David Sanders loves rocks. His love for rocks and all of their differing characteristics ultimately led him to the study of them, and eventually into his career as a geologist. He and his wife Gail have enjoyed the ride that David’s passion of geology has taken them on, and has even finally led them to Cordillera Ranch.
David’s young life in Wickenburg, Arizona was marked by his father’s passions. David begins, “Dad was a rancher, a farmer and a rock hound. He had a motel and a rock shop. Well, I had seen the farming and ranching side of things, and I didn’t much care for that, so as I was getting out of high school, I began to think geology for a degree.” Coming from the deserts of Arizona, David enrolled at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff because “Flagstaff had mountains and snow, so coming from the deserts, well, that sounded fantastic.”
While David excelled in school, he saw quickly that his chosen career path might prove challenging. “When I was coming out of school, I thought I would be a volcanologist. They don’t tell you in school that there are no jobs in this field; they let you just do it and learn when you graduate. My thesis was about the volcanics of that area around Flagstaff, and so the Nuclear Power folks were doing studies on the area, and the only published information within a 50-mile radius about the geology was my thesis. So I told them I’d tell them everything I knew for a job. I mapped out the faults for them, and started that job in 1973.”
However, while David was still doing his studies, he met a particular young lady. Gail had come to Flagstaff from Southern California. She explains, “My folks went to USC, and being from southern California, I saw those mountains in Flagstaff, and so off I went. I met David shortly after arriving.” After a double date on their first date, the two were inseparable from that time on, and dated throughout their entire college careers. Upon their graduation, they were married right before David began his job with the Nuclear Power company in 1973.
After relocating quickly to California, David continued his work while Gail got a teaching position with the local school district. Gail loved being near the beach again, and while David enjoyed his position, he began to question the direction he was heading. He explains, “You know, I was liking my job. As we were there and working for a few years and working for a company that charges a client, and justifying your hours and stuff, it became a bit cumbersome. When I was back in college I had been interviewed by oil companies, but I had decided I would not get hired by a fascist oil company. I thought I was saving the world by going to nuclear power, but I learned otherwise. I had been there three or four years, and one of the companies that had interviewed me tracked me down and gave me a call. It was City Services Oil Company in Tulsa. I went out there for an interview, and we were wanting to start a family and Gail didn’t want to work through the family, because doing that in Cali is hard. The oil company offered a job that would enable us to start our family and Gail could stay home. We were terrified of moving to Tulsa, but we loved Tulsa. Within two weeks of moving there, we knew more people in our neighborhood than we knew in 4 years in California. I loved the work in the oil fields as well as it was so much more challenging.”
Just as the family was moving to Tulsa, they found that Gail was pregnant, and welcomed Jill in 1979. Two years later, Stephen was born, and another two years brought them Judy.
The family was loving Tulsa, but David began to desire a closer interaction with the actual drilling wells. He explains, “We made the decision that I wanted to get closer and more involved with drilling wells. I had the choice of going to Houston or Midland. Somebody told me that if I wanted to really learn the business, go to Midland. So we moved from Tulsa to Midland and found that it was even more friendly and family oriented than Tulsa. Obviously we loved it.”
As David puts it, “Oh yes, I learned the business.” After some successful exploration in the Midland area, his corporation was absorbed by Mobil. David was now the Senior Geologist, and he began doing international oil work. “The international stuff was exciting, and I loved doing the exploration and drilling in places that had never been drilled. It was a lot of travel, however.” Gail jumps in, “David’s travels were challenging, but at that point in our lives, the kids were growing up a bit, and so they had so many activities, and that took up a bit of the slack.”
David enjoyed substantial career growth, but there was still another opportunity yet for the Sanders family. “One of my friends from Midland became the head of Parker and Parsley Oil. Scott Sheffield was the CEO (and still is) and asked if I had any interest in leaving Mobil, coming back to Midland, and helping them start up an exploration company. I met with them, talked it over, and I was more than ready to leave Mobil, just because it was such a huge company. So we moved back to Midland. At Mobil, I was a first level geologic manager, and I knew a lot of the guys from the other geology divisions at Mobil, so I was able to bring 18 or so of them with us over time. We started doing some more international stuff, and bought companies in South America, Argentina, and Ecuador, among others. We set an office up down there, sent some geoscientists down there, and then did the same thing in Canada. At that time, Parker & Parsley was acquired by Mesa Petroleum, which was a big deal. It was Boone Pickens’ company, and they became Pioneer Natural Resources, and I was with them for the duration of my career, until my retirement in 2013 as the Director of Corporate Geosciences, with 140 geoscientists reporting to me.”
While still working, the Sanders began to contemplate their retirement options. With their children off at college, they knew that soon enough, grandchildren would be coming, and they wanted to consider their options. David explains, “When we made the decision with the kids and where they would go to college, our oldest went to Texas Tech. She met her future husband, Ryan, while they were in school, whose parents were long-time friends of the Northingtons and the Hills (Cordillera Ranch founding families). During her senior year, Ryan was invited to Mona Northington’s wedding here on the ranch, which was in 2003, I believe. We had kicked around ideas of where we wanted to retire, and we knew the Hill Country would be a good option. We had never really tightened our thoughts on it though, but Jill commented about coming down here and how beautiful it was.”
Shortly after the birth of their first grandchild, the Sanders began to look more seriously at the Hill Country. Gail was pretty locked in on retiring to Austin, but David wasn’t. He says, “We did Austin, and there were some pretty areas, but all I saw was traffic. I told Gail that I had been in traffic for 30 years; I don’t want to retire into traffic.” Quickly, the couple came to look at Cordillera Ranch, and David was in love. Gail, however, figured that they were in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, they found a great solution in the Di Lusso Villas. Gail explains, “Gary Peterson brought us up to the villas cause he knew I wanted a view. He took us over to the model home, and I was just wowed by the view! I liked the whole concept, the neighborhood feel, and the whole idea. It was neighborhood living in the country.” David adds, “I was just so stuck on being here, I didn’t care where we lived at that point. We came back for another trip, and we chose the lot. And from there, we hooked up with Gabe and his team at Pasadera Builders, but this particular model wouldn’t fit on the lot. Gabe went back and was able to make the house fit so that we could look north. He was able to make the house fit in the direction we wanted, and it’s been fantastic.”
At that time, the couple was still living in Dallas, and a short year later, put the house up for sale. While they expected the sale to take some time, it sold in 3 days. David continues, “Gabe broke ground quickly, and so we moved into a rental, got the house going, and everything moved quickly. Gabe has been fantastic to work with, and even with the distances between us to Dallas, he communicated with us greatly and it’s just been a pleasure through each step in the process. We would come through every two or three weeks, and when you’re that far away, you have to have a lot of trust in your builder. When we were still in the decision process, Gabe took us to some of his other homes he was working on, and he was more proud of what was behind the walls than what was outside the walls. He was so proud of how well constructed the homes were, and we firmly believe nobody has a home that is better finished than what Gabe builds.”
As the couple moved into their new home, Gail was anxious. “I cried all the way here. We knew only two people here, and I was so nervous of being out here alone. However, so quickly I saw that there is something to do here every day, and boredom is not an option.” David adds, “I got into the men’s bible study here, and they have a lot of the same appreciation for the community, and their bond, and their journeys that bring us all together is great. We drive the golf cart up to the club and just cruise around, and it’s an absolute blast. It’s such a friendly place. I’ve tried to explain just how the Cordillera Ranch lifestyle is to my friends back in the Dallas area, and you just can’t do it. It’s just a really blessed place and you have to be here to understand that.”