By almost any definition, Dr. Fred Turner and his wife Cindy fit the profile of “rural lifestylers.” They’re successful urban professionals who own land in an outlying rural setting, and spend as much time as possible enjoying the country life. They own and operate the equipment needed to maintain their property, and all they expect from their dealer is to be customer friendly and work with them to keep their equipment running.

In the 20 years they’ve spent in the Texas countryside, first raising cattle and now breeding whitetail deer as a hobby, the Turners have run across the full gamut of equipment dealerships in terms of how they treat hobby farmers, rural lifestyle customers or “outsiders.” Today, they drive by three other dealers to work with one that treats them well and is willing to come to their ranch to service their machinery.

“The reason we stay with Bramlett Implement in Stephenville is because we have the convenience of them coming to the ranch to work on our stuff or hauling our tractor to the shop for us. And I don’t mind paying for it. I don’t expect them to provide this kind of service for free,” Turner says.

And, unlike a couple of other dealerships the Turners tried to do business with, Bramlett Implement treats his wife Cindy as a valued customer. “The other dealers ran my wife off in a hurry and that’s why we pass them up to get to one that is farther away for us. These people treat us really well,” he says.

It’s especially important in this case because it’s Cindy Turner who uses the farm equipment more than anyone else. “She’s a country girl and loves to drive tractors,” says Turner. “She’ll get out there and mow until it’s all done,” he says about maintaining their 850-acre deer ranch. In fact, it was Cindy who found Bramlett Implement, and it’s her experience with the dealership that started the relationship that continues today.

Trooper Vernon Gaines looks over the zero-turn mower and seeder used on the Diamond D Ranch. Gaines is not only a close personal friend of Fred and Cindy Turner, but he also helps maintain the deer ranch during the week while the Turners operate their dental business in Arlington, Texas.

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Dr. Turner grew up in east Texas and just always “liked being out in the country.” Like so many other rural lifestylers, he makes his living in the big city. During the past 30 years, Turner has built a successful dental business in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Arlington that today employs 24 people including four full-time dentists. Cindy manages the day-to-day operations of the Diamond Dental Care office.

Their life as rural lifestylers began when they leased 150 acres of land in a “very rural” area to take their kids — three sons and a daughter — hunting, fishing and camping. As time passed, the property came up for sale and the Turners bought it. When adjacent land became available they continued buying, and after 20 years ended up with the 850 acres they own today.

Turner recalls how many of the residents viewed them as intruders when they first bought land in the area. “I remember hearing people in the restaurants talking about how ‘city folks didn’t need to be out here buying up all our property.’”

But the landscape has changed with many other city dwellers moving to the area, seeking the country life. He doesn’t hear as much of that talk anymore. “I have several friends who are attorneys, CPAs and a couple of other dentists who have properties around here like we do,” he says. They all own equipment for maintaining their land and need to rely on local dealerships to keep it running.

Another thing that has changed is land that sold for $400 an acre when he first moved to the area is now fetching as much as $3,000 an acre with improvements.

To a large extent, they also experienced much of the same unwelcoming attitude with some of the dealerships they tried to do business with.

“Some of them would almost cuss at you when you went to look for parts or needed something fixed,” Turner says. “They were used to working with the local farmers who knew what they needed. I know a bunch of the farmers go to the dealers to buy their parts and then spend two or three days fixing their own equipment. But I’ve never been a mechanic. That’s not me or my lifestyle.”

Along the way, the Turner boys got into raising and showing Angus cattle. At one point, they had as many as 45 head. They also planted and bailed their own hay for feed. During that time, they utilized several pieces of farm machinery. Among them were a variety of tractors including a Massey Ferguson and a 120 horsepower John Deere. Their hay tools included a round baler and hay rakes. An offset disc, seeders, mowers and a skid-steer loader were among the other equipment they used on the ranch. While they consider their UTVs and ATVs as “toys,” these machines also play a key role in maintaining their acreage and taking care of the herd.

Trooper Vernon Gaines looks over the zero-turn mower and seeder used on the Diamond D Ranch. Gaines is not only a close personal friend of Fred and Cindy Turner, but he also helps maintain the deer ranch during the week while the Turners operate their dental business in Arlington, Texas.

But those first experiences with farm equipment dealers in the area still stick with Turner. “We really didn’t know what we needed and the people at the dealerships would look at us real funny,” he says. “I guess they were only used to talking to the country boys, so they’d look funny at us city boys.”

And he doesn’t mince words when he talks about those initial encounters with crass dealership employees. “I don’t want to sound uppity, but they made me feel stupid. Maybe I am stupid in the tractor repair department,” he says, “but I’m a dentist. What am I supposed to know about fixing a tractor?”

No Mobile Service

On the other hand, the Turners came across other dealers who were “really nice, personable people, who treated us well, but …”

That qualifying “but” was that these dealers were either not set up to provide mobile service or not interested in coming to the ranch to work on the Turner’s equipment. He says he can understand it to a certain extent.

“If you’re going to be doing some farming, they assume that you have ‘dualies’ and trailers and be able to haul your equipment to their shops if you want them worked on. But there are more and more guys just like me who don’t have the time or just flat out don’t want to do it. But we have the money to pay for that kind of service and don’t mind paying extra for the convenience,” Turner says.

In any case, it was frustrating until Cindy met up with Bramlett Implement.

“My wife found these people, and let me tell you something, those are some of the nicest people that you’ll ever meet. They treat you like a city guy instead of a country guy. Of course I don’t mind being treated like a country guy,” says Turner. What’s even better, he adds, is they deliver.

That is, Bramlett Implement, a John Deere dealer, comes to the ranch to service the equipment that the Turner’s bought from them. While they’ve owned Massey Ferguson tractors and other brands of equipment, since hooking up with Bramlett, nearly everything Turner buys for the ranch these days is green.

“If it’s something that they can’t fix at the ranch, they’ll haul it in for you, take it to the service department at the shop, fix it and bring it back,” he says. “It costs me more to do that, but I don’t have the time to haul things to the dealership.”

Besides that, he doesn’t have the trailers anymore to haul the equipment to the dealership, either.

As their boys grew up and moved out, the Turners got rid of the cattle and are now raising deer. When they were running cattle, Turner had a “dualie and other trailers,” to move the livestock and equipment. He says he’s way past having a dualie any more. They’ve also gone to a smaller (75 horsepower) tractor that he bought new a couple of years ago. But he still needs to be able to get it into the shop every now and then.

“We haven’t found any other dealership anywhere in the county that will do this. It would be a lot more convenient to have other dealerships do house calls. More and more people like us are buying land out here and they buy small tractors that they use to clean up around their homes or weekend houses. Some have cattle and others have horses, and all of them have the same issues as we do getting their equipment serviced,” Turner says. It’s all about being ‘customer friendly.’

A New ‘Hobby’

While the kids have moved out to start their own lives, Fred and Cindy Turner have no intention of giving up their “weekend house” or their new hobby — raising whitetail deer.

They explain that their weekend lives these days are taking them in a similar direction as when their children’s hobby of raising cattle took up much of their free time. “It’s the same kind of thing,” Turner says. “One thing leads to another and your hobby grows into a small business. Like when we raised cattle, the deer aren’t making us any money, but it helps out with the cost of the feed, taxes and the equipment that we’re buying.”

They don’t have as much equipment as they did when they were running cattle. “Now that the kids are grown, gone and have their own families, they don’t come and bale dad’s hay anymore,” Fred Turner says.

That’s done by a neighbor who bales 120 acres of Turner’s hay. The neighbor keeps half of it and the Turners get half to feed their deer.

Since then they’ve changed out much of the gear to what the Turners call more “maintenance than working-type equipment.”

They’ve downsized their tractor to a 75 horsepower unit because it’s easier for he and Cindy to operate. They’ve also maintained or added enough gear to keep the ranch mowed and disced, and the roads throughout cleaned up. Planting food plots with wheat and winter oats for the deer is also a regular task. The Turners also have a zero-turn mower and add to their collection of three UTVs and three ATVs as needed.

While they use their three UTVs extensively for chores on their 850-acre ranch, the Turners consider these vehicles along with three ATVs as “toys.” Here, they’re on their way to hunt “county deer” on the first day of the season last fall. Their grown children continue to visit the ranch and use the UTVs and ATVs for recreation.

They wouldn’t do without these “toys.” Among other things, they use the UTVS to keep the corn feeders filled. “We can put 1,000 pounds of corn in the back of those things and go around and fill up the deer feeders. We keep the four-wheelers for nothing else except for the kids to play on,” says Turner.

While they use their three UTVs extensively for chores on their 850-acre ranch, the Turners consider these vehicles along with three ATVs as “toys.” Here, they’re on their way to hunt “county deer” on the first day of the season last fall. Their grown children continue to visit the ranch and use the UTVs and ATVs for recreation.

Keeping the Deer Safe

They must also maintain an 8-foot fence that surrounds the entire ranch to keep their “hobby” safe from the coyotes and bobcats. According to the Turners, these critters kill more deer than disease or any health problem.

Despite building the high fence, he says, “The bobcats go right over it and the coyotes go right under it. I use an offset plow to put a berm around the bottom of the fences to keep the coyotes from digging in. It’s slowed them down a little, but the cats just go right over the fence. They’ll chase your babies down and eat them.”

He says they also have a cougar every now and then, but most of their problem is with bobcats, some weighing as much as 50 pounds.

Because they’re nocturnal, these predators are very difficult to hunt. Two years ago, the Turners hired trappers to come in and get rid of some of the varmints. They killed 4 bobcats, 8 coyotes and more than 60 raccoons that were eating the deer feed. “My deer feed bill went in half after we eliminated most of the raccoons. I didn’t realize we had that many eating it up,” he says.

“It started out as a hobby and it‘s growing into small business and you try to keep it all under control.” And Turner adds that when he decides to “semi-retire,” in all likelihood, he and Cindy will pursue their deer breeding business a little more in depth.

Making Big Plans

While the Turners don’t plan to ever give up their suburban Dallas home, they have definite plans to spend more time at their Diamond D Ranch when they cut back on their day-to-day work schedule. At that point, raising whitetail deer could become more than a pastime.

“I’ll probably never totally retire, but I’ll be cutting back. When that happens, I’m not going to be making the same kind of money as when I was working fulltime. We’re already planning to build a bigger house out here on the ranch,” says Turner.

“The house we’ll build will sort of run itself, so to speak. We’re going to put up a windmill that’s big enough to produce all the electricity we need to run the ranch and we’ll sell any excess to the electric company. I think I can make enough to where it’ll pay for the taxes on the place.”

He says that while they’re setting the ranch up as a commercial hunting operation, they’re also leaving open the option to leave the land as it is and just use it for recreation for family and friends.

In any case, the Turner’s future plans include keeping and maintaining their 850 acres. If they don’t do the maintenance work themselves, they’ll have part-time help to keep things under control. In other words, they’ll continue to need their farm equipment and a good equipment dealer.

Looking back, he says, “I can assure you that I’ve spent a lot more money on service than most of the smaller farmers out here who do their own repairs, and I’m pretty sure that will continue to be the case.”

Asked to take a wild guess how much he’s invested in equipment, repairs and service during the 20 years he and Cindy have made the ranch their home away from home, he says he doesn’t care to guess.

“I really don’t want to think about it because it would probably ruin my evening. We could probably buy another whole place with what we’ve spent on equipment,” he says. “It’s expensive to keep all that stuff up and running. But like my attorney friend says, ‘The more you play, the more you pay.’”

Dealer Makes the Difference

After using various brands of farm equipment in the past 20 years — from New Holland, Massey Ferguson and Deere — the Turners have come to prefer their green equipment. Nonetheless, when push comes to shove, it’s the dealer that makes it happen for them.

“If it came down to one John Deere dealership and a Massey Ferguson dealership and even though I like the John Deere tractor better, if the Massey Ferguson dealer gives the service we need and the Deere dealer didn’t, we’ll always go with the service dealer,” says Fred Turner. “That’s what’s important to me. It may not be as important to the majority of the farmers in the county, but it’s what’s important to us.”

He also believes that as more people like them take up residence in the area, the demand for mobile service will continue to increase.

“I realize a lot of the country folks don’t want to spend the kind of money that we spend because they’d rather fix it themselves. But there are a lot of folks like us who want and need this kind of service from their dealer, and we appreciate that service a whole lot,” says Turner.

Like he and Cindy, he’s convinced that the others rural lifestylers will appreciate it too.