People who are fortunate enough to have a career doing exactly what they always wanted is a rarity, but Denny Pounds can be included in that list.
Pounds, who graduated from Brownwood High School in 1979, is the Spikebox Land and Cattle Ranch Manager.
“This is basically all I ever wanted to be,” Pounds said. “I’ll never leave. I even have permission to be buried here on the ranch. I’m not ever going to retire.”
Spikebox Land and Cattle consists of three ranches — one in Benjamin, Texas one in Roswell, N.M. and one in Amistad, N.M., where Pounds resides.
“As general manager I pretty much oversee all three ranches,” Pounds said. “I’m responsible for safety of the guys, safety of the animals, safety of the houses. We’ve got houses on the ranches, I’m responsible for them, and all the vehicles, shops and barns. I’m responsible for all of it. Everything combined is about 160,000 acres.”
While Spikebox Land and Cattle offers white tail trophy and management hunts, crane hunts, dove hunts, turkey hunts, and varmint hunts on scenic landscapes, the primary function of the ranch is a cow-calf and stock operation.
“We have 1,150 mama cows,” Pounds said. “We can turn, on a good year, about 9,000 yearlings or stockers through Amistad and about 14,000 through the Benjamin ranch. There’s three or four times a year we get really busy — at branding, and we still brand the old fashion way, we’re busy at winging, which is in October, and we’re busy in the fall run and spring run when we start bringing in our yearlings to put on our wheat to graze.
“The Benjamin ranch is all barley and wheat and grass, same way as the South ranch at Roswell, it’s all grass. The unique thing about the ranch I’m at in Amistad is that we have 24 center-pivot irrigation service, so we have a lot of moving parts. We’ve got 24 center pivots and 7,000 acres of grass at Amistad. Our daily routine is cattle, cattle and more cattle, and then we go fix sprinklers. And if you still have daylight, you go weld up a water leak.
Two years ago, Pounds recruited a former classmate, Mark Baugh, to oversee the Benjamin ranch.
“Mark and I graduated together in 1979 from Brownwood,” Pounds said. “Mark came aboard when we were undergoing a management change and were growing things a little bit. Mark Engler, the boss now, asked me what we were going to do and I told him I knew a guy and I had this handled. Mark’s come on and done a fantastic job. We’ve got something now that we’ve never had on the ranch and that’s total cohesion. Everybody’s so close, everybody’s so tight, it’s almost like being in a family business now. My son works for Mark at Benjamin.”
Amistad is located 40 miles south of Clayton, N.M. — the nearest town — and 60 miles west of Dalhart, and Pounds wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Amistad has a population of zero,” Pounds said. “We have a post office. From our house to the nearest loaf of bread, jug of milk, Coca-Cola, whatever you want, is 46 miles one way. I tell everybody else that comes to my house just turn left and go seven more miles. Nobody comes to our house on accident, I promise you.”
Pounds considers his greatest love of his job to simply be the challenge of it.
“I can wake up in the morning, I get up about 4:30 every morning, and I start watching the weather in the area,” Pounds said. “Weather is our lifeblood, depending on what it is. Then I’ll have my plan ready to go and I’ll go down to the pens and meet my guys. I can write anything I want down on that piece of paper, and I’ll promise you the first seven minutes of my meeting it’s changed. It’s the challenge of being flexible and being able to go do this or go do that, then handle the cattle and whatever the ranch is dealing with that day.”
Pounds recalled a time when he and his wife Kandy, who now have a 2-year-old daughter, were stranded for almost two months on the ranch due to weather.
“Kandy and I were basically snowed in together for 51 days about four years ago, so I know she loves me,” Pounds said. “Times have been really good and there’s been some tough stretches through there.”
Pounds has worked on the Amistad property for more than two decades.
“It’s been a journey,” Pounds said. “I went to work for Kathy Spears in 1991 and Mr. Engler bought Amistad Land and Cattle where I live in ‘92. The first manager there, I’d known for a while from cowboying for my uncle in years past. Anyway, he would call me and I would go out there and help them catch up on weekends. The more I was around it the more I wanted it.
“It took me 15 years to get this job. I was selling and marketing fat cattle at the time, then I was buying feeder cattle. Every time the manager’s job at Amistad would come open, I would ask for it and Mr. Engler would tell me, ‘I’ve got you where I want you right now.’ Finally, 15 years later it came open and he said, ‘OK, if you’ll quit bugging me you can have it.’”
Before arriving in Amistad, Pounds went to a pair of universities, served our country in the military and worked a couple of other jobs.
“I actually went to West Texas State in Canyon, then went to the Army and became a Green Beret,” Pounds said. “I left there and went to Texas A&M and finished. Then I worked in the packing house for Tyson Foods, then I got hired by Cactus Operating as a cattle salesman and that took me all the way here.”
During his days at Brownwood High, both Pounds and Baugh were members of the Lions’ 1978 state championship football team under head coach Gordon Wood. Pounds attributes that experience to the solidarity Spikebox Land and Cattle enjoys today.
“The thing that makes this ranching company different from the other ones is we come from Coach Wood and that concept of team,” Pounds said. “By bringing Mark in it all came to fruition, it’s a true team concept. I got it from Coach Wood, and got it from the Army. Bringing Mark in is one of the best things we did, he really helped solidify the deal.”