Lengthy handwritten manuscript in pencil by Ronald Reagan, unsigned, 13 pages, 7 x 10.75, Yearling Row letterhead, no date but circa 1953. The manuscript details life on Reagan's ‘Yearling Row’ cattle ranch and horse farm in Agoura, California, a peaceful and pastoral setting both he and his new wife Nancy Davis believed would act as an ideal backdrop for a new reality radio show: “The foregoing article was written to give some hint of the flavor of Yearling Row, our ranch in the Malibu hills. The few incidents related are true. It is our idea that a radio series could be built based on the personal incidents as well as the ranch happenings of a Hollywood couple, an Actor and Actress who go into ranching. Not only is the usual Husband and Wife situation enhanced by a motion picture background but it is played in a setting boasting its own glamour and adventure, a thoroughbred horse farm. Remember too that that we ride them as well as raise them because in addition to racing stock Yearling Row is the home of fine hunters and jumpers, one has been featured in several pictures of mine.” Reagan explains in detail his misfortunes as a ranch owner, relays his passion for the more rural lifestyle, and then praises his wife for her transition from the city life, noting that “she must certainly stem from pioneer stock. I know of no other way to explain her courage in being willing to trade the familiarity of curb stones for the unexplored mystery of ploughed ground.”
Reagan adopts a playful tone while recounting his ranching misadventures. When it became clear that their oat crop was not going to make a profit, the Reagans purchased “fifty head of steers to grow fat on the stunted oats. Naturally, we were going to turn a tidy buck on this. We bought at 40 cents a lb. and turned them into the field to chew their way into a dividend,” with Reagan affirming that “Uncle Sam slapped a ceiling of 25¢ on beef." Reagan recounted some darker incidents as well, in particular when a “grand old mare” became fatally entangled in barbed wire and Reagan was forced to dispatch the animal himself: “Nancy was reluctant and doubted our right to decide over life and death. My own view was that in domesticating animals we have to accept some of Gods responsibility in these things…I couldn’t ask someone else to do my job so I loaded the rifle. This was a bad day to receive a phone call that I had been rejected for a role in an outdoor picture because the producer didn’t think I was the ranch type—besides he’d found just the fellow he needed in a New York play.” Reagan’s ranch was foremost a haven from the haughty plasticity of Hollywood, with their efforts and labors serving as a great source of pride for the couple: “When later the stars come out in greater numbers than they do over all the cities of the world and when we turn on the radio and hear that one of our foals (a leggy little stranger we helped into the world on a cold winter night) is now a winner at Santa Anita we feel kind of snug. But not for long, because out in the stable on a bed of straw another foal will be born tonight and tomorrow there are yearlings to be trained because this is Yearling Row.” In overall fine condition, with some creasing and rusty paperclip impressions.
Purchased in March 1951, the vast 290-acre Yearling Row Ranch near Malibou Lake in Agoura Hills, California, proved a considerable upgrade from Reagan’s original eight-acre ‘Yearling Row’ ranch in Northridge, California. Although the property name is more closely associated with Reagan’s first wife—Yearling Row derives from the films Kings Row (starring Reagan) and The Yearling (starring Jane Wyman)—the larger ranch served as the bedrock for the relationship of Reagan and his then girlfriend Nancy Davis, whom he would soon marry on March 4, 1952. Although Reagan’s plan to turn the bucolic money pit into a radio series never floated with advertising agency McCann Erickson, the former SAG president was hired by General Electric in 1954 to host the General Electric Theater, a weekly TV drama series Reagan used as a springboard to flex his political ideas. After paying an estimated $85,000 for Yearling Row Ranch, Reagan sold it in 1966 for $1,900,000, using a portion of the money to pay debts from his successful run for the California governorship.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.