Fort Worth Business Press
By Steve Munday
‘Always take the short end of the stick. It will pay off in the long run. And hope that all your friends and neighbors do well because a few crumbs will blow your way.’
The land has defined Mac A. Coalson. Parker County native Coalson, who will turn 65 on Dec. 24, has been a participant and a keen observer of the slicing, dicing and re-shaping of North Texas real estate. He has seen what can be, could have been and should have been, and he has seen what didn’t happen. From his sprawling ranch headquarters near Garner in northwestern Parker County, the land has provided him with successful business ventures in farm-and-ranch real estate brokerage, ranching, cattle feeding, cutting horses, banking and the oil-and-gas industry. He is probably best known for his extensive ranch-brokerage business in the Cross Timbers country west of Fort Worth. An outdoorsman who enjoys being around other people, Coalson says, “I always felt it would be exciting to be in the real estate business just by seeing what was going on.” In 1967, he secured his broker’s license while completing a business degree from Texas Christian University with a minor in accounting. Coalson dabbled in real estate in Parker County for several years while working for others in accounting, and ranched on the side. Then, he recalls, “I finally got the courage to step out and see if I could make a living without having to work in an office and go to work for myself.
“He draws inspiration to this day, he says, from the wise counsel of his late father, John Alford Coalson. “My dad told me the most important thing you ever are going to have is your name and integrity. And we have tried to build our business around that, and I think people who are successful in business in this area do that,” he says. His dad advised him in these terms: “Always take the short end of the stick. It will pay off in the long run. And hope that all your friends and neighbors do well because a few crumbs will blow your way.”
Coalson’s upbringing in agriculture has held him in good stead as a ranch broker. He says a ranch broker needs to understand the land, the soils in the area, the land’s carrying capacity and potential. The key to showing farms and ranches is knowing the property and being able to inform the prospective buyer. Being a native of the region, he and his son McAllen can recommend and show property in the area with confidence.
“The Cross Timbers Belt lies along the western half of Parker County. It runs from the little town of Whitt on down through Garner, Millsap, Brock and wraps around below Weatherford, where there is better soil,” he explains. In the early days, the area was used for farming – mostly peanuts, which require good sand. With the introduction of Coastal Bermuda grass, the peanut farms of between 100 and 120 acres were consolidated into cattle ranches. In recent years, with the influx of cutting horse owners and trainers to the area, the bigger ranches are being split up into smaller tracts suitable for cutting horse ranches.”
The people in the cutting horse industry that have moved into our community have been a great asset… a tremendous boost to our economy,” Coalson says. He estimates that the cutting horse industry pumps $50 million a year into Parker County alone, based upon the assumption that one dollar will turn seven times before it stops. “The key to any real estate deal is to keep it beautiful-keeping its Sunday clothes on it,” he says, adding that the cutting horse people, who are proud of their properties, have proved committed to keeping the land beautiful.
During the last 37 years, Coalson has seen rural Parker County land selling from $100-$150 an acre to as much as $5,000-$6,000 acre, depending upon the location. Even in the more remote areas, smaller tracts are selling at anywhere from $4,000 to $6,000 an acre. He says the cheapest property in Parker County is rugged terrain in the western part, running around $2,000 an acre. Coalson says Brock is very expensive, with land running to $6,000 or more per acre and as much as $4,000 in the bigger tracts. Brock is considered a good area because of its quick access to Interstate 20 and an excellent school system. Coalson adds that there are great schools in Millsap, Peaster and Lipan, and that Poolville is rebuilding. Weatherford has the progressive and well-established Weatherford College.
The largest ranch properties remaining are the Cass Edwards Ranch, just east of Garner, and the Doss Ranch southwest of Weatherford. Everything else has been cut up. This kind of land fragmentation can damage wildlife habitats, but Coalson says there is still an abundance of deer and turkey.”We have had real good commissioners over the past years, and they have upgraded our roads. Most of our county roads are paved, with very few gravel roads left,” Coalson says. “That’s another thing that has helped our prices and our ease to get into the Metroplex.”A tremendous draw for the cutting horse industry is the proximity to the Will Rogers complex in Fort Worth, where the Triple Crown of cutting is held. Will Rogers is 25 minutes away from Coalson‘s ranch near Garner.
“Weatherford is a great little town, a friendly town and really it’s a ‘rollover” of Fort Worth,” Coalson says. “For those who relocate there, they can have best of two worlds, small-town Weatherford and big-town Fort Worth. He says plans to build a new loop around the north part of Weatherford and back in around Jerry’s Chevrolet will lead to tremendous development and even higher prices.
“What we have seen in the last few years, like over in Aledo-now $15,000 [an acre], which is unbelievable-well, it’s moving even more to the west. The Cross Timbers area has many trees, which are attracting new land buyers to new subdivisions. Rivers and streams-anything with recreational potential-are probably the most important value in land from the Brazos River, from Possum Kingdom Lake to Lake Granbury. Lake Granbury keeps its level constant. Water is continuously being let out of Possum Kingdom, as a means of avoiding extremes in the level.”
An often-overlooked area is that of the creeks in Palo Pinto County and Palo Pinto Lake, where levels also are constant. Lake Palo Pinto, which is also beautiful, remains something of a secret.
More and more people, who have sold property, perhaps industrial, are coming to the area seeking ranches and other properties for tax advantages. The same is true of those who have inherited property. Usually, they have a low cost basis and can roll that into a ranch and save in the taxation department. The capital-gains area has been reduced to 15 percent, Coalson says, but that remains a big chunk of change on a property of $500,000 to $1 million. The 1031 tax-free exchanges have prompted people to buy property in rural settings farther west, going into Palo Pinto, Erath, Jack, Stephens and Young counties. The far-westward Rolling Plains area has strong potential for outside real estate investments.
“They are buying places… rather than in the stock market,” Coalson says. “It gives them an asset that they can see and touch, smell and enjoy with their families. The deer and other wildlife are very important.”
In recent months, he has shown land to prospective buyers from California and North Carolina. Naturally, some of these people will want to run a few cows. Coalson is finding clients in search of productive soils on which to grow wheat and run cattle – interests long neglected. With stronger cattle prices, he explains, “You can hold your own and make a little money on yearlings, whereas several years ago there was no margin.” Not every established citizen of rural Parker County has welcomed the newcomers and the increased activity, Coalson says, adding that even those who resist the changes will benefit because their land values are going to go up. Coalson believes North Texas’ climate for rural real estate offers unbelievable opportunities for individuals “willing to work and willing to invest” in a good place for business and the environment. Coalson’s roots remain in Parker County, where he ranches, running cattle that will be sent to Bar G Feed yard near Hereford, in the Texas Panhandle. The cattle operations fit well with the cutting horse business run by another son, Greg Coalson. Mac receives the benefit of using the cattle for cutting, and they end up as grain-fed beef. Coalson prefers the Charolais cross known as a smoky-gray-part Charolais and part black Angus.”They will gain so good, and the Angus puts the marbling there and the mothering ability, and they will butcher out. They will bring a premium,” he says. Coalson is justifiably proud that his concerns for the land resulted in his recognition as Conservationist of the Year by the Parker-Hood Soil Conservation District, during the 1970s. He says he hopes to leave the country “better than what it had been.”V.L. “Lindsay” Coalson, Mac’s paternal grandfather, came to Parker County in 1866 from Jackson, Miss. A former lieutenant in the Confederate Army, Lindsay Coalson stepped off the train in Fort Worth and walked to Aledo, carrying a crowbar shaped from the barrel of his combat rifle. (Mac Coalson has saved that bar for posterity.)With no trees to cut for building or heating and no money for coal, Lindsay walked on to Weatherford, where he was directed to northwestern Parker County. There, he found an abundance of oak trees and a sandy soil, suitable for farming. He bought a site called the Old Wharton Place, which Mac and another family still own. In 1889, Mac’s father was born, third of five children.
“My father John Alford Coalson‘s history was as a cattle buyer in the early days and they-he and his brother Farrell -would take the cattle down to Garner and ship to Fort Worth,” he relates. “Later on, my mom and her family moved here from Gadsden, Ala. She was 27 and he was 37 when they got married. Three daughters were born, and on Dec. 24, 1939, I was born.”
The countryside was rural, with dirt roads. For Mac, the worst thing was that his dad loved to farm peanuts. “I hated hoeing peanuts,” he recalls, “but that was part of my job.” The family raised peanuts for many years until the introduction of Coastal Bermuda grass. More land was available for cattle and the few horses – “nags,” as Mac puts it – that Mac kept and his father tolerated. Coalson helped convert his father from peanut farmer to stock farmer. At around age 5, Mac would travel about the countryside with his father, buying a few calves and cow-calf pairs from the neighbors. The cattlemen would finish talking, start negotiating and “get tough with each other,” as Mac recalls, “to see which one was going to give on the price.”
When a deal was done, they shook on it and no check was written. A few days later, the elder Coalson would pick up the cattle in his old truck and write a check.
“Those old timers… their word was their bond,” Coalson remembers. “They would stay with you and do whatever it took to make it right.”
One of his mentors in the banking business – an old timer – told Coalson, “Mac, the best attribute you have is good common horse sense, and you are dealmaker.”
“That was very nice compliment,” he recalls with affection. The abilities to recognize opportunity and put together a deal have led Coalson to diversify. During the late 1970s, a little oil and gas boom expanded his ranch real estate business into oil-and-gas leasing and lease-brokering. Coalson started buying stock in Citizen’s National Bank of Weatherford. In 1983, he and a friend, Walter Worthington, secured a charter for Weatherford National Bank, which opened in 1984.The bank caught the attention of First Financial Bankshares, a holding company headquartered in Abilene. After much negotiation, Weatherford National became part of the holding company, and later Citizen’s National and Weatherford National merged. With consolidated assets totaling $2.1 billion, First Financial Bankshares operates separately chartered banks with 28 locations in Texas, a trust company and a technology operating company. Coalson remains a director. Coalson believes the difference in rural banking versus big corporate banking is the factor of local-market independence and a deeper understanding of local customers.
“The reason Weatherford National was quite fortunate in the early days,” he says, “was because we understood the horse business. We tried to work with the cutting horse industry and their ranches and their purchases and so forth. The old school [of banking] said a horse was worth exactly what he would weigh up. But today, you have to know what that horse’s potential is…what it has achieved.”
Looking after the interests of friends and business associates comes naturally for Coalson, what with his having grown up in the country with old-fashioned values.
“I think where I was really blessed, was the simple fact that I had parents,” Coalson says. “They were stable and older, and they had real good morals and great love in our family. Then I was very blessed with my wife, Tommie, a wonderful woman, a Christian woman, a great mother and a great wife.”
Coalson and his wife come from the same graduating class at Millsap High School and have been together most of their lives, raising children, horses and cattle. Sons McAllen, 43, and Greg, 36, and their families live nearby.
“One thing I learned at an early age was [that] if you don’t have any tough times, you can never appreciate the good times,” Mac says. “I grew up pretty modest. My mom and dad-we had food and everything else we needed, but we were modest. We had a lot of love, and in that sense I was rich. It has been a good life.
“We all attend Bethesda United Methodist Church, right up the road here,” he says. “I have been a member for over 50 years. It is a real stabilizing force in our community. A lot of people that settled in this area went to that little church forever, and many of their descendants still attend there. Now we have some new people coming in as the area grows.”I love the horse industry. I love the real estate business and the banking business. I still like the oil-and-gas business, but I don’t have time to mess with it.”
For fun, he enjoys a good cutting horse competition. The best cutting horses he has seen were Royal King and King’s Pistol, then Smart Little Lena. Son Greg won $212,000 cutting off of Quajana Pep, a mare by Dual Pep and out of Quajana Mia, a really outstanding broodmare. Astride Quajana Pep in 1999, Greg was reserve champion of the National Cutting Horse Association’s non-pro division. Her foals look outstanding, Coalson says. Greg also has a 5-year-old stud out of Quajana Mia that has already banked $148,000 in NCHA competition.
In addition to horses, Coalson loves baseball-a lifelong pursuit that included a partial scholarship to TCU-and football games.”One of the most enjoyable things in life for me is putting a deal together,” he says. When asked what his tombstone should say, his response is measured and deliberate: “I did the best I could.”
Steve Munday is an area freelance writer.