Rodgers loves his job as Rochelle rancher

He’s been doing it for more than 60 years. Times have changed, he’s seen things come and go; but he still gets up before dawn each morning and heads off to work. At a spry 72 years of age, George Hulen Rodgers of Rochelle is one of the few people in McCulloch County that can recall the times when things weren’t quite as easy and modern as they are now. As a rancher for his whole life, May 22 of this year will mark the end of his 64th year of working what is now the 4K ranch owned by Luther King of Fort Worth. Rodgers moved to what is known as the old Sellman place located near Richland Springs with his family in January of 1937. His father was a rancher, and he took a job working for Charlie and Johnny White on the 40,000 acre ranch that covered a large portion of north and eastern McCulloch County. Since his early days on the ranch, Rodgers has seen ownership of the ranch change hands three times, and four generations of his family have worked the ranch at one point in time or another. Through it all, he has stuck with his profession and has been fortunate to remain with the land on which he grew up. He is the only original rancher who still works the land of a ranch that has grown significantly and now can be found in nearly all parts of the county. Working six days a week since he was eight years old, his daily duties have changed over recent years. As a youngster still in grade school, he spent his summers working cattle alongside his father. “We moved to the ranch just after the depression and dad was lucky to get the job,” recalls Rodgers. “I turned eight years old on May 22 after we moved there and right after school was out that year, they put me on the payroll. They gave me a string of horses and expected me to work the same as anyone else. I worked for $10 a month, and Mr. White would wait and pay me at the end of the summer. When I got that $30 in my hand, I was in high cotton. I could hang with the big boys then.” In his years of working on the McCulloch County ranch, Rodgers has seen changes that many people of younger generations cannot comprehend. “We didn’t even have a ranch vehicle until I was out of high school,” said Rodgers. “All we had were horses. Everywhere we went, we either walked or rode a horse. Now, every ranch hand on the payroll has a truck, a two-way radio and a telephone. “We didn’t even have electricity on the ranch until 1947. What little studying I did while in school, I did next to a kerosene lamp. I remember being out in a pasture one afternoon and coming up on some guys who were surveying for the electric lines. They were looking for the ranch and I pointed them in the right direction and off they went. It sure was something being able to walk into a room, flip a switch and have light in the room. It was several years before we had anything else run by electricity out there.” Sitting in his favorite recliner thinking back to his earlier years on the ranch, Rodgers recalls how much things have changed both in ranching and in McCulloch County in general He remembers times when he and his father would wake up at their normal 3 a.m., saddle up their horses and head off to a distant pasture to work cattle or put out cake for the herds. He remembers sitting on his horse under a barn during the great flood of 1938 wondering when the rain would stop. He remembers how much work was involved in keeping his portion of the ranch in good condition. “We had to get up that early just to be able to get where we had to be before daylight. We would ride 10 or 12 miles in the dark just to get to a particular pasture,” he said. “We would work all day and then ride back home, wrangle up horses for the next day in the dark and finally get to the house well after dark. We used to joke around and say that we would throw our boots under our bed and pick them up on the other side and start again.” Nowadays, he hops in his pickup and drives to where his steel horses are waiting. He spends each day on heavy equipment pushing brush, repairing roads, building tanks or doing whatever is needed at that particular point in time. As ranch foreman for more than 30 years, one day back in the early 90s, after discussing it with King, they turned over the reigns to the current ranch foreman, Billy Brandenberger. “Mr. King and I were talking one day and I told him that we needed some younger blood in the driver’s seat to deal with the daily operations of the ranch. Billy had been working on the ranch for several years and we both agreed that he was the right man for the job. I also told him that I really enjoyed running heavy equipment and that is when I got my new assignment.” George’s first wife, Catherine, died several years ago after losing a battle with cancer. He remarried five years ago to Barbara, who had also lost her spouse. Together, the two now spend their yearly vacations traveling across the country going to rodeos. The couple has five children, 16 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. A lot of things have changed about the way George Rodgers does his daily work. He no longer rides a horse, he gave that up six years ago. His daily routine still has him traveling to various parts of the ranch to tend to business, only now, the sound of a four-wheel drive truck has taken the place of the hoofbeats on the pasture. Ask him about retirement and he just laughs. “What’s retirement'” he jokes. Most of us long for that day we can stay at home or do whatever we so choose. Not this rancher. If there is some work that needs to be done, you can bet on experienced hands that have seen more life in this part of the county than most of us could ever imagine.

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