Cowboy Construction, Washington, USA
Stockade Ambassador Ryan Gray has gone from Bucking Barebacks to Building Braces.
Ryan retired in the winter of 2016, closing the book on a long star-studded rodeo career including eight times competing in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. The athlete who spent a lifetime gripping onto bucking animals, says he fell, somewhat unintentionally, into his next enterprise.
Cowboy Construction, specializing in agricultural fence construction, kicked off in 2017. Based outside Spokane, Washington on the Eastern side, Ryan runs a crew of two to four, depending on the season. He says there’s a variety of demand, and they work on anything from large ranches to small lifestyle farmlets.
What brought you into fencing?
“I have always built fence growing up, for ourselves, our family, and friends. When we had a place in Texas, fencing was always something I wanted to do for myself on my own projects and I learnt it as I went along. Then, when I retired, someone approached me to build a fence, and it went from there”.
“I actually enjoy fence building a lot. I like working with my hands, I like seeing the end product, and I like being outside. It is a rewarding job to be able to have a fencing project pictured in your head, then design it from the ground up, and see it come to fruition. I also like the challenges of taking on a project and having to deal with the obstacles and make the fence function the way it is supposed to. That can be challenging in our area because you never know what the ground is like.”
What do you love about fencing?
“Almost every day something comes up that we have to make a decision on the fly and figure out how to make it work. We were doing one job the other day where there was rock on one end. We couldn’t drive the post in and had to use the rock spike and put a foot in. Then, 400 feet down the line, the ground was so soft that we drove two footers in just to keep the post from falling over. Two extremes just 400 feet apart!”
“It is fun to overcome those challenges and build a nice good-quality product at the end.”
Even though Ryan has put down the reigns, he hints that competition could still be in the wings.
“I really like the idea of competitive fencing. Last year, we went to the Fall Fence Forum at Luke Gibson’s in Worthington, Indiana. I have been following those guys for the last three or four years and have always wanted to check it out. I like the competitive environment. That excites me, so we are deciding whether we are going to compete this year.”
At last year’s forum, Ryan also met the Stockade crew.
“We had a good time visiting with Stockade. I was really impressed with their desire to do what the industry needs and they are a really great bunch of guys.” Ryan took part in the Stockade challenge, tying termination knots and running staples into a post. Now the Stockade ST400i cordless stapler is on the back of his truck all the time and ready for any job.
What do you love about the ST400i?
“It is a pretty reliable tool, balanced well and easy to carry around. The batteries last a really long time. We like that! It doesn’t wear your hand out and you are not swinging a hammer around. Efficiency is the main thing. We can staple off a fence with the tool in a fraction of the time compared with a hammer.”
Speed and efficiency are a massive plus for Ryan as he admits there is not a lot of space on his calendar. Outside of Cowboy Construction, he is building a new home, rearing a pedigree Wagyu herd, and riding horses with his wife Lacy. Then, there’s fishing, baseball and going to the junior rodeo with their three kids. Somewhere in this busy existence, Ryan has hopes for other big plans.
“Looking ahead, we want to continue to grow the business organically using the skills we inherit and learn along the way. We want to be the best in our area but also give back.”
“That is our goal. We are trying to do it one fence at a time, locally, and show the value of a better-quality product.”