JAY, Okla. — There’s no place like home.
Mattie Jeffries grew up on beans, cornbread, and hard work.
The second to youngest of eight children and raised by a single father, Jeffries was familiar with gender equality in their home. She chopped firewood, helped with outside chores, cooked, and cleaned alongside her four brothers and three sisters.
Though her mother was not around when she was growing up, Jeffries said she looked to her older sisters as an example of how to be a lady. Over the years, she changed from the little girl who just threw a cap and boots on.
“Just because I work like a man doesn’t mean I have to look like one,” Jeffries said. “My hands might be rough and calloused but at least my fingernails are pretty in pink. The old saying is true, ‘Even an old barn looks better with a new coat of paint.’”
Her father, Leslie Currey, was a welder by trade and taught Jeffries and her siblings to weld as well. Her four brothers are all welders today, and all eight children own their own businesses.
“Dad raised us to be independent,” Jeffries said. “I’ve heard the more you know the more you’ll have to do, but my philosophy is, the more you know the more you can do yourself.”
As a little girl, Jeffries dreamed of owning her own horse ranch.
“When I was little we didn’t have much, so we went to ride our neighbor’s horse,” Jeffries recalled. “I fell in love with horses and the freedom you feel when riding them.”
Eventually, she did get her own horse, and Dolly played a bigger role in Jeffries’ life than just being part of her horse farm dream.
She did not know Navada Jeffries well at the time, but she remembered the former athlete and fellow graduate of Jay High School who sold hay. And she needed hay for Dolly.
“I didn’t even pay attention to him in high school,” Jeffries laughed. “I was the country girl, and he was the preppy sports guy. He might have played football, but I never saw.”
The two hit it off after that hay delivery, and less than a year later, they were married.
While she did not wind up with the horse ranch she once dreamed of, Jeffries said she has something even better—a cattle ranch, with a few horses sprinkled in.
She and Navada built N & M Farms (named for Navada and Mattie) from the 100 cows Navada had when they began dating. When they first started the farm, they leased all of the land to run the cattle on.
“Together, with God, we grew what we have,” Jeffries said. “Neither my husband or I were given anything, we’ve had to work for everything.”
In the early years of their marriage, Jeffries was working at the bank in town and helping Navada with the farm in her spare time.
“I tagged along with him after hours and on the weekend,” Jeffries said. “He had a hired hand at the time to help him bale hay and work cattle and I told him, ‘Well I can do that!’ He told me I couldn’t, but I proved him wrong.”
Jeffries began working side-by-side with her husband on the tractor, mowing, raking, baling and hauling hay. She even helped him clean out chicken houses for fertilizer.
“I love being outside,” Jeffries said. “We work hard, and I don’t mind working hard.”
She worked at Navada’s side right up to the night before she had their first child, a daughter they named Dakota. She was back on the tractor just a little over a week later, loading up Dakota’s car seat and taking her anywhere from feeding stockers and baling hay, to working cattle and building fence.
Not much changed when their second daughter River came 13 months later, she just took both of them along in the cab of the tractor.
“I’ve raised two daughters in the tractor,” Jeffries said. “It was like having twins, the girls are 13 months apart.”
At the end of those long summer days in the hay field, Jeffries still made time to cook dinner for the family, and keep up with the other household chores, even if it was at 10 p.m.
“I’m a full-time farmer, full-time wife, and full-time mother,” Jeffries said.
While she admits those three jobs are very exhausting, she would not trade it for anything.
In 2003, eight years after beginning their farm, they were able to buy their first piece of property. Since then, they have continued to purchase more land and cattle.
“We think the same, and we have the same goal,” Jeffries said of working with her husband. “I believe it has strengthened our marriage being able to work together like this.”
Their third child came in 2009, a son named Navada Baler, who Jeffries describes as a “100% total farm boy.”
“He’s being raised in the tractor too,” Jeffries said. “He can already drive it.”
Over the years, hard manual labor took a toll on Jeffries back. In October 2015, an MRI revealed she had four ruptured discs and was on bed rest for an entire month. Friends and family told her she needed to quit working on the farm because they feared she would end up paralyzed.
“I didn’t want to have surgery but if that was what it was going to take for me to continue working on the farm then I was determined to do it.”
A friend told her about a spine specialist about an hour away in Owasso, and desperate for relief, Jeffries scheduled the first available appointment.
“I hadn’t been able to walk because of the pain,” Jeffries said. “He adjusted me and asked me to walk around the room. It was like flipping a switch on the pain. I’m not a crier, but I just started crying right then.”
It has been three years since that first doctor’s visit and Jeffries is back on her feet doing what she loves—working side-by-side with her husband and children. She said she cannot imagine doing anything else with her life.
“Owning a piece of our great nation is truly the American dream,” Jeffries said. “There is no place I’d rather be than in the tractor seat on a smooth piece of ground, on horseback gathering cattle, or being with my family on the farm making great memories. There isn’t any place like home.”
Oklahoma Department of Agiculture and Markets
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