“Except for a very short stint, I’ve always lived in sight of the Sabinal River,” said Bownds, noting that he has a soft spot for live water. “It’s not a stretch to say my life has been shaped by land and water.”
And entrepreneurship. . . His grandfather, John Bownds, opened the Bownds Real Estate Business in the early 1960s as a complement to the family’s commercial cattle operation. His father, Ronald Bownds, a geologist by degree, left the oilfields in the mid-1980s and returned to ranching and real estate in the late 1980s. Using a spring on the family ranch as the source, Ron also founded the successful Utopia Water Company.
“Dad started selling bottled water way before it was a thing,” Brandon said. “People looked at him like he was crazy—and now bottled water is just as big as Coca-Cola.”
Nestle-Perrier purchased the company in the mid-90s.
By the time Brandon graduated from high school in Utopia in 1996, the multi-sport athlete, steer showman and roper was also a seasoned ranch hand. He grew up in the tractor seat assisting with the family’s commercial hay operation and in the saddle helping with the family’s cattle operation that included a small feed lot.
“I remember pulling a gooseneck to San Angelo during an ice storm to pick up a bull,” Brandon said. “I just had a learner’s permit, but it needed to be done.”
He was also an entrepreneur in his own right.
“I started hauling hay for the public when I was 15,” Brandon said. “I found the jobs, hired the crews, collected the checks and paid everybody who worked for me.”