard apartments, along with townhouses at
11th Street and Florida Avenue in Fort Pierce. He also forms a
partnership creating a local gas company.
He is close with bankers in St. Lucie County, providing two
of them hunting camps at Cow Creek. They are Bob Terry Sr.,
president of St. Lucie County Bank, and Howard Jernigan,
president of First National Bank of Fort Pierce, where TL gets
a seat on the board.
His image as a rancher is solidified in 1972 when he is
elected president of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association.
And later that year, Cow Creek is featured in a three-part
series in the Palm Beach Post. The series, by William A. Clark
with photos by Ron Smith, gives an insight to Cow Creek
operations, as if freezing time.
A 3-day series appearing in the Palm Beach Post depicted life at Cow Creek
Ranch in 1972. TL Sloan is pictured at the bottom right of the page.
TASTE OF RANCH LIFE
While the series highlights TL’s ownership and the 25-yearold
Percy’s management of the ranch, it also profiles the
cowboys and cook.
It starts out with a profile of day cowboy Clyde “Pop”
Coker, whom Clark qualifies as Mr. Florida Cowboy because >>