Thanks for joining me on this journey through the intersection of the cowboy way of life, the American West, the global capital markets, and my constant personal journey to be the best person I can be. We’ll talk about the code of the cowboy (and cowgirl) and what I think each of us can learn from how these American heroes go about providing food for the world while preserving the legacy of the American West. Just once, I will tell you about myself, so you’ll know who y’all are dealing with here.
“I know a lot of cowboys and I’ve done a little work on ranches with cattle, and those people become your friends, and keep their word.”– Tommy Lee Jones
I was born in San Pedro, California and raised in Orange County, California, which was much less crowded when we were growing up! Orange orchards and horse ranches were seemingly everywhere, which provided my first introduction to the brilliant horses and Mexican vaqueros that form the legacy of early California and captured my attention. My favorite things growing up were to watch westerns, dress up as a cowboy, read every issue of the Time-Life book series called The Old West and watch the riders on horseback in the annual Rose Parade.
Later in my high school years we moved to Colorado, where I was further exposed to a western way of life given where we lived in wide open land that formed the far suburbs of Denver. As the guy who showed up the first day of church camp in a straw hat, elaborate feather hat band, puffy vest and cowboy boots, I probably stood out a bit from the rest of the city kids, but I was fine with that because I was living the life (or at least dressing the part) of my heroes on television, in books and on the parade route. My high school years were fairly routine until I enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve at age 17 and went to basic training the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, and Infantry school after I graduated from high school. Over a twenty-year period, I served with various reserve and National Guard infantry, military police, Special Forces, and armored tank units. I’m sometimes asked why I joined the Army at such a young age. For me, it was the perfect way to share with the cowboys and ranchers I admire, a patriotic love of Country and a devotion to selfless service.
Off to college and early professional life
While still living in Colorado, I attended Colorado State University for a few years and excelled in my fraternity, in intermural athletics and student government, but I wasn’t the most focused student back then. So, when I was offered an appointment to attend Army officer candidate school I accepted it, eventually earning my commission as a second lieutenant. After a working break from college, I decided I needed to make a career of the military or make a career in business, both of which were going to require a college degree. So, I enrolled in the University of Southern California (which I affectionately refer to as the “Schweiger Family School”), the alma mater where the role models in my family attended. My second stint in college was much more academically successful than the first, earning academic honors while paying my own way through college with a combination of scholarships, grants and by working a full-time job.
I accepted an accounting staff position with Coopers & Lybrand LLP in Los Angeles, a firm that would later take me to Cleveland, Ohio, and then to Dallas, Texas. While in Dallas, I had the opportunity to rekindle my passion for the American West and regularly attend the Mesquite Rodeo with my then-client who manufactures Resistol hats and Montana Silversmith buckles. After a few years of city life in Cleveland, coming to Dallas was just the environment I needed to allow me the opportunity to be around working cowboys and western enthusiasts again.
At the same time, I became increasing interested in an organization called the Former Texas Rangers Foundation, being introduced to them through my father-in-law, a retired Texas Ranger. We were and are, strong supporters of various Texas Ranger organizations, and I eventually earned appointments as an Advisory Director and then to the full Board of Directors. I also started to spend weekends in Decatur on my father-in-law’s ranch, working with him and his wife (a successful jackpot barrel racer) on our family property raising a few head of cattle, quarter horses, and even the occasional miniature horse (long story…).
Go west to the Rockies young man
While in North Texas, I was recruited to join Grant Thornton LLP, and after a few years of working with clients between Dallas and Fort Worth, I was asked to move to Denver to help expand the office there and assume a significant leadership role. Colorado was as I remembered, with wide-open spaces reminiscent of the western movies I enjoyed. We moved to the Castle Rock/Sedalia area of Colorado, which has a concentration of horse ranches and stables that dot the landscape. Having ridden horses earlier in my life, I was happy to have access again to stables where I could ride on a regular basis. I also had the opportunity to attend and work with the National Western Stock Show in Denver, which further rekindled my passion for the cowboy way of life. My clients were varied, but included various agricultural and livestock operations in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming, which allowed me to immerse myself further into the western lifestyle I loved, albeit from a business perspective.
Back home to Houston
A friend and former business partner of mine recruited me to his Fort Worth-based accounting firm, which had just opened up a new office in Houston. Given my wife would get to return to her home town, we jumped at the opportunity. Because I was already living a life that celebrated the western lifestyle, before we even completed the move, I joined the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo as a member and volunteered for my first committee. While some are involved with the Show for social reasons, my goal was and is to also to learn from those involved in ranching and agriculture, with the goal of having my own ranch in the near future. Fast forward five years, I became a Life Member of the Show and was appointed to various leadership positions. To further my immersion in the cowboy way of life, in the last few years, I’ve sought out memberships in the American Quarter Horse Association, Ranching Heritage Association and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, as well as being a donor to the Texas Tech Ranch Horse Team.
So, why write about cowboys?
Shortly after moving to Houston, I started to meet men of high character with curious ways. So, I asked questions about them and their lifestyle on the working ranch. The more I learned about the men (and, occasionally, women) who work the ranches of Texas and the Southwest, the more I recognized the similarities between the ideals of the American cowboy and those of my own: a celebration of the Western way of life, the positive impact the ways of the Old West can have on modern society and business, a recognition of the authentic partnership between a horse and rider, and the common bond of mankind coming together around these ideals. My hope for the future is to continue to preserve, promote and protect the legacy of the working cowboy (and cowgirl) and the American West in both my professional and personal life. My thoughts here are one way to do that. ★