"I had had my 20 years, and was kind of fully vested," said Elliot. "I was just looking around when I came upon Freeport LNG. I had dealt with methane gas all my life but never in liquid form. It just struck my interest, and it sounded like the close-knit type of environment that I originally hired into back in the Pasadena plants."
Something else captured—or recaptured— his interest as well: In 1993, Elliot moved his family, including his newborn son, to Santa Fe, Texas, a small farming and ranching community just north of Galveston on the mainland. Here on the coastal prairie, he began to formulate how he might rekindle his love of working outdoors. He also had a fascination with ranching. He made friends with a legendary local rancher named Robert “Bobby” Bahr, and Bobby became his mentor for building a cattle operation. "Bobby Bahr was one of the original cowboys left in Santa Fe,” Elliot remembered. "I just followed his lead, and in doing that, I created my own business that's actually become pretty successful."
Elliot now runs approximately 100 head of crossbred cattle, including purebred Hereford, Charolais and Brangus bulls. This commercial operation sells calves into feedlots, auction barns and, more recently, to online buyers. He runs many of his cattle on the 40 acres that he owns but also leases grazing land on as much as 800 acres in Brazoria and Galveston counties. Elliot works the ranch during his off hours and vacation time, employing day workers when he is not available. He also is fortunate that his family is fully involved in the operation. They are his wife, a 23-year old son and a 12-year old daughter who is enamored with the horse-work involved. Elliot recently built a roping arena for her, where she practices her herding skills, competitive roping and barrel-racing.
Elliot Decker is a familiar face at Freeport LNG's Quintana Terminal. His career at the terminal, which began in 2007 when he was hired to be an operations shift supervisor responsible for hiring people for the regas facility's commissioning and start-up, doesn't hint at a surprising background and passion.
Elliot grew up near the small central Texas town of Belton. One of his earliest memories revolved around spending time with his maternal uncles. They ran a cedar post farming operation, and he would find ways to spend time with them outdoors. Halfway through middle school, he moved to Deer Park near Houston. By the time he graduated high school, he knew his career path would be greatly influenced by the petrochemical surroundings. Six months out of school, he began what would be a long career in petrochemicals and energy.
His first job was in 1986 with Carlon Plastics working on PVC resin powder used to extrude electrical conduits. In 1990, he joined the Arkema Chemical Plant as a process operator. He then moved to American Acryl, a joint venture of Arkema Chemical, as a lead process manager and later becoming a shift supervisor. By the time he was thinking of moving to a new start-up named Freeport LNG, he already had a 20-year operational career under his belt.
Elliot Decker and his D3 Ranch
So if I'm at work and I've got a cow out or whatever I need, I’ve got buddies that work different plants and they'll come and say, 'Hey, I got this.' It's the country way of doing things—you help."
Work on the ranch follows familiar rhythms throughout the year. Twice a year, all cattle must be dewormed. On each range, they are herded and moved into pens, where they are isolated into a chute. Then they are inoculated either by a shot or application of a liquid on their backs. And, of course, there is branding of the cattle. This happens when calves are around a year old. Elliot’s D3 brand represents his family-ranching team: wife Tammie, son Justin and daughter Jordan. It is becoming a familiar brand at all his places of sale.
Fall and winter months are the busiest times on the ranch because plentiful hay must be secured for the cattle. "I raise my own hay," says Elliot. "I have a hand come in and cut it for me and bale it up for me. I make probably on average 200 to 250 rolls of round bale hay a year, and then I feed it through the winter within about a four-month period." Water is also a constant need. Elliot maintains a good number of water wells and stock ponds that he frequently visits to make sure all the pumps run properly.
"My saving grace down here is my family; they're very supportive," reflects Elliot. "And I've got a lot of great friends. So if I'm at work and I've got a cow out or whatever I need, I’ve got buddies that work different plants and they'll come and say, 'Hey, I got this.' It's the country way of doing things—you help. Just like we're a team at work, we're a team here at the D3 Cattle Company."