Originally published in the Mar. 21, 1995 issue of Country Weekly magazine.
When George Strait retreats from the show business whirl of concerts, recording sessions and hectic travel, his ranch in the south Texas brush country draws him like a magnet. George’s current single—which has cracked the Top 10 and could become the 27th No. 1 of his career—proclaims “You Can’t Make a Heart Love Somebody.” His own heart has already found a home.
“The ranch is out in the middle of nowhere in deep south Texas between San Antonio and Laredo,” George told Country Weekly. “It’s nice and private and I have a home here that hopefully, someday, many years down the road, we’ll live in all the time.” During the school year he stays around San Antonio, “playing some golf and doing things you don’t get to do when you’re on the road.”
The ranch always pulls him back. “I spend a lot of time at the ranch whenever I’m able to, especially during the summer months,” the MCA Records superstar noted. The huge spread offers the hardworking singer a haven where he can pursue his interests—hunting, fishing, raising animals and roping—or just plain doing nothing, the perfect decompression from the crazed exhaustion of life on the road.
“I can relax and not think about anything else except my cows and my horses and roping and whatever I want to do down here. It’s real relaxing and it takes your mind off the road, which can get really rough.”
Some reports indicate that the Strait ranch spreads out over 8,000 acres, but George, disarmingly coy, refuses to reveal the exact size. “It’s a pretty fair-sized ranch, but I don’t want to get too specific about it,” he commented.“We’ll say it’s more than 40 acres,” Country Weekly kidded George.“It’s more than 40,” George laughed. And it holds more than a mule. Six-foot fences surround his large pens of cows and horses, including his newest addition, a beautiful horse given to George during an MCA Records party in Nashville last January.
George also cherishes another gift—a hand-tooled saddle created by renowned saddle-maker Howard Council and presented to George last year at a Nashville party saluting his 25th No. 1 hit, “Easy Come, Easy Go.” The handsome cowboy loves to saddle up his favorite roping horse, set loose some roping steers and, with lasso in hand, practice his favorite sport—team roping. “I keep an eye on the cows, but I love messing with my horses the most. I just wish I had more time to concentrate on team roping and get to the point where I can compete professionally. I’ve got some really good horses and an opportunity to do it. That’s been a dream of mine for a long, long time.”
Erv Woolsey, George’s longtime friend and manager, swears Strait would give up country music in a heartbeat if he had a chance to grab some rodeo trophies. “If George could be a champion roper, he’d give the music business up,” Erv advised Country Weekly, noting that Strait’s tour bus is now equipped with a hitch that can haul a horse trailer. In addition to his wife, Norma, and son, George Jr.—who’s now outgrowing his nickname of Bubba—George loves the rodeo life. His heroes are rodeo champions, and his favorite events center around the rodeo ring. “It’s my true love outside my family and I’d do most anything to be a permanent part of it.” That includes the annual George Strait Team Roping Classic held each June in Kingsville, Texas. Staged by George and produced by his brother Buddy, the Classic presents the winning two-man team with two pickup trucks and trailers.
Rodeo action quickens the pulse of the normally laid-back artist. “Team roping is a great sport, and rodeo people are the kind of people I like to be around.” All the time around animals has George involved into a new field—pet products. He’s marketing Strait Nutrition liver treats for dogs, Country Legend apple-scented shampoo and conditioner for horses, and Strait Country, natural-scented shampoo and conditioner for horses.
George also likes the comfortable feeling of being surrounded by family. The ranch provides the terrain and brush that lure white-tailed deer, and the area is famed for its great deer hunting. “A lot of my relatives come to visit, especially during deer season. My family, my wife, my brother and his family all hunt—and we’ve got people coming in and out of here all the time.”
One surprising revelation is that you’ll seldom catch George singing or practicing when he’s home. “If I’m off for two or three weeks, sometimes I don’t pick up a guitar at all.” He saves his music for the stage and studio. George covets his private life and the golden moments he can spend in Texas with his family and friends. “I’m a real private person,” he admitted, “and I’ve always tried to keep my private life separate from the show business life.”
“Some performers leave no room to draw such a line,” he said. “They live the music business from the time they wake up until the time they go to bed every day of their lives. I’m just not the kind of person that can do that because I’ve got things that I enjoy doing just as much as I enjoy going out on that stage and singing.”
A graduate of Southwest Texas State University with a degree in agriculture, George remains down-to-earth. He almost went to work for a company that designs cattle pens before he took one last stab at the music business 15 years ago. Does he ever wonder if he should have stuck with the job designing cattle pens? “No, I think I made the right decision,” George told Country Weekly with a laugh.
“Sometimes I think about what I’d be doing today if I hadn’t had the opportunity to sign with MCA Records. I love to work with horses and cattle and to be outside, so probably it would have been doing something in agriculture.” And probably living on a ranch in Texas.
story by Gerry Wood