The origin of Nebraska’s Haythorn Land and Cattle Co. is at once uniquely American and incredibly improbable. In 1876, in the wake of love lost, 16-year-old Harry Haythornthwaite stowed away on a ship set for America. When discovered, he was forced to care for a set of white-faced bulls to pay for his passage. Upon arrival in Galveston, the importer of the bulls hired the youngster to continue to care for them. He became a cowboy and made four trips up the trail—two to Kansas and two to Nebraska.
After the second trip to Nebraska, he stayed in Ogallala, married, and filed on a land grant near Arthur. He and subsequent generations put all their savings and credit toward buying more of the fertile Nebraska Sandhills ranch country. Today, Harry’s great-grandson, Craig, manages Haythorn Land and Cattle. In recent years, the calling card of the ranch has been its horses—a remuda Craig has taken pains in cultivating. In addition to saddle horses, workhorses are still used for everything from putting up hay to excavation; and they all—cattle included—pack the Figure 4 brand.
“It started as a T Bar 4, but when the T Bar got dropped, I don’t know,” Craig Haythorn says. “We have an old picture of when my dad was probably 20 years old and it’s still on those calves. I don’t know when—I would guess in the ’30s—they dropped the T Bar. Then, for years, it was one figure 4 up high on the ribs and one on the hip, and a lot of people called them the 44 cattle. It was actually just a figure 4 brand, but they put two of them on. When I came home from college, I asked my dad, ‘Why do we put two of them on there?’ He said, ‘I don’t know, we just always do.’ So about 1970, we just went to a single 4.”