By age 6, Gay Gaddis knew how to work a field of cattle. Growing up in a small town just outside of Houston, she spent much time on her godfather's farm in Liberty, Texas. "I don't know what it's like to not be on the land," she says. After majoring in art in college and brief stints in copy writing and public relations, Gaddis turned to advertising. In 1989, at 32 and with three young kids, Gaddis cashed in her $16,000 IRA and put all her money into starting an ad agency.
The big break for T3, her Austin-based firm, came in 1992, when she took on a new client, Dell, which soon became one of the first companies to sell its wares online. "Nobody knew anything about selling online," says Gaddis. "We had to learn it together." Fortune 100 companies came calling. A few years later, Gaddis and her husband bought the 900-acre property that's now Double Heart Ranch; now she splits her time between the ranch and Austin. "Ranching and farming--it's not a big money-maker anymore," she admits. The property breaks even (or turns a small profit) thanks to hay and livestock sales. "This isn't a city boy's weekend playground," she says. "It's a real doggone working ranch."
Field of Dreams
Gay Gaddis, 62, grew up riding horses and working cattle. "My values come from all of this," she says. Today, 80 Texas Longhorn cattle graze the 900-acre Double Heart Ranch in Burnet County, Texas, which she runs with her husband. On any given day at the ranch, you might find Gaddis branding cattle, mending breaks in the fencing that surrounds her livestock, or hauling thousands of pounds of hay.
When a handful of goats ran loose toward a nearby canyon one April morning, Gaddis sent a border collie out to herd them. The dog returned with a potentially deadly rattlesnake bite. Gaddis had to act fast, making an emergency call to the country vet. "This time of year, we're always wearing our snake boots and carrying a pistol," she says. "You can chop off their heads with a garden hoe, but I prefer a pistol."
Doing It for the Kids
Two dozen Boer goats, bred specifically for their meat, live on the ranch. First thing each morning, Gaddis, her husband, or a ranch hand makes sure they're counted and fed. Much like with the Gaddises' Longhorn cattle, the goats will eventually be sold as livestock. For now they frolic on the property, looking adorable and wreaking havoc.