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Cattle rancher's wife goes vegan: "Every marriage has its issues"

ANGLETON, Texas -- All cattlemen face challenges beyond their control. But not long ago, on a ranch south of Houston, Tommy Sonnen faced a problem of his own doing.

"You know, every marriage has its issues. It's not always easy," he said.

It all began innocently enough. Shortly after they got married six years ago, Tommy's wife Renee just started hanging out with the livestock. Tommy warned her ...

Tommy and Renee
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"Renee, don't name those cows."

But she didn't listen. Then she started singing to them, too. And before long, the rancher's wife had turned into a rancher's worst nightmare -- a vegan, who couldn't stomach so much as living with a cattle rancher anymore.

"He was just going to get out of the business or our marriage was going to be over," Renee explained.

Tommy agreed.

"It wasn't working. And I said, 'I'm going to sell the whole herd.' She goes, 'Well, if you're going to sell the whole herd anyway, why don't you just sell 'em to me?' And I said, 'Sell 'em to you!?'"

Renee said her husband couldn't believe what she'd said. "And he looks at me like 'You have lost it! You are crazy!'"

Renee often sings to the animals
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What Tommy didn't know was that Renee had been secretly posting a blog called "Vegan Journal of a Rancher's Wife." She attracted thousands of followers. Through those contacts, Renee was able to raise $30,000 -- enough for a hostile takeover.

"All of a sudden, he was fixin' to be bought out by his wife," Renee said.

"Yeah, I didn't appreciate it, but it was growing pains," said Tommy.

And here's where this story gets good. After his wife raised the money, Tommy did something rare for a rancher, or any man for that matter -- he put aside his ego and reconsidered a core belief.

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He stopped eating meat, liked how he felt, and now works for his wife and the Rowdy Girl Vegan Farm Animal Sanctuary. As best we can tell, it's the only cattle ranch conversion in the country.

So now that he's changed for Renee, is there anything Tommy would change about his wife?

"I can't think of a thing," he said. And there is everything you need to know, to stay married forever.

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  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.