Painter and sculptor Buck McCain was raised on a working cattle ranch in southern California near the Mexican border. McCain was home-schooled by his mother and also learned Spanish and the native Indian language from the local children. A fifth-generation rancher, McCain took over the ranch at age 20 when his father died. Upon graduation from high school McCain realized that he needed to further his education, or he would spend the rest of his life cattle ranching. He attended Imperial Valley Junior College near El Centro, California on a pre-med scholarship. McCain took art courses to balance out his science course work. His art teacher, Juanita Low, encouraged McCain to pursue a career in art. The artist found further encouragement when he sold his first painting of two boats in the San Diego harbor for $35.
After graduation from Imperial Valley McCain went to work on a ranch in Nevada. He supplemented his meager salary with paintings that he sold to hotels for $10 each. McCain eventually left ranch work and went to work for Aaron Brothers in Los Angeles. There he painted pictures to be sold in department stores throughout the United States. In the late 1960s Buck McCain, who is mostly self-taught, went to Europe for a year of independent study. Upon his return to America, McCain settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1976 McCain attempted sculpture on the suggestion of Arizona sculptor and painter Ernie Berke. After Berke walked him through the process, McCain knew he really wanted to sculpt. He has created several monumental bronzes.