Story by MATT BROCKMAN • Photography by ROSS HECOX
While respecting tradition, Austin Brown III and his family have altered their South Texas cattle operation to preserve a multi-generational livelihood.
You could search far and wide before finding a family with more devotion to traditional ranching than Austin Brown III , his wife, Jody, and their children, Cuatro and Addie Ruth. Their approach is built on faith, family and tending cattle horseback on lands they share with two elder Brown generations near Beeville in South Texas.
While the family remains committed to the methods of their forefathers, they’ve met the challenges of operating an economically viable ranch in the 21st century with determination and innovation. Austin and Jody hope to eventually pass on to their children a ranch with a promising future.
Austin and Jody met during their freshman year at Texas A&M University. A conversation between their fathers, also Texas A&M graduates, revealed their kids were at the university studying for the same degree. Austin’s father, Austin Brown II, suggested his son call Jody.
“It was our first semester of our freshmen year, and [after that] I never dated anyone else,” Austin says.
Jody adds, “He was riding a young horse that he kept south of town, and I went out one afternoon to watch him. The colt started bucking—and I mean really bucking—and he rode him. That about sealed the deal right there. I called my dad and said, ‘Dad, he can ride a bucking horse.’ ”
The romance blossomed into marriage in 1994. While Austin believed he and Jody would settle on Brown Ranches, his father, again, had a suggestion.
“Dad said, ‘You need to go somewhere else, get away from me and work for somebody that doesn’t care near as much about you as I do,’ ” Austin says. “I got out [of college] in 1994 and moved to the Double M Ranch Company at Christoval, Texas. We got married and Jody moved out there with me. We couldn’t see a single light from our house in any direction. It was great because we had to learn how to get along.”
West Texas was a perfect training ground for the Browns beyond adjusting to life as newlyweds. Ranching in an arid climate on an expansive operation with little direct supervision provided them with experiences vitally important for what lay ahead, especially when their own capital would be at risk.
With plans for children and prepared to tackle the challenges of ranching for themselves, the Browns made ready their return to South Texas.
While raising children on a typical Texas ranch seemed like Camelot to the couple, they realized changes for Brown Ranches were in order to assure the ranch would sustain a growing family. Again, fatherly wisdom came into play.