Joel calls Alpine, Texas his home and point-of-reference. He has made his living, either directly or indirectly, with horses and cattle on outfits such as the King Ranch, o6 Ranch and Parker Ranch since college graduation. He began writing while serving with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. A former custom saddle maker, Nelson is also an excellent horse trainer. In 1999, the Mid-Northumberland Arts Group sponsored his poet-in-residency in England and in 2000 his CD “The Breaker in the Pen” earned a Grammy nomination in the Spoken Word category alongside notables such as Leonard Cohen, Jewel, and Tom Brokaw. He was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2009. Joel and his wife Sylvia work side by side managing the 37-section Anchor Ranch near Alpine where they raise Corriente Cattle.