Tom and Connie Cook started 
South Creek Cattle Company in 2018. Contributed Photo.
Contributed Photo

Tom and Connie Cook started South Creek Cattle Company in 2018

HASKILL, OKLA. – When Tom Cook moved from Arkansas to Oklahoma in 1983, he was working in the business industry and living in Tulsa. For many, that would seem like the perfect life.  

However, for Tom, that was not the case. Even then he knew he should have been doing something else.   

Tom had grown up on a small ranch that his dad owned in Arkansas, which had a variety of commercial cattle and various breeds. That was the life he knew he wanted for himself.  

But it wasn’t until he married his second wife Connie in 2016 that they truly began to imagine changing the direction of their lives.   

“We were just at the point, and I was at the point that I felt like we could finally get out of the hustle and bustle and get back to the country life,” Tom said. “I’ve always wanted to get there but just wasn’t there yet until the right time.”  

The right time came in 2018 when the Cooks made the leap and started the South Creek Cattle Company (SCCC). They moved close to an hour outside Tulsa and set up a cow/calf operation in Haskell, Okla.   

“We consider ourselves a small operation,” Tom said. “We’ve got 70 acres. We started out with 23 momma cows and a bull. A black Angus, registered bull and black and red Angus cows and just started our venture. And so that’s how it kind of started out.”  

Tom, who is 61 years old, was in his mid-50s when he and Connie, 54, started SCCC. That is not the normal age for people to pick up stakes and start a life on a ranch.   

Despite the hardship and rigors ahead of them, it was something the Cooks knew they wanted to do.    

“I knew growing up at my dad’s that this wasn’t necessarily an easy life. But it’s a rewarding life,” Tom said. “I’d go and visit all the time and it might be over Christmas or New Year’s and it’s 13 degrees and sleeting, but the cattle decides when you work and not when you don’t. Whether we had to go out there and pull a calf, they don’t only happen on the good days. So I knew what I was getting into.”  

While owning and operating their own ranch was important, so was living in an area that gave them some elbow room. While the Cooks say they are not anti-social, they do like the type of privacy they could never have gotten with city life.   

“It’s so rewarding that just sitting here in our place and taking it all in, being yourself and you don’t have the noise, you’re in your own place and your own space,” Tom said. “I don’t know how many times we both said it. We’ll be outside and the sun’s setting and it’s like, Hey, do you hear that? It’s like me neither. Literally, our house is not near the road even. I mean, our house is smack dab in the middle of the whole property, so we’re just under a half mile off the road. So our driveway’s long, we don’t hear nothing. It’s the peace and peace is good for the soul and your health and being able to not have to deal with anybody else, if you want to call it that. We’re not introverts necessarily. Don’t get me wrong. We like to socialize. But we just loved being out in the country and there’s a sacrifice.”  

Tom still has a day job that has him commuting almost an hour to and from Tulsa every morning during the week. While the commute isn’t pleasant, Tom said it’s a sacrifice he was willing to endure.  

After the floods, the Cooks and every other farm and ranch in the state had to deal with a drought. Prices of hay and other materials to skyrocketed while the prices for cattle were dirt cheap.  Contributed Photo.
Contributed Photo

“That’s what I tell the guys at work. I tell them, ‘Hey, this is the price you pay to be where you want to be,’” Cook said. “And so, it’s a small price. And Connie was kind of the same way before we met.”  

While Tom and Connie’s blended family includes three children, they are all living their own lives in Tulsa, Little Rock, Ark., and Broken Arrow, Okla. So, it’s just the two of them to handle the chores, take care of the cattle and run the entire property. While Tom is at work, Connie is on the ranch making sure nothing goes awry.   

“When anything comes in the pastures, we manage it. We do some rotational, even on our 70 acres we do all grazing, so we have to rely on outsourcing for our feed and hay so we don’t hold back any pastures. We figured that we could graze longer doing it that way. That’s been a blessing. But you know how it is, 85 percent of the time we can run this pretty easily, if you want to call it that,” Tom said. “But then there’s the intense times.”  

Those intense times came last year when the county was hit with torrential flooding. 

“Our location right here got the most rain of anybody out of that flooding,” Tom said. “We had close to 14 inches in about a day and a half period. We got a major creek that feeds one of our major ponds on the property and it literally rerouted the whole creek. So much sediment came down. We had a cross fence right there by the pond where the creek comes in that just filled up with land; it just blocked it off.”  

After the floods, the Cooks and every other farm and ranch in the state had to deal with a drought. Prices of hay and other materials to skyrocketed while the prices for cattle were dirt cheap.   

“You couldn’t win,” Tom said.

This year hasn’t been much easier, forcing the  Cooks to cull a number of cows. The only salvation is that cattle prices are higher and they expect to make a little profit this year.   

Despite how tough the past two years have been, the Cooks have no regrets.

“We want to keep this alive even if we get even smaller,” Tom said. “It’s a lifestyle as well, and I think it’s very important to us to support the beef industry, which we are proud of doing. Also, I just know how my daughter loved to go to my dad’s ranch. It was like our favorite times because she lived in the city otherwise. And our grandkids right now are the same way. They love coming out here to see the cows. That means a lot to us too. So, we are in this as a business to make some kind of profit, but at the same time, you’re going to have bad and good days.”  


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