From Special Ops to Ranch Rodeos
Growing up, there were two things Bert Kuntz wanted to be: A Green Beret or Navy SEAL and a cowboy.
He accomplished the first during his 10-year military career as a Special Forces medic and Green Beret who had multiple deployments in the Middle East and throughout Asia. A couple years later he would make strides toward the second.
Out of the military, Kuntz found himself bouncing around and doing odd jobs until he landed in Fort Worth while his wife was teaching at TCU. There he befriended Michael McDaniel, a retired Deputy Sheriff of Tarrant County, and asked if McDaniel might know of a ranch who could use another hand. With zero ranching or ag experience, Kuntz was willing to do it for free. McDaniel told Kuntz that “he knew a guy—a guy who’s the real deal” and put in a call to Buster Frierson (current team captain of the Veale Ranch/Triangle Ranch World Champion Ranch Rodeo team).
Kuntz met with Frierson who told him he could sign on with his outfit for $10 an hour, the starting wage for anyone working on the ranch, whether an experienced hand or Special Forces veteran wanting to learn.
Frierson says, “Bert is a special individual. Lots of guys think they want to work on a ranch and they last a day or two. Not so with Bert. He’s a different breed of guy. He’s just a good human being with a great work ethic and skills. He fell in with me, fit in with the guys, and everyone just took to him.”
Kuntz cut his teeth on ranching by fixing fence, weed whacking pens, and doing any and every odd job he was asked to do. Eventually, Frierson introduced him to horses and cowboy work. Kuntz found there were surprising similarities between the cowboy and military worlds, particularly in regard to camaraderie, communication, and respect.
“Watching these guys brand and sort and gather was eerily similar to what Special Forces guys do,” he says. “The way they move, the way they instinctively know their guys and what they’re going to do. Even if its 4 in the morning and dark and everyone’s a horse, they still know who’s who. It’s the same with us. If I see a buddy of mine who I went to combat with 100 meters away in the dark, I still know exactly who he is.”
One day, while out with Frierson fixing fences, Kuntz started scribbling in the dust settled on the ranch truck. The shape of a buffalo and American flag took form, and the foundation of Peacemaker Trading Company was born. Kuntz, a self-professed “t-shirt, jeans, and ballcap type of guy” put those designs on a couple t-shirts along with the slogans “Peace through strength” and “Protect what you love.” They sold out almost immediately.
Today, the apparel company has branched out to hats, hoodies, sweatshirts, and more, with a variety of designs and slogans—most of which can be found at their booth at the 22nd World Champion Ranch Rodeo. Also found at the booth are bags of newly-debuted “Ranch Hand Blend Coffee” roasted by Black Rifle Coffee Co., another veteran-owned company. A dollar of each bag sold will go directly to the WRCA Foundation.
“Buster and the ranching community changed my life,” he says, “completely changed the path of my life and where I was going—and now I want to do my part to give back to them.”
Kuntz got connected with the WRCA while attending last year’s World Champion Ranch Rodeo with Frierson. He met with Leman Wall and the board, and developed his plan to raise money for the Foundation, the branch of WRCA that provides scholarship and crisis assistance to ranch families in need. Additionally, Peacemaker Trading Company sponsors the Veale Ranch/Triangle Ranch team.
It’s an ideal partnership. Frierson says, “Military world and ranching world, Special Ops guys and cowboys. It’s a good mixture. We’re all American patriots doing what we do best. They protect us and we feed them. It’s the way the world should work.”
Eventually, Kuntz is hoping that Peacemaker Trading Company will be successful enough that he can go back to working on a ranch for Frierson, making $10 an hour. He says, “That’s how much I enjoy it. I love the community and the lifestyle and being around horses and cows and ranchers.”
He says he feels warmly welcomed here, where he sees his values reflected.
“People say America’s gotten weak, but I disagree,” he says. “Come to a ranch rodeo and you’ll see that America is doing just fine. America is great and this community proves it. People just have to look in the right places.”