Debi and Allen King smile at each other as they tell old stories and check on their herd of Limousin cattle.
As the sun sets on another day in the Ozarks, it slowly disappears over a ridge and some oak trees to the west, casting a golden light over the green grass. All that can be heard are the cows chomping as they graze and occasional quips from the husband and wife farmers. It’s incredibly quiet and peaceful.
Debi and Allen King run a cow/calf operation, mostly registered Limousin cattle, on 40 acres of land recognized as a Missouri Century Farm in 2018. The property has been in Debi King’s family for more than 120 years. They have owned what they simply refer to as “the 40,” since 2010.
The century farm is off of State Route Z near the unincorporated community of Bruner in eastern Christian County.
The property has two ponds, a natural spring and a cave. More than that, it’s a place of peace for the Kings.
Allen King works as a service manager at Campbell Ford in Ozark. Debi King is a program analyst at American National and a professional tax preparer for H&R Block during tax season. They both spend mornings, evenings and weekends raising cattle on their century farm.
The kings are impressing all they know about farming on their young grandson.
“Right now, he’s only 9, but he likes farming and he has his own cow. It just had a baby not to long ago,” Debi King said, pointing to a three-week-old roan calf scampering around the pasture.
On Sundays and on holidays, Debi King hosts her relatives for dinner. It’s become a time honored tradition amongst the defendants of the McHaffie family.
“It’s what my ancestors used to do,” Debi King said.
Allen King loves to read about, study and discuss the history of Christian County. His family has also been part of Christian County for generations, but it took marrying his high school sweetheart to become part of a Century Farm family. It’s a wisecrack he likes to share at Missouri Farm Bureau and University of Missouri Extension gatherings.
“I joke around at the Extension meeting that all I had to do was marry the farmer’s daughter,” Allen King said. “I like to joke around a lot, but that’s the truth.”
As he looks around the cleared acreage where his cows graze, he can point out spots where roads carried wagons, carts and Model-A cars in the olden days. He can show off a stone levy on a steep hillside that dates back to the early 20th Century. King marvels at the work that the previous generations put into clearing the land for farming.
“I can’t imagine what those old-timers put into that, clearing it with oxen and mules,” Allen King said.
According to family research submitted to the Springfield-Greene County Library, the McHaffie family came to Missouri from Knoxville, Tennessee sometime about 1830. The original three McHaffie brothers, David, John and Hugh, were leather tanners by trade. They needed oak timber to tan leather and make horse collars, so they came to Christian County and settled east of the modern day city of Sparta.
David McHaffie had nine children, including George M. McHaffie.
George M. McHaffie bought 40 acres of land in eastern Christian County in 1898 for $50. Eight years later, he sold the 40 acres to his son, George W. McHaffie, for $1 plus “love and affection.” The deal included an additional 240 acres of land in what is today known as Bruner.
“George M. was my great-great-grandpa. He’s the one that actually bought it, but he gave 240 acres to my great-grandpa. At the same time, he gave another 240 to another son, another 140 to a daughter and another 180 to another daughter. It was all on June 1, 1906. He must have decided he was done,” Debi King said.
George W. McHaffie went on to give the land to Dewey and Susie McHaffie for $1. Their sons, Norm and Don each owned the land for a time until Don McHaffie sold the land to Allen and Debi King in 2010. Susie McHaffie is Debi King’s great aunt, which keeps the land in the McHaffie family and qualifies it for century farm status.
Debi King convinced her husband to purchase the historic 40 acres of land when it went on sale. They didn’t quite get the same deal that George W. McHaffie got in 1906.
“It was a lot more than $1, love and affection,” Allen King chuckled.
Allen King grew up in a farming family. He and Debi started dating when they were students at Ozark High School in 1976.
“I’ve always, almost my whole life, been involved on a farm,” Allen King said. “From the time I started dating Debi—her dad, when he found out I liked farming—man, we hit it off. It’s like we’d become best friends. I couldn’t have got rid of Debi, or vice-versa if she’d have wanted me to.”
They’ve got each other, their family and 40 acres of peace and quiet among the oaks.