Fiddlin’ At the Twin Pines Ranch with Charlie Daniels
By Lauren Neale, Published May 2016 Tennessee Cattle Business
Country music legend and Tennessee resident, Charlie Daniels, passed away on Monday, July 6, 2020. Four years earlier, he visited with TCA's Lauren Neale and Charles Hord at his home on the Twin Pines Ranch in middle Tennessee. The feature story ran in the May 2016 issue of the Tennessee Cattle Business magazine. Special thanks to Thurman Mullins, Daniel's farm manager and thoughts to his family and friends.
“When I think about home, I think about Twin Pines,” says legendary musician and owner of Twin Pines Ranch (TPR), Charlie Daniels. Situated in the rolling hills of Lebanon, Tenn., TPR has become the fulfillment of Daniels’ boyhood dream.
FROM DREAM TO REALITY
Charlie was born in 1936 in Wilmington, North Carolina and grew up in a family that farmed tobacco and harvested timber. As a kid, Daniels and his friends would frequent the local theatre to watch the latest cowboy movies. Fascination with stars like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers led to a love of all things Western and a fantasy of owning a ranch.
Daniels’ incredible musical history spans decades. Rooted in country, gospel, rhythm & blues and bluegrass, his song writing and performance flair later helped develop a musical style that became known as Southern Rock. Recognized for his mandolin, guitar and fiddle playing mastery, Daniels and his band are known around the world, still perform concerts and record songs.
But in 1964 living out of a suitcase was already tiresome and no longer an option when Daniels married Hazel. They decided it was time to find a place to put roots down. In 1967, Daniels received an advance on a record deal in Nashville and bought a home in Mt. Juliet, Tenn. As he was becoming more prominent in the music industry, his yearning for ranch ownership grew as well.
While Charlie was on tour, Hazel investigated potential ranches near Nashville. None of the sites were satisfactory until one day when Daniels was home from tour, Hazel mentioned there was one more spot to visit. When they arrived at TPR, then about 51 acres, it became apparent that as soon as Daniels saw the pond, he knew the ranch was the perfect place. What made it even more special was that the land was flat on top of the hill, which meant they could build a home.
While Daniels was looking to expand TPR’s land in the mid-1970s, he became friends with then park ranger and Vietnam veteran, Thurman Mullins. Daniels invited Mullins to the property and told him of his dream of owning “horses he could ride and cattle he could rope.” He had a few head of Hereford cattle at the time. Daniels asked Mullins to be the ranch manager and Mullins happily agreed.
Because of their need for roping steers, TPR raised their own Corriente cattle. Mullins and Daniels became early members of the North American Corriente Association and Mullins served on the Board of Directors for several years, including a stint as president. The ranch became involved with roping clinics for the public, jackpot ropings and helped to put on full-scale rodeos. They also sold their Corriente cattle across the country.
To rope cattle, the ranch needed horses. Daniels and Mullins purchased a registered American Quarter Horse mare named Huggie Bear. She had a foal, which they named TP King Bear. He became the ranch’s foundation stallion and his genetics are in the current horse stock.
Daniels also hired Leroy Crawford as head cowboy and has worked for TPR for over 20 years.
HEADING TO HEREFORD
In 2008, Daniels turned to Mullins and asked, “Bud, do you ever miss Herefords?” Mullins replied, “Every day.” Daniels then said, “I wouldn’t mind having them again.” A few weeks later, Mullins traveled to Debter Hereford Farm in Horton, Ala. and bought DH Domino 775, who has now been on the ranch for eight seasons. “I couldn’t have asked for a better bull,” said Mullins.
When Mullins first introduced Daniels to Domino, Mullins recalls asking Daniels, “What do you think of him, Boss?” Daniels replied, “That’s the prettiest thing that’s ever been on the Pines.”
In 2011, the main barn on the ranch burnt down and was declared a total loss. With it, several of the horses inside perished. After getting over the shock and sadness of that event, Daniels and Mullins decided to change directions for the operation and have fewer horses and more cattle. Mullins bought several females from Burns Farms Herefords of Pikeville, Tenn. “I have been pleased with the quality of the cattle, the prices, and the overall traits from Burns,” said Mullins.
Currently, there are 74 head of breeding age cows and around 100 head total on the farm with genetics from Burns Farms and Debter Farm. “We love Herefords because we look for calving ease and fast weight gain,” said Mullins. “That’s the breed for us.” TPR has been keeping heifers to build the herd, but will look at selling in the future. There are also a few crosses of Corriente and Herefords which will all be sold. Mullins notes that these “throw a little bitty calf, but give lots of meat. They could make for a great cross for someone.”
Also, TPR does not dehorn their cattle. “Charlie has always done his music the way he wants,” said Mullins. “Same goes for what we do on the ranch. We like the horns. We think they look good and it’s helpful to be able to doctor cattle when we can just rope the horns. In the future, we may sell females and if we do, we’ll look at dehorning those.”
“Thurman can’t tell me how to play a show and I can’t tell him how to run the ranch,” said Daniels. “Day to day and heavy duty decisions he makes on his own. He has my complete trust.”
Over the years, Daniels was able to purchase neighboring and nearby pieces of land to make up the current 400 acres.
LOVE OF THE LAND
Not only is TPR a place to raise cattle and horses, but it’s also where Daniels can be at peace. “I put things here over the years that I want to be surrounded by,” said Daniels. He has a shooting range, tennis court, putting green, and a pond for fishing. Daniels is currently on tour and while he enjoys visiting the big cities, he loves to be home. “If I come back from being on the road and don’t leave this place for a week, it doesn’t bother me because everything is here that I really want to take my time up with. I haven’t been bored in I couldn’t even tell you how many years.”
As far as convenience goes, the Charlie Daniels Band office and recording studio is within a few minutes driving from his house. “There’s no need for me to even have to drive to Nashville to make music anymore.”
Over the decades, the 2016 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee has made chart-topping hits, became friends with entertainment icons and has traveled the world. But when he’s at TPR, he can unwind and remember all that the ranch means to him.
“When I’m in the city, I’m going 90 mph. When I’m here, I can slow it down to whatever I want it to be. I can even take it out of gear. This to me represents peace. This is home.”