My family has been ranching in West Texas since shortly after the Civil War. Immigrants from England via Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama, they passed through eastern Texas and settled in places like Runnels and Jones Counties in an area I learned much too late in life that was known as Comanchería.

My great-grandparents’ and grandparents’ generations ranched. One grandfather was a cotton buyer. The women were as tough as the men. Had to be. People helped each other out as a matter of survival.

My parents’ generation got an education, worked as doctors and lawyers, and ranched on the side as it got hard to make a living from the land. My generation largely left rural Texas to get an education and make a living in the city.

Lives and the economy circled around one or two commodities: cattle and cotton. Both completely dependent on the weather and market demand. There was big money to be made on beef during World War I and II, then cotton until the drought hit in the 1950s. My family prospered in the boom years. Then not so much in the during the busts.

When rural economies are so dependent on one or two income sources, they inevitably suffer. One of the many reasons I’m running for Ag Commissioner is to help rural economies diversify. Our agricultural practices also have to take care of the soil, water, and air as much as possible. Otherwise, shifts in the climate have even more devastating effects.

I learned some helpful lessons growing up where I did. Work hard. Be resourceful. When you see a problem, solve it. And, most of all, take care of the land.