Women of the West — Romni Durrett

After living in town for years, this Texas rancher has happily returned to rural life.

Interview and photograph by ROSS HECOX

Romni Durrett worked for eight years as a nurse before she married and became a full-time working ranch wife. She and her husband, Will, manage Durrett Cattle Company, which operates in the Texas Panhandle and eastern New Mexico. Romni was raised on a family ranch in New Mexico. She loved it but knew the business wasn’t large enough to support her. After so many years living in town, Romni embraces long days in the saddle, working cattle and participating in ranch horse competitions.

 

I have a laundry list of schools I went to. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself. I went to [college] for about three years, then got a two-year nursing degree. I worked in feedyards. I worked as a waitress. You name it, I did it trying to get through school.

All I wanted was to live on a ranch. But my family’s place wouldn’t support that. And I sound hokey always saying, “I prayed about it,” but I prayed. Then I kinda gave up on it ever happening. I guess God wanted me to experience [working as a nurse] before leading me to where I am now. It was in God’s time.

A mutual friend set us up on a blind date. Will was running wheat pasture cattle on [my friend’s] place. He was tall and had good teeth, and those were my requirements then. I was working as a nurse in the hospital. That’s how we met seven years ago.

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We got married late. I was 28. The right person is worth the wait. There’s a lot I worry about, but I don’t worry about the stability of our marriage. And that’s a blessing.

Actually, I’m eight months older than Will, but he acts like it’s eight years. He says he married an older woman.

I was horseback all the time growing up. That was my dad’s way to get me and my brothers out of the house.

Read Women of the West — Pat Close

We were focused on just going to work. I didn’t ever care about what lead I was in. But I’ve gotten to know [rancher] Dywan Lane and cowboy Steve Lewis. They’ve taught me a lot about horsemanship. Now, I feel like I ride a better horse.

I’m still a nurse and work two or three days a month, just to keep my skills up. I like work where you’re helping somebody. But I’d much rather ranch than be indoors.

I think toughness in a horse comes from the heart. I want one you can ride all day on the rocks, and it’s not going to quit you or get lazy after a couple hours.

I don’t want to swing a leg over something without cow. If your horse is cow-smart, your work is a lot more efficient and rewarding.

At our church get-togethers, the wives are talking about kids. The men are talking about cattle and horses, and I want to be over there talking to them, which makes me a little bit socially awkward.

We’re very lucky that now, as women, we’re way more accepted out here with the cowboys than we were 20 years ago. And for sure, you have to show that you can do what they can do.

There are so few young families nowadays that are running their own ranch. Most ranchers are older, their heirs are fighting, and they’re breaking the ranch up. It’s sad. I don’t know how to fix it.

Paying attention, being quiet and [having] experience are traits of a good hand. Just seeing what needs to be done, and quietly getting it done. As soon as you’re not paying attention, somebody is going to ask you what the count [on the cattle] was. You don’t want to stand there, just blinking your eyes at them. I’ve made those mistakes.

I’m pretty competitive. So to beat a few of the boys [at a Ranch Horse Association of America show], that’s a pretty good feeling. It doesn’t always happen that way, but when it does you feel like you put your work in.

I don’t even know how to start a four-wheeler. I ride six days a week. I think if there were fewer four-wheelers, we wouldn’t have such a problem with people being overweight. You long-trot a ways, and that gets you some good exercise. 

If you enjoyed this article, you may like Women of the West with Nicole Courtney Smith

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