SULPHUR — A Chickasaw family’s project to share day-to-day rural life is inspiring people across the globe to strengthen family ties. The project has also blossomed into a full-time career.
Launched in 2011, by Chickasaw citizen Daniel Arms, the Arms Family Homestead YouTube channel recently marked a milestone with 400,000 subscribers. The social media channel follows Daniel and his wife DeJay, their children Weston, 18, EmmaLee, 12, Houston, 8, and friends and family, through adventures in fishing, hunting, gardening, and other aspects of a rural, self-sustaining life.
Passing the legacy of self-sufficient living to his children is a top priority of Mr. Arms, and served as the inspiration to start the channel.
The family lives in the log home Mr. Arms’ parents built in the early 1980s, which is nestled on 110-wooded acres in the foothills of the Arbuckle Mountains in Murray County.
“We are literally just videoing our normal life, just the way I grew up here and the way we are raising our kids,” said Mr. Arms.
Documenting a hunting trip with the oldest son was Mr. Arms’ first foray into video production.
While viewing the numerous hunting programs he watched on television, Mr. Arms was inspired to film his own hunts and improve upon the format.
The hunting shows were always so generic and predictable, he said.
“I thought, ‘This is not that big of a deal, I could do that,’ so I just started filming with a cheap camera. Mostly, I started to video our hunting adventures so I could show people. I didn’t know what to do with the video, other than upload it to YouTube so I could let my friends see it.”
When Weston scored a big buck and Mr. Arms shared it on YouTube, Brad Clay, with Final Decent Outdoors, called and requested to use the footage on his show. Final Decent Outdoors is a Christian-based hunting show that airs on the Pursuit Channel.
“That was a big thing for me, because all I really ever watch is hunting shows,” Mr. Arms explained.
The channel expanded when the Arms family began selling vegetables from the garden at farmers markets and on Facebook as a way to supplement the families’ income. Mr. Arms also gardened as a stress reliever from his full-time job as an Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper.
Friends would ask him to share some of his gardening tips and techniques.
“People would say, ‘Why don’t you just make a video about it,’ and I said, ‘That’s weird,’” he chuckled. “But, they didn’t want to watch somebody else telling them how to plant a tomato, they wanted to watch us.”
Those first few videos were the seeds that rooted the Arms Family Homestead YouTube channel, which features more than 865 videos to date.
The family shares the spotlight with a menagerie of goats, dogs, calves, chickens, alpacas, mini donkeys and one cat. Buckhorn Creek meanders through their property and is the scene for many fishing and trapping episodes.
Along the way, Mr. Arms taught himself all aspects of film production from editing to graphics to music.
He was motivated, committed and determined to grow the YouTube channel to reach 100,000 subscribers, constantly documenting all family outings and projects.
“He got serious about it. I did not, at first. He would video everywhere, it was so embarrassing,” Mrs. Arms chuckled.
“Our friends would say, ‘(the YouTube channel) is not going to happen’ and he would say, ‘Yeah it is, it’s going to get big,’” she said.
Despite the naysayers, Mr. Arms was committed to his vision of growing the channel. Documenting and sharing fishing trips, gardening lessons, and goat care videos, among other activities, led to the channel marking 100,000 subscribers in June 2019. YouTube sent the family a Silver Play button award in recognition of the accomplishment.
“My goal for the channel was to get to 100,000 subscribers; it was always a pipe dream. It probably took four years to get to 100,000 subscribers,” Mr. Arms said.
The ultimate 100,000 subscriber benchmark was shattered in 2020, when more than 400,000 YouTube users subscribed to the channel. To date, more than 435,000 people subscribe to Arms Family Homestead, with many finding the channel in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic when an interest in gardening piqued nationwide.
It was also in 2020 when Mr. Arms decided to retire from a 14-year career with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol so he could spend more time with his family and devote more time to the channel — a ‘what if’ that once seemed like a far away goal.
Life of Service
Mr. Arms’ path to a public service career began when he was a 15-year-old Chickasaw Nation Summer Youth worker assigned to the Sulphur Veterans Center. While working with the veterans he enjoyed listening to their stories of their time in the military and admired their commitment to service.
In college, he volunteered with the Chickasaw Nation Search and Rescue team and helped in New Orleans with disaster recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina for 10 days.
He said he is grateful the Chickasaw Nation assisted him with his college education; which helped him achieve his ultimate goal of being accepted into the Oklahoma Highway Patrol academy.
While he experienced harsh realities as an OHP trooper for 14 years, he feels the family-friendly videos featuring the simple joys in life that are available on their YouTube channel is what appeals to people across the globe.
“I think there is so much chaos in the world, people like to turn on something that feels real. It really resonates (watching) me taking two little boys to the creek and catching crawdads, because it feels real versus the chaos of their day-to-day life,” he said.
One subscriber commented “You know it’s really beautiful to see that you guys are ‘normal.’ I love that your family is very authentic and real. Thank you for everything you teach us.”
Many of the video comments also mention how the viewers are inspired by the Arms family adventures to spend more time together.
Along with subscribers, the Arms family has partnered with several companies to highlight their products and services, such as seeds and farm equipment in the videos, and Mrs. Arms has launched a photography business, DeJay Arms Photography. Her vivid photography is featured on the family’s website, among other locations.
The community of fellow YouTubers has also expanded their opportunities for family adventure, including an Iguana hunt and several fishing expeditions to Florida, which are all shared via the social media platform. The family has also traveled a few miles down the road to fish with angling icon Jimmy Houston, who has a ranch nearby.
The world of YouTube has also broadened the worldview of their children, who receive supportive comments and packages from people as far away as England and Australia. The children, and their friends, including 8-year-old Jacobi, have emerged as naturals on video, since they grew up in front of the camera.
The enterprise has also expanded to its own apparel line at ArmsFamilyHomestead.com, and now includes Arms Family Homestead social media presence on Facebook, which has more than 144,000 followers, and Instagram, which has almost 24,000 followers. The YouTube channel’s biggest audience is men, 35-45 years old. Facebook’s largest audience is women 55 years and older.
“I never dreamed that you could make a living just videoing your everyday life stuff, but it’s not normal to everyone, that’s the thing,” Mr. Arms said.