A legendary Texas cattleman who’s impact on the BRC program is immeasurable. A loving tribute by his granddaughter, Rachel Cutrer.
When I think about my grandpa, Sloan Williams, these are the first few words that come to mind. I think of his smile, his laughter, his joy.
Then, I start thinking about some of the deeper traits that come to mind. Faith. Courage. Resilience. Determination. Hard work. Perseverance. Risk taking. Smart. Business savvy. Funny.
And when you combine all these things, I think that’s what really made Dadaw (that was our nickname for our grandpa) stand out. It’s so rare that you can find someone who can be so successful in business, yet so kind. So happy. So full of joy. So, in this blog, I share a few of the stories that really stand out to me in the 41 years I was blessed to work with and learn from my grandpa, Sloan Williams.
When Dadaw Gave Me 617
It’s generally known that without my grandpa’s generosity, I would be nothing. I have often said, I owe everything I have to him, and to the Lord. This started when I was just a baby. He was so generous, and always looked for ways he could help others. When I was born, he selected the best heifer of the calf crop and gave it to me, to use to start my herd. And, when he said the best, he meant THE very best. He didn’t just pick something that was good and keep the actual best for himself, he gave me the absolute best. That heifer he selected was Miss V8 617/2, who actually held the #1 spot in the ABBA Register of Renown for many years. She was a 2-time US Reserve National Champion.
Creating the “R” Brand
Through him giving me 617, it allowed me to build a small herd of my own – which were identified by the “R” brand on their shoulder which I still use today. He didn’t use shoulder brands at that time, but since I was a child, Dadaw said that he wanted to brand my cattle with an R on them, so that when I saw one in the pasture I could easily know it was mine. And I distinctly remember riding around with him in the pastures as a little girl and him pointing out “That one’s yours…” Little would I know that this simple gesture of him having a way for me to recognize my cattle as a child would help build the foundation for our worldwide brand recognition today. Through the years, many people around the world would come to the ranch and specifically ask to see the “R” branded cattle – they said they were always the best ones. At first when we transitioned to BRC, we dropped the R brand. So, there is one calf crop out there with no R. But, we quickly realized that the R brand was very important, and added it back.
A Man of Faith
As a youngster growing up and spending a lot of time at my grandparents, I knew faith was important to them. Initially, at the surface level, I knew they were at church anytime the doors were open. I noticed how my grandpa would be singing or whistling church songs casually throughout the day, and at his house. I spent a lot of time at Nana and Dadaws as a child, and I remember every time he would come in the back door from working all day he would be singing some kind of old gospel song.
As I got older, I realized how deep his faith was, and how this faith is actually the core principle of his life that I believe guided his success. A lot of people may not know that Dadaw’s mother passed away when he was just a child. He was raised primarily by his grandmother. She was a devout Christian and instilled in him the strong principles of faith.
It was that faith that kept him going. He lived by faith. I remember as I was older, I would stop in to visit my grandparents in the mornings before work and Nana would always be sitting in her kitching drinking coffee. I would ask, “Where’s Dadaw?” And she would always say…”Oh he’s back in his bedroom praying!” He started every day in prayer. Often lengthy, long periods of prayer with his Lord.
I always wondered what was taking him so long. But now, as I am older, and realize the challenges that many people face, and understanding the challenges he faced, I think I know. He was praying for his family. Most of all I believe he spent the most time praying for his family, because he loved his family so so dearly. I know specifically he prayed a lot for me, because he told me. He worried about me partying a lot in college and when I was a young person. His own father was an alcoholic and battled alcoholism for his lifetime. So Dadaw would always call me when I was in college and say “Rachel, you know nothing good happens after 10 p.m. — why don’t you just stay home tonight!” He made this phone call often. And then after he prayed for all of us, I believe he was praying for his cattle. For rain. For guidance. For a cattle deal to come in so he could pay his bills.
“The Lord Will Provide”
I can’t tell you how many times he told me this in his lifetime. I would bet thousands. For about five years, we worked together on business matters every single day. During this time I was so thankful to learn so much from listening and following his business advice. While I was helping him, I always took the position that this was his business, and I was basically his secretary. I did what he told me to do, and honored all of his wishes. I didn’t give my opinion, I didn’t do anything without asking him. I was simply the check writer and book keeper. But I learned more in those five years than anyone could learn in a business school.
On many days, he would come to me and say, ‘Rachel, what’s the finances looking like?” always with a smile! He was always smiling, no matter what. And during the times when sales were good, it made me so happy to tell him he had plenty of funds in the bank to go make those cow deals I know he loved. But, when the times were low, it would be one of the hardest things to tell him, ‘Dadaw, the bank balance isn’t looking too good…” And he would never stop smiling. He would whistle some tune, shoot me that million dollar smile, and say “The Lord will provide…” and drive off. Or get off the phone. And then, surely, the Lord did provide. In the next few days a cattle deal would go through. Or a check would come in.
But, he openly shared his business experiences because he had faith that things would always work out.
As Brandon and I got older, us and the girls would spend every Sunday afternoon at his house. We loved these times of just spending time together as a family. We asked him questions about all his old cow deals, and just life in general. During one of these times Brandon and I had just taken on a big loan to buy a piece of land, which is our headquarters now. It was more than what I was personally comfortable borrowing. And one Sunday I asked him, “Dadaw, when you were growing your business, did you just worry all the time?” (Because I know me personally, I’d was having a nervous breakdown about taking out that big loan.) And he just smiled his famous smile and said, “Nope, I knew God would take care of me.”
And then I’ll never forget, I asked Nana that same question a few minutes later when we were in the kitchen privately. I said, “Nana, when you and Dadaw were starting out – weren’t you worried?” And I’ll never forget what she told me: “I knew Dadaw would never let me down.”
As I write that, I still get tears in my eyes. “I knew Dadaw would never let me down.” It was just an amazing level of faith and confidence that she had in her husband. Their marriage was a strong marriage based on love, faith, and trust in each other. That is the marriage I strive for in my relationship with Brandon.
My Real Estate Advisor / My Cattle Advisor / A Dangerous Combination of Two Risk Takers
Up until his passing in 2020, Dadaw was my real estate advisor on every single real estate deal I’ve every done. Truthfully, it’s usually him and me who made the deals, and Brandon just let us handle them. Rachel and Sloan would make the deals – then Brandon would take over the management.
When I moved back to Wharton and purchased my building for Ranch House Designs, he came with me on the visit with the realtor, which was his good friend Raymond Harrison. I was scared to death to make an offer. He taught me how to do real estate deals. How to make a financial statement. How to apply for a loan. Some of his famous advice to me was “You better put some earnest money down as soon as you know you want it….so they know you’re serious! That way they know you’re a woman who means business.” I got married when I was 31, so I had actually done several deals as a young single woman. I always thought of what he said – “…So they know you’re a woman who means business.”
He also advised Brandon and I on buying our home, which was a deal we purchased directly from another owner – not through a real estate agent. I remember calling him after we saw the house and told him we wanted it and he said “You go drop a $500 check off at that man’s house tonight so he knows you’re serious!”
When Brandon and I bought our “Kriegel” property – which is now our headquarters, he was right there with me. I heard this property was coming up for sale. I called Brandon and like always, he didn’t take my call. So, my next call was Dadaw. When he answered, I said, “Dadaw, where are you?” He said “I’m at the Harrison” – (which is a property of his in Burr). I said, “I heard of a ranch coming up for sale and I want to look at it. Can you meet me and the realtor in 30 minutes?” By the time I had driven from Wharton to Boling, he was already sitting there at the gate waiting for me.
Of course on these deals, he said in the front seat and I sat in the back. The realtor always knew him and so the realtor would be tailoring the conversation to him, not knowing me and Brandon were actually the “money men” in the deal. It was the perfect combination. Dadaw knew all the questions to ask, knew all the things to look for in a property, and all I had to do was sit in the back seat and listen.
Then it never failed, as soon as we got back in the car together and the realtor had left, we would look at each other and smile real big. Because the two of us together could NOT turn down a deal. Dadaw would always say to me, “I think you should buy it — I’ll let you have first shot at it — and if you don’t want it, then I do!” ha. But, by that time he was in his 80s and really didn’t need to be buying any land.
So, it was a win-win scenario for everyone. Brandon and I got to buy land and add to our real estate portfolio – and then we got Dadaw as our free consultant. When we bought the Kriegel, it was a blank slate. Just one big piece of property – no cross fencing, no pens, no nothing. He and Brandon literally spent every day of the next year on that property fixing it up to the showplace it is now. When people visit that ranch, and they see how you can drive through the entire 2 mile length of the property without opening a gate- they always compliment me. And then I explain to them, I set it up this way so Dadaw could drive through the entire property anytime he wanted without having to get out and open the gate.
That was just one of the many deals he advised us on. Another favorite was the Southern Cattle deal. When Mr. Downs called me and pitched us the offer of buying him out, I knew right away I wanted that deal. I called Dadaw immediately. I honestly think I called him before I called Brandon. He said “You take that deal and you get a check sent over to him today!”
And in the next few weeks from when we had made the deal verbally to when we could get to Florida to pickup all the cattle, Dadaw was in “high gear.” Doing a big cow deal like that was his speciality. By that time, he was too old to really travel along with Brandon and Britt Larson to pick up the cattle, but he was advising us in every step of the way. He lined up the trucks for us by calling some of his friends in Florida. He got the vet there to preg check. He moved some of his own cattle into different lease places so we had a good pasture to put the 200 cows when they arrived back at the ranch. That night, when the cattle trucks arrived, he was there at the gate waiting for us and shined his headlights on the pens so we could unload. He was so happy when we made that deal.
A Humble Man Who Truly Wanted Everyone to Succeed
Another story that really stands out in my mind about my grandpa’s character was in 2017, when Brandon and I had just won Grand Champion Female at Houston, and we also owned half interest in the Grand Champion Bull. For several years, it had been our goal to win the bull show at Houston, but we had just fallen short year after year. The previous year, 2016, was when Noble got 2nd in class after we had such high hopes for him. So, when Man of Steel won, it really meant a lot to us. This is also right after we had bought Man of Steel’s interest from Southern. So, with Brandon and I owning 21, and then also owning half of Man of Steel, it truly was one of the biggest show ring wins of Brandon and my life.
But that next Sunday afternoon at his house, Dadaw asked me quietly, “Rachel, do you think we should run an ad saying we won Houston?” And one thing I learned from his is, when he asked a question like that, he already knew the answer. He was just asking so I would think through the question and the answer.
And being the marketing person I am, I immediately said, confused – “Of course we would run an ad! We just won champion bull and cow at Houston!”
Then he paused for a minute and said, “Well, I don’t want it to be too flashy.” He continued, “There was a lot of good cattle at that show, and I don’t want to brag. I just want something simple.”
And I remember leaving his house that day slightly irritated thinking, “this is what we’ve worked for for the last 6 years! And now you don’t even want to promote it!” But the more I thought about it, he was exactly right. There WERE a lot of good cattle at that show. We just got lucky enough that day to win both. So, I designed the most simplest ad I’ve ever done. Initially I would have probably done a 2 page spread with a huge headline of like “Two Champions” or something like that. But, this is what we did. Very simple. You have to really read the captions to even put it together that we won both of the champions.
And, the way I saw it, he was the boss, and that’s what he wanted, so that’s what we did. Humble. Kind. Deferring to the quality of other’s cattle. It was a lesson that’s always stuck with me ever since. And ever since, no matter if we win or lose at a show, I always think of his words of “Don’t be too braggy….there were a lot of good cattle at the show…”
He Always Wanted Others to Be Successful
Sort of along the lines of the above story, one thing I always loved about Dadaw is that he truly wanted everyone to be successful. He was never jealous of others success. He was never threatened by others success. I never once heard him say something negative about someone else’s cattle. And, that really stuck with me. Sometimes people think the way that they make “their” cattle stand out is by running down others. I’ve heard it all my life. There would be someone who had a really nice animal on the show circuit, and then as soon as that animal started winning (became competition), people would start trashing it. Pointing out it’s flaws, I guess is hopes that a judge might hear this or something and it wouldn’t do good at the shows.
But my grandpa never did that. In fact, he purposely would seek out something good to find in everyone’s animals. But, he LOVED showing. He was fiercely competitive. He wanted to win more than anyone. But, he wanted to win fairly. He wanted to win because he deserved it, not because of politics. As he got older and didn’t go to shows as much, after the shows I would call to give him a report, and he’d always want to know how we did, but then immediately he would ask “How did JD Hudgins do??? I really like such and such bull of theirs…. Then “How did Judd do?” “How did Danny Acevedo do?” “How did Barry Smith do?” He would run down the list of all his friends at the show, and he truly wished that all of them did well.
And, after we started BRC, that first show season we were under our new brand, he was our biggest cheerleader. That took an awfully big man to take that position. Some people became our biggest enemy and wanted us to fail — did everything they could to MAKE us fail. But not Dadaw and not Nana. At our first show under our new brand, he came riding down our aisle on his scooter just smiling his big smile. He said “Man Rachel your cattle look so good! Are any of these sired by my bull?” and just smiled away.
I will also never forget Dixie National 2020. This would have been our second show under our new brand. Brandon and Harley took the cattle and I stayed home to keep things going on the ranch and keep the girls. Every single day that Brandon was gone, he and Nana came to my ranch and helped me. Dadaw was too old and couldn’t get around too good so he sat in the truck and watched Mollie and Annie while Nana helped me feed the show cattle at the barn. I remember thinking how lucky I was, to have these wonderful people in my life and helping me. There I was carrying feed bags with my 80 year old grandma opening the gates for me. And as the show results came in that day, and I told him we had won Champion Female and Champion Bull, he was genuinely SO happy for us. He said in a very quiet, humble way, “I’m so glad, I’ve been praying for you to do good.”
And that night, it was going to be a late night. He and Nana knew that I didn’t necessarily like being at home by myself at night with the girls, and they stayed with me at my house until midnight when Brandon got home with the cattle. Because he loved me and wanted me to succeed, and was willing to help us along the way.
And one of the most kindest things I will never forget, the very last time I saw him, he had a picture of my cow 805 taped up on his wall in his room. As we had not been able to see each other as often as we wished due to Covid, I sent him pictures of the girls and cattle every week. I had sent him pictures of the winners from the 2020 National Show, and one of those being 805. He always loved that cow. And, when I walked into his room and saw her picture on his wall, it really took my breath away. I walked up to the picture and pointed to it and said, “Dadaw, that’s 805” and he smiled and said “She sure is a good cow…” We sat together in his hospital room and watched Michigan State play a basketball game and he told me stories of the old days working at Port City Stockyards.
As I saw his health fluctuating over the last few months of his life, I often struggled with how to say goodbye when I left visiting him each time. I just made a point to always say how much I love him, and thanked him for everything he’s done for me. And most every time, when I would say “I love you Dadaw…thank you for everything you’ve always done to help me.” He would reply with “And I’m never going to STOP helping you…” and give me that famous Sloan Williams smile.
On the last time I got to visit him, I said, “I love you Dadaw. Thank you for everything you’ve ever done for me. I’ll see you again soon.” And I just hope that I can live the life he did, and see him in Heaven again one day, because I know with 100% confidence that he is in Heaven with his Lord. I also want to use this time to say, if you don’t know the Lord, and haven’t obeyed his calling, now is the time to do it. Don’t wait. Make Jesus your Lord and Savior. Accept Him in your life, repent and be baptized, and live your life for Him.
Without Sloan Williams, There Would Be No BRC.
It’s that simple. There’s no other way around it. While BRC was financed and built 100% by Brandon and I, and all the cows our ours, without inheriting any land or cattle from him – without his love, guidance, and inspiration, we wouldn’t have had the guts to do it. We wouldn’t have had the confidence to do it. We wouldn’t have had that person saying “If you don’t buy those cows I will.” And we wouldn’t have the foundation to do it. We started BRC at about the same age in our lives as when he himself was making big strides in building his own businesses. I don’t think that is a coincidence. I think that’s God’s way of reminding me that it’s worth it to “risk it all” for a dream you believe in, and a dream you’re willing to work hard at. And God giving me 41 years of witnessing an example that if Nana and Dadaw could do it, so can I.
A few weeks after he passed away, one of my biggest role models in Texas ranching, Lannie Mecom, asked me how things were different now that we were on our own. I told her, I was a little scared of the future because up until now, my grandpa advised me in everything I’ve ever done. I mean, even as recently as a few weeks before he passed away, I called and asked him some cattle management advice. I told her, I’m not sure if I can do it without him.
She too was very close with her grandpa. She learned much of her ranching and business expertise from her grandpa.
She motioned her finger into the shape of a square around her heart. She said, “You have it all right inside here…” motioning to her heart. She said, ‘When you wish you could ask him something, dig deep inside your heart, and the answer will already be there. You learned everything you know from him, he will still give you that answer, it’s in your blood.”
Sharing the Stories… Working to Live up To His Legacy.
One thing Dadaw always loved is to share good stories. So, this blog is a work in progress, and I will continue to add to it as I have time. My goal is to have a place where I can post a lot of his good stories that has has told me through the years. Though he is gone, a legend never dies, and his memory will live on forever in my heart, and my daughter’s hearts, as we try to work hard every day to live up to those principles he taught us of love, kindness, integrity, and joy.