Home on the Range Is Real Life for This Marketing Agency CEO

Gay Gaddis Tends Ad Clients in the Office and 120 Longhorns Back at the Ranch

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- When Gay Gaddis feels the vibration in her tires as she drives over the cattle guard about three miles from the gate of her Texas Hill Country ranch, she knows she's returning to the place that makes her feel most grounded. The Double Heart ranch, which Ms. Gaddis, 50, and her husband, Lee, bought nine years ago is more than a weekend retreat. The 800-acre working cattle ranch, about an hour and a half outside of Austin, near Marble Falls, is a refuge that has shaped the lives of Ms. Gaddis and her family.
Different values
"The land gives you a different set of values," said Ms. Gaddis, president-CEO of Austin marketing firm T3. "It gives a wholeness that guides a lot of who we are. It translates into how I run the business."

Mr. Gaddis grew up on a ranch in South Texas, and when his mother passed away, the family made the difficult decision to sell the property that had been in the family for generations and look for something closer to Austin. The Double Heart was the first property they looked at, and they loved it instantly.

Double Heart Ranch
The ranch's name stems from the double heart symbol, which happens to be embedded in family folklore. Mr. Gaddis' great-grandfather worked as a scout marking the trail for settlers moving West by carving a heart into a tree.

On one of Mr. Gaddis' great-grandfather's final trips, his fiancee Roxanna was part of the wagon train trailing a few days behind him. When Roxanna found the carved hearts, she carved another heart beside the first and a bar through the two hearts. The double-heart symbol was used by Mr. Gaddis' family as their cattle brand for generations until it eventually fell out of use. Gay and Lee re-registered the brand and use it on the Texas longhorns they raise; they also had the symbol inscribed on their wedding bands.

The Double Heart ranch is home to more than 120 longhorn cattle. With the help of their ranch foreman, Hardy Vaughn, the Gaddis family breeds stock Texas longhorn cattle for new herds and replacement cattle.

Affection for longhorns
Gay has a great affection for longhorns and is proud of the way in which her work is helping to preserve the breed, which by 1900 was nearly extinct as a result of range limitation and cross-breeding. "Longhorns are smarter than 98% of domesticated cows," said Ms. Gaddis. "They have a personality." One heifer, Gertie, remembered her previous owner -- even after living at the Double Heart for many months -- and rushed across the pasture to greet him.

"We want to preserve the breed. This desire informs the way we sell our cows," Ms. Gaddis said. "Very few go to slaughter. Most go to breed stock or to pets."

The ranch is also home to several horses, including two Percheron draft horses, Bud and Charlie. The enormous 4-year-old horses earn their keep pulling floats and carriages such as the 14-person surrey, which the Gaddis family recently commissioned from Great Northern Livery Co.

T3 conference center
The ranch also functions as a conference center for T3. Frequently, client meetings or planning meetings are held there. When at the ranch for recreation, Ms. Gaddis likes to go on walks with her five dogs, who are all rescue-dogs. She also tends to her vegetable garden and cooks meals -- even dishes as fancy as bananas Foster -- at an outdoor firepit.

Skeet shooting is a favorite activity of the whole family. Gay's daughter Rebecca, 22, and two sons, Ben, 25, and Sam, 21, all learned to shoot at the ranch. "My children have all grown up in the country," she said. "They all learned to shoot a gun, to make a campfire, to respect creatures."

The Double Heart ranch is more to the Gaddises than just a great place to gather on holidays. "It's a big part of our lives," she said. "If it wasn't for that place, I don't know who I'd be."

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