Campus groundskeeper embraces cowboy life

3:30 a.m. and Danny Meyer is already awake.

4 a.m. and he’s walking out the door of his two-story log cabin.

5 a.m. and he’s headed southeast on U.S. 287 in his yellow Volkswagen Beetle.

6 a.m. and Meyer pulls into his parking spot on campus, 101 miles from the front gate of his ranch.

As supervising groundskeeper for the east side of campus, Meyer leaves his country home in Buffalo Springs, where ranch land is rolled out like a lumpy blanket, and enters the concrete jungle that is Fort Worth.

Each weekday, Meyer is all too pleased to make his two-hour drive to work. The odometer on his car reads more than 174,000 miles, a hefty number considering it’s only nine years old. After a long and what Meyer says is a relaxing drive, his car turns onto University Drive and he is elated to see the campus again, just as pretty as it was when he left it the day before.

Besides the opportunity to work outdoors, Meyer’s favorite part of the job is making the campus look a little better each day – and he’s been feeling that way for almost 20 years.

Meyer was working as a supervisor at the Wichita Falls Parks & Recreation department, where he was a part of the team that created the falls in Wichita Falls, when he came across an advertisement in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for a groundskeeping position on campus.

Meyer said the fringe benefits were appealing, the family-member tuition discount afforded to employees was a plus, the chance to continue to work outdoors sounded good and the commute didn’t bother him one bit.

At the time Meyer was living in Sunset and driving 140 miles every day to get to Wichita Falls and back.

Meyer said the city wanted its employees to live within ten miles of the job, which gave Meyer a couple of options: Move closer to work, or drive 101 miles to the university.

By May 1989, Meyer had made his decision.

Robert Sulak, director of landscaping and grounds, interviewed Meyer for the position. He said it was easy to tell that Meyer liked this type of work and still gets much enjoyment out of it.

But this wasn’t the first time that Meyer surrounded himself with the walls of curriculum.

Before his mother died, Meyer promised her that he would earn a college degree. And so he did. Meyer graduated from Tarleton State University in Stephenville with a Bachelor of Science in agriculture education in 1970.

“I made her a promise and I wanted to stick with it,” Meyer said.

After graduating, Meyer taught agriculture education at Northwest High School in Justin for ten years, before transferring to Denton High School, where he taught for four more years.

After several years of teaching, Meyer was ready to move on, and after his outdoor experience in Wichita Falls, the TCU grounds seemed to be a perfect fit. Meyer said the campus is like his second home. He’s had job offers over the years and has even been offered a teaching position ten miles from his house, but Meyer says he’s happy where he is and to him it’s that simple.

“I love it,” he said. “If I didn’t like it I wouldn’t be here.”

But if Meyer could be anywhere else, he would be riding horseback on his ranch.

Driving down a gravel road toward home, he sees almost nothing except miles of open space in every direction. Then, there it is, as he crests the top of the hill, a green-roofed log cabin with a wraparound porch. The home stands isolated in this hilly country, a slight change of scenery from what Meyer spends his work hours in. He said it is his “dream home,” and never fails to excite him.

The day Meyer and his wife, Donna, stumbled upon the house more than a year ago was around the same time Meyer found out he had bladder cancer.

Donna Meyer said that her husband was so blue at the time he almost decided not to undergo the cancer treatments.

“We drove in the front gate and both of us looked at each other and said, ‘we’re home,'” Donna Meyer said.

His wife told him if they were going to put themselves on the line to get the house he would have to get treated – and so he did, and he is now cancer free.

“Now I got the place I always wanted,” he said. “And we’ll be happy for the next hundred years.”

The Meyers’ 50 acres of ranch land is inhabited by five horses; Whistle Britches, Rusty, Gray Lady, Precious and Danny Meyer’s favorite, Pepper.

Danny Meyer said anyone who has ever met him knows that he will talk horses to anyone that will listen. By the time he comes home from work each day the sun is down and his ranch is dark, but that doesn’t stop him from going horseback riding for a couple of hours every night.

“Everybody that knows me knows that I’m a cowboy,” he said.

He said once he reaches his front gate after his long drive home he forgets about everything else. His Physical Plant cap goes off and a cowboy hat takes its place.

“I can’t wait to get (to the university) every morning, and I can’t wait to get home,” he said. “When I turn in my driveway I thank the good Lord that I have the place that I have, that he lets me do what I want to do.”

As Danny Meyer nears the age of 63, there is no use telling him to slow down. He’s battled cancer, was almost struck by lightning twice and has been thrown from a horse so many times he’s lost count.

Living to an old age seems to run in the family and Danny Meyer said he wants to live to be 106 years old and ride until the day he dies.

“I want to die while I’m out riding,” he said. “Get off my horse one day, sit under a tree and just go to sleep and never wake up.”