MARMADUKE, Ark. (AP) - While driving along Greene 835 Road one can spot on a single property eight buffalo, four horses, a dog named Beth, a large shop, and a training arena, all of which belongs to Frankie Blankenship, 65, of Marmaduke.
Blankenship, who resides only two miles from his childhood home, maintains several buffalo on his property at all times for horse training purposes.
He began to buy and sell buffalo after a friend from St. Louis taught him more than 25 years ago just how valuable they could be in training horses to herd and cut cattle.
At one time Blankenship even owned bulls, one of which weighed 2,200 pounds, prior to being sold. He has since gotten rid of the bulls on his land, and began to focus solely on buffalo.
"They're really a one man animal," he said.
Blankenship says the buffalo are very gentle toward him but he tells others to make no mistake, they could never be a pet. They are known for becoming easily upset especially around strangers.
According to Blankenship, the average buffalo can be used for training purposes a lot longer than cattle. He said cattle quickly become tired to the idea of training over the course of time.
He explains that usually he will keep the average buffalo around for a year, and then will sell it to purchase a new one.
Blankenship even sells buffalo meat.
"They're the best steak you'll ever eat, and don't taste gamey at all," he says.
Using buffalo for training horses to herd has proved to be a positive investment for Blankenship over the years. He said he has won about 60 out of the 80 horse shows he has competed in throughout his lifetime.
He and wife, Mary, have been married for 48 years. Both enjoy competing and riding in their spare time.
Currently, Blankenship continues to compete in monthly cattle shows at Pleasant Plains in Independence County.
"We really do it for the fun. There's not much money to be had in it but we still love it," said Blankenship.
The joy that he and Mary have found in riding is something that they have passed down from one generation to the next. They've found added joy in that their grandson, Joseph Blankenship, 12, has begun to show an interest in riding, competing, and training with buffalo as well.