Creek Ranch sale in 1976 showed Jo Ann with a 77 percent
share of the ranch and Tommy with a 22 percent share, and
Debra says the arrangement was similar with other assets,
including the property in North Carolina.
I don’t think Jo Ann ever thought of herself as a victim.
She was a strong woman who had the control of the family
assets at her fingertips. She trusted her husband to handle the
finances and that trust was misplaced.
“She always had majority control on paper in any kind of
business matter, but she didn’t actively make the decisions,
which was her downfall,” Debra says
The children of the Cow Creek cowboys I interviewed had
a special place in their heart for both Tommy and Jo Ann.
Almost everybody remembered how much Jo Ann loved
to go squirrel hunting and what a great shot she was with a
rifle, the smell of Tommy’s cigars, the sewing machine at Blue
Mountain, the tangerine trees in the old Seminole grove and
the crossing at Cow Creek.
Those shared memories and our mutual love for Cow
Creek Ranch bonded us and brought us back to a special
place and time. “It’s occasions like your Cow Creek Chronicles
that lift up those who lived the Cow Creek days,” Debra
wrote me as I was finishing this story. “The only thing we can
do now is to celebrate what Cow Creek has given us and how
it has made our lives richer.”
Though Tommy and Jo Ann’s story is unusual, the story of
Cow Creek Ranch isn’t unique. I suspect that there are hundreds
at Cow Creek. They are close to the land, close to nature and
close to the Creator.
The only difference between Cow Creek and the other
ranches is that what transpired at Cow Creek has been documented,
first with my dad’s stories and columns about Cow
Creek going back to the early 1960s, then with the Discovery
feature on ABC television in 1968 and now with the Cow
Creek Chronicles series.
Over these past few months, I often questioned whether I
was making too much of the story. Was it really worth writing
But in the end, I realized I was witness to a remarkable
place and time and people who should be remembered.
COW CREEK CHRONICLES
Tune into the Cow Creek Chronicles podcast by going
to iTunes, Spotify or the Google Podcasts apps
See the whole series online at indianrivermagazine.com
or order at indianriverstore.com
of ranches across the Florida landscape where hardworking
people are living out lives of authenticity like those
Kathy Sloan Blanton sits on a rock at the Tellico farm last April. She died Oct. 11 while ‘The Cow Creek Chronicles’ series was being published.