So Here We Are

Into year three..

Hey y'all its Rachel. First ever blog post. So many things buzzing in my head I honestly dont even know where to start! What's been on my mind pretty often here lately is the fact that S&S is now three years old. Back in January of 2015 is where the brainstorming for this whole operation began and its just flown by.

So I guess I ought to start with a little background on Chris and I. Oh, and this is probably going to be a long one boys and girls. Go grab a cup of coffee or a snack and get snuggled in.

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I am originally from the north Fort Worth, TX area, specifically the (not so little anymore) town of Haslet. From there I graduated high school and went onto college at Tarleton in Stephenville, majoring in Ag Business. I had intentions of working in the feedlot and cattle industry and was minoring in livestock science. For over two years I worked at the Tarleton State University Feedlot and Ag Farm helping to manage the feedlot and beef cattle breeding herds out at the ranch.

I also met Chris not long after living in Stephenville. He had grown up helping his dad with their pump jacks and cattle, and was studying geology at TSU to one day help manage his family’s oil and mineral rights back home. We met during homecoming week and ever since we were inseparable. He's my biggest fan and support system, and can read me like a book. He's amazing in every way and without a doubt my favorite person.

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Well, things took a little turn when I took a mini mester course before graduation. It was a week long course where we traveled all over Texas visiting different agribusinesses and seeing how their infrastructure and management systems worked. While we were going through the Hill Country, we happened to stop at one of the largest wineries in the state and I was mind blown. Up until that point I had never really known that we had an established wine industry in Texas. Let alone a thriving one. I was hooked. I got to chatting with the manager of the winery and ended up getting an internship for the summer there. It soon turned into a full time job and I moved down to Fredericksburg after I graduated. I could've easily done my intership at the TSU feedlot, but I had never really worked in a sales type job before, and I wanted to do something that had a little more to do with business management. I mean, up until that point I had never even worked a cash register and I was a business major lol. So this was a whole new experience for me and I absolutely loved it. On top of that, I have had the opportunity to learn about the wine industry, a whole new form of agriculture, art, and craftsmanship that now holds a pretty special place in my heart. I also love being apart of an industry that supports small farmers and the ag community in Texas. Can you tell I was a pretty big FFA nerd back in high school?

The fact that I actually got to live in Fredericksburg was awesome. The food, the buildings, the people, Enchanted rock, the music, the WINE. Its all amazing. If you have never been to the Texas Hill Country you need to go. (If you've never been to Texas you need to go.)

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This picture up here is one from the top of Enchanted Rock between Fredericksburg and Llano. Also add this to your to-do list. This part of Texas really grows on you.

Anyways, after about a year down there I got to really missing Chris and my family. Chris wanted to come with me but had to stay in Stephenville for work and to stay close to his family's ranch. I hardly got to see him or my family much and at first, I thought it was going to be fine, that it wouldn't bother me. I now have a whole new respect for those who have to move across the country for work states away from their families. I was only like 5 hours away from mine and it sucked.

While I was still down in Fredericksburg, a good coworker and friend of mine happened to hear I was a little homesick and, unbeknownst to me, put in a good word for me back up north. One day I got a call from the Blue Ostrich Winery and Vineyard up in the blink and miss it town of Saint Jo Texas. They were in need of a wine club manager to help handle their 1,500 plus wine club members, and asked if I could come visit with them about a job. I was so flattered and the whole thing just sounded too good to be true. I wanted to move back up to North Texas but I didnt want to leave the wine industry, and jobs in that field in the Dallas Fort Worth area are fairly limited compared to the Hill Country.

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It was definitely a sign. Saint Jo was not only an hour away from my family and hometown, but it was only 15 minutes outside of Chris's hometown, Nocona, Texas. It was perfect timing for him to move back home to help with the ranch too. So we talked to his family, I accepted the job, said goodbye to all the friends I'd made down south and we both moved up here in June of this past year. It was definitely one of the best decisions I've made so far.

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Nocona and Saint Jo are pretty close comminities. Both are in a somewhat isolated area along the Red River and Oklahoma border. Nocona has a population a little over 3,000 and Saint Jo has a third of that. But I have to say I've never met a more determined group of people than those that I've grown to know and love up here. Its a beautiful collection of ranchers, bootmakers, musicians, beer brewmasters, wine makers, artists and amazing cooks. The two towns work very closely with each other in supporting and growing the traffic and commerce in the area. Everyone is quick to say howdy and lend a helping hand without hesitation.They have taught me so much, especially about running small businesses, and have made me feel like family out here. That's the kind of people I always want to be surrounded with.

Not to mention, this part of Texas is BEAUTIFUL. They have nicknamed this hidden gem the "North Texas Hill Country" and rightly so. The picture above is a gorgeous prairie on a plateau right outside of Saint Jo that drops down into these graceful foothills which form the valley surrounding the red river. I now drive through this everyday on my way to work. I love the landscape, its so beautiful and inspiring. Pictures don't do it justice and if you stick around there will be more, I promise. I love hearing of the cattle drives that used to come right through this part of Texas, and the stories of the Comanches that used to live here. Everyone's found an arrowhead or two out here.

So here we are. The Sapphires and Sagebrush Mercantile has been with me nearly every step of the way. What started my last year in Stephenville, packed up and came with me to Fredericksburg. I got a two bedroom house while I was living down there just so I could have an office and workspace. It even came with a shop out back for me to work in too. Also, when you take your trip to Fredericksburg, be sure to stop by the Fredericksburg Trade Days. Its like a miniture Canton. I loved it and all the people there. We camped the S&S traveling booth there from October to April and had so much fun. I really hope to make it back there someday.

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S&S is not only my passion, creative outlet, and my future full time job, but it became such a stress reliver for me when I did make that move down to Fredericksburg by myself. I didn't always have Chris and my family right by my side, but having a constant project and always working on S&S helped me more than I realized at the time. Thats when it really started to become more than a side gig.

Now that we are living in Nocona I feel like that area has done wonders for the Mercantile. We've grown so much this past year, made such good connections, been welcomed into the local community and have built up an incredible support system. We will have to see what the good Lord has in store for us. Chris and I even plan to buy our own heifers this year. I couldn't think of a more perfect place to set some roots, not only for Chris and I but for the Sapphires and Sagebrush Mercantile as well.

Stay tuned y'all.

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Rachel Briggs