It’s been nearly 85 years since Robert Puryear’s family bought 184 acres of land on Fitzhugh Road in Dripping Springs in 1939. And while PEC began supplying power to some Hill Country residents around that time, it wouldn’t be for a few more years until it arrived at his land.
He remembers the days when they had to use coal lamps to see at night. But the Puryears, who were ahead of their time, were able to generate enough power to pump water and perform other ranch chores with a hand-built windmill.
“It was a little one like they got up in West Texas, and we had it up on some poles, and I remember they had a radio in there,” he said.
While they could get by, it was quite the sight when the lights came on at the Puryear’s place. Puryear, who is 80 years old, can still recall that day.
“We felt like we were millionaires,” Puryear recalled. “I remember when we got our first TV after getting electricity. It was a little box with gray color, and you could barely see it, but it sure was a different world when we got electricity.”
The Puryear legacy
Over the years, Puryear has been a jack-of-all-trades, helping serve his community as a rancher, a business owner, and a welder. And for fun, he’s also a classic car enthusiast and collector.
For 25 years, he ran a welding business at the family ranch that became quite popular. And while he might not do it professionally anymore, you can still find the “Puryear Welding” sign stationed out front.
“When I lived down at a ranch in Buda for a while in the 1950s, I would weld on people’s trucks at night,” he said. “I also took to it in my welding class in high school. It was just something I loved to do.”
As a car collector, Puryear has several classic cars and pickups on his property. In fact, he won a “Bow Tie Award” at The Station on Mercer’s car show for his 1967 327 Camaro back in 2019.
His passion for cars started when he was a teenager. At the time, he drove a 1957 Chevy pickup that he loved. His dad’s brother also had a love for classic cars, which inspired him.
As a rancher, he has raised nearly every cow on his property.
“Two of them had their mother die. One of them was really little when that happened, so I bottle-fed her,” he remembers. “The other one was old enough that I didn’t have to, but I did baby him.”
He bought the only bull he didn’t raise from Hall of Fame MLB pitcher Nolan Ryan, who now owns a well-established beef company in Austin.
“I told him I wanted a good, gentle bull, so he brought him here at around 17 months old,” he said. “I unloaded him up on the hill, and he came walking over and stuck his head in to eat. You could tell he was gentle.”
Through the years
Throughout his life on the ranch, Puryear has seen how much Dripping Springs and the rest of the Texas Hill Country have changed. What was once an area of small towns separated by miles of roads and hills now has more than 3.8 million people. In PEC’s 8,100-square-mile service area alone, we’ve seen record growth. In fact, after just hitting 300,000 meters five years ago, we’re already on track to surpass 400,000 by the end of 2023.
However, through the growth, Puryear has appreciated how PEC has focused on its members and continues bringing quality service.
“I remember when all the ice came and did so much damage, but they got out here and cleaned everything up,” Puryear said. “They’ve been very good to us.”
Taking a walk through the Puryear property, you can still find pieces of the family history, including the house he was born in back in 1943. For many years, people have offered to buy his property. People sometimes ask him why he never sold the ranch and did something else, and he always responds with, “I like the life that I have here. I’ve lived a great life and wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”
It’s been tough as a farmer over the past year with the drought. In fact, this is only the third time he can remember the spring on his property drying up since 1939. But even though there are hard times, he still feels like living here is a blessing. So much so that he’s ensured his daughter will inherit the land when he passes.