Larry and Pam Butler are gracious and hospitable hosts and not only open their home to guests but let visitors experience what life is like on a real cattle and horse ranch. Larry is a lawyer by trade but a rancher at heart and Pam was a news anchor in Atlanta. Their lifelong dream of owning a ranch came true when they bought the property in 1999.
When they first purchased the ranch, they went to work restoring the main house, named the Butler-Cape House. It’s considered the centerpiece of the ranch and is made of quarried stone with Cherokee-style chimneys. It’s also got the original floors and window panes and is furnished with antiques and original art. It’s not quite known how old the home is but it’s believed to be built prior to the 1850’s. “You can always tell a southern homestead by the daffodils that are planted”, says Pam and she tends to her garden as meticulously as she does making sure her guests feel welcome.
It’s a unique bed and breakfast with several accommodations to choose from. The property has one suite above the barn that has a private balcony and is popular with honeymooners. There are also two adjoining cabins that share a bathroom. We stayed in the porch house, aptly named because you guessed it-it has a porch. Next door is the saddle house, where they actually store the horse saddles. In the main house there are two additional guest rooms. If you want a really authentic visit, you can stay in the cowboy cabin which has no electricity and no bathroom. The bottom floor of the main house is for guests and Pam and Larry live upstairs. The cabins have wood-burning fireplaces; hide rugs from their cattle, saddles that are used daily and beams from trees farmed from their land. The only drawback is that the front part of the ranch is on a busy highway so it’s a little noisy.
The breakfast here is hearty and tasty with menu items like pecan waffles, thick-cut bacon and fresh fruit served on an 1800’s French farm house table. Produce and other fixings come directly from the ranch when possible. You’ll need the nourishment as you take advantage of the seemingly endless activities that are available at the ranch such as horseback riding, fishing, roping, ranch tours and camping.
The ranch itself has fourteen quarter horses, one bull, two steers, a longhorn and eleven Corriente cows (Spanish cattle brought to the Americas by Christopher Columbus). Oh, and several dogs including Jack Russell terriers that are running around. Three of the acres on their property are fenced for the dogs to roam about (including the area around the house and barn) and guests are invited to bring their pets as long as they are well-behaved. Their foreman, Menny, originally hails from Mexico and is skilled with ropes and horses and he, along with a few other hired hands, help run the ranch. Everyone is friendly and provide ample guidance for whatever you choose to do. Horseback riding is popular and the horses are fairly docile, so even novice riders can feel comfortable. You can ride on their 1200 acres breezing past the cattle with the dogs trailing at the horse’s feet. Be sure to check out the unique brand that the Seventy-four uses for their cattle. It was bought from a Wyoming farm where Larry spent five years learning to cowboy. Guests will not only see the workings of the ranch but also learn how quarter horses are bred and trained there.
Another favorite at the ranch is to gather around the campfire in the evening, roasting marshmallows and listening to stories. Larry in particular likes to tell ghost stories. “It’s not if there are ghosts here, it’s who the ghosts are”, Larry will start. There were three murders at the house during North Georgia’s moonshine wars. Lee Cape, a local politician and Deputy US Marshall owned the house when moonshining was popular. There were a number of “skirmishes” at the house as two of Lee’s sons ran moonshine despite their families’ attempts to dissuade them. One of the sons, Levy Cape, killed his brother Hobart after he threw out Levy’s alcohol. Hobart died on the back steps of the house and the bullet is still lodged in the front porch.
There’s more to do in this area though than rustle cattle. So be sure to allow for some time to explore the surrounding attractions. Here are a couple of highlights;
- For dinner, head to 61 Main in downtown Jasper. The chef hails from Charleston and offers a fresh seasonal menu with locally sourced ingredients. In fact, the beef served is from the Seventy-Four Ranch. Prices are reasonable with most entrees around $18. Be sure to try one of their interesting cocktails such as the Honey Badger, made with Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey and fresh squeezed grapefruit. Appetizers such as the homemade pimento cheese with roasted red pepper, served with celery and toasted bread is delicious. The decor is inviting with exposed brick, open seating and tall black leather seating lining the wall. Servers are enthusiastic and will supply you with recommendations for your meal.
- To get some area history, the Funk Heritage Center at Reinhardt University in nearby Waleska has a great collection of Indian art and artifacts. The main entrance in the museum is a replica of an Iroquois reception Long House where families would live in the winter. The Longhouses had high roofs, separate living areas for each family and an area to store belongings above. In addition to Native American art, there’s also an impressive collection of Americana antique hand tools. The tools were all acquired by Alan Sellars, owner of Harbor Tools in Marietta. They were displayed as a collection in his store. Many men will come in and want to just look at this impressive collection.
- For a quick sandwich or an ice cream cone, stop in at the Front Porch Market and Creamery in Waleska. They also carry a wide variety of local salsas, jellies and syrups.
For more information on the Seventy-four Ranch visit their website at http://www.seventyfourranch.com/index.htm