A Story of Uncommon Perseverance with Darryl McNair of Spanish Rose Simmentals
By Courtney Wesner
Last year, I was privileged to hear one of the most truthful stories of perseverance, heart, and guts that I have ever heard ~ it is the story of Darryl McNair of Spanish Rose Simmentals. Let me share with you the journey of how a man with not an ounce of ranching blood in his pedigree, but just a mere dream, made it all the way to Via De La Valle Ranch in New Mexico.
Darryl is what we would call an “All American” kind of guy. Raised in Texas, his dad worked in the oil fields, and Darryl made his own path serving his country in Vietnam —awarded a Purple Heart for his service. This “All American” kid kept with his label and had a dream. A dream to be in the cattle business ~ where the dream came from, I’m not sure Darryl even knows. The dream didn’t stay in limbo for very long, Darryl grabbed it and started turning his dream into reality. With a plan of how he would gain the knowledge, skill, and capital to be a rancher, he headed down the road. Little did he know this would be a road filled with hardship, loss, hellish winters, drought, love, gain, corporate America, and end up at “a lifestyle worth living”.
The long journey to New Mexico starts in Texas. After graduation from high school, Darryl attended Texas Tech, majoring in business. “I figured everything was a business; couldn’t go too wrong with that,” said Darryl. With business in his books, Darryl supplemented his education with the experience, cow sense, and horse sense of a local large animal vet and farrier during his time at Tech. He also had some “hands-on” learning experiences roping with some of the very best cowboys in the area. These cowboys taught Darryl how to ride and rope. “Jackie was one of my fundamental teachers when it came to riding ~ even giving me a saddle and a horse; but not just any horse, a 20-year-old horse. I remember when I asked him why that old horse, he simply said ‘one of you has got to know what you are doing.’ He was right,” Darryl says with a chuckle.
Outfitted with a good saddle and horse, Darryl found work at a ranch in Post, Texas. “While I was in Post I really learned how to work cattle. I knew this was an art; not something that someone could just tell me or show me and make it stick. So I worked. I worked for lunch and no pay; but I could never put a price on what I learned in my time there,” commented Darryl.
While in Post, Darryl accumulated some cattle to put with his saddle and horse. He leased ranches around the Post area and purchased more and more cattle; finally realizing his dream of running cattle of his own.
Once the fundamentals of husbandry, rearing, treating, and riding had be mastered; Darryl turned his eye and his pencil to the financial side and cattle buying and selling. His classroom for this was the Lubbock Stockyard. In a time where cattle were first bought and then weighed, there was much for the young cowboy to learn. He could normally be found sitting in a seat with a pad of paper and a pencil, taking notes and guessing weights. Darryl didn’t know it at the time but someone else was watching him.
Ben Grantham, the owner of the local packinghouse, which supplied all “Rancher Brand” beef to United Food Stores, noticed the young cowboy taking notes at the sale barn. One day Ben sat down by Darryl and told him to meet him at the packinghouse the next morning. “I met Ben the next morning as he had requested; little did I know that was the start to a long, long road of cattle buying that I would enjoy for the next several years,” said Darryl. He rode with and learned from some of the most prominent cattlemen and buyers, including the Chairman of the Texas Tech Board of Regents, JE Birdwell, who owned approximately 10,000 head of cattle across the country. Not only did Darryl ride with and learn from these premier businessmen of the time but they trusted him enough to hand over their checkbooks to him by letting him buy the bulk of the cattle. Things seemed to be on the up-and-up for Darryl and then he hit the first major roadblock.
“I got divorced. It’s nothing that I am proud of but it happens and it happened to me. “Darryl spoke candidly about this tough time; but, the water was beginning to change for Darryl. He received a call from a hospital in California that was looking for an Administrator to help during some difficult times. “In 1986, I had $586 in my pocket and my clothes. I moved to California and went to work at the hospital; it was like starting all over,” said Darryl.
Darryl lived and worked as a Hospital Administrator for 8 years in San Diego. The hospital had 750 doctors on staff and Darryl managed to guide this hospital from red to black in that short time ~ quite a feat. While he was in California working at the hospital he did not lose sight of his dream; so he purchased a ranch in North Dakota and employed a ranch manager.It was during this time that Darryl got his first brush with Simmental; and he made the decision to purchase Simmental bulls from Gary Meyers in South Dakota.
Eight years was a long time to be out of the saddle. Darryl decided that enough dust had been collected during his time with corporate America. His girlfriend at the time (now wonderful wife), Debbie, was an administration office manager at the hospital; he asked her if she would like to come to South Dakota and ranch with him; they both gave 90 days notice, and on January 3, 1995, they moved to the ranch. Darryl was back in saddle.
“January 3rd was the wrong time to move to South Dakota. I had learned how to ranch. I had bought all the tools, I had invested, and been frugal; I had gotten a job that pays. I had made it and I finally had a ranch of my own. Debbie and I were there for four years and in those four short years we had five long, major blizzards. We had a high death rate and lost 117 calves, along with other losses like testicles, teats, you name it. And then I got a call from my old friend Jackie ~ the guy who taught me how to ride,” said Darryl. Jackie was retiring and looking to sell his ranch in Oklahoma. So we picked up, moved ourselves, and 500 head of cattle to Oklahoma to start again.
The couple lived in Oklahoma for a little over 7 years. Things were going well; well enough that the ranch was totally re-fenced. This fencing job earned the Progressive Farmer Magazine “Fencing Award of the Year.” Then an ice storm hit destroying the fence and more. The phone rang again, and this time it was an investor looking to purchase the ranch. Darryl sold the ranch and all of the cattle and turned his hand to New Mexico.
Born in New Mexico, Darryl has a soft spot for this part of the country. He and Debbie have settled in for good there and Darryl made the decision that he would run only Simmental cattle. While in New Mexico, the couple has faced record-setting drought. At this point it should come as no surprise that they have worked their way through it. “Three straight years of drought forced us to sell our spring herd. We were luckier than most; we had 10,000 understocked acres and the resources to survive,” said Darryl. He also credits SimGenetics for his success in weathering the latest rancher storm that he faced. “I cannot say enough about the 3/4 blood Simmental cow. These cows stay fat, breed back, and they have made it in every single environment that I have lived in. From bitter cold to bone dry these cows have done it. Last year my SimGenetics bull calves averaged 600 pounds at weaning at only five and a half months, raised with their mothers, on cake grass, in a fall herd. Enough said,” commented Darryl. They have since acquired 3,200 additional acres of farmland in Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico that they lease on a long-term basis.
“There are a lot of days that I am out riding, just looking at cattle; all I can think is what did I do to deserve a life like this. I have been through the corporate world where all anyone cared about was money and this was such a dream for so long. With work, planning, investment, and the proper genetics my dream can support me now. It’s just quiet here. You young ones with a dream work hard, feed what you want, raise what you want. It’s not easy, but it can be done.”