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Serving Time Texas NRCS Employee Reaches 50 Years of Service

Serving Time: Texas NRCS Employee Reaches 50 Years of Service

Story by Jaime Tankersley

During the summer of 1959 on a stretch of country road between Brady and Brownwood, Texas, the Mercury Junction Filling Station hired a young attendant named Robert Gober to top off gas tanks and clean windshields. Gober, a recent Richland Springs High School graduate, noticed a frequent customer to the station. Curiosity built, and Gober pondered as to what could be the man�s occupation. With time and casual conversation between Gober and the customer, the question finally arose: �Sir, what do you do for a living that causes you to travel this area so?�

That question was the start of what turned into a lifetime career of conservation for Gober.

In 1960, Gober was hired onto the Watershed Planning Party out of Brownwood. He was responsible for the maintenance on flood control structures in Brown, Coleman and Runnels Counties. Working for the party had its up and downs, it was a wages-as-earned, 180-working-day program.

�We would work from March through December,� Gober said, �and then we would be laid off until the following years money was available.�

Wanting something with more stability, he headed to the San Saba Soil Conservation Service (SCS), now the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office and applied to become a full time employee of the federal government.

March of 1963 brought good employment news. Gober received a phone call saying he had been hired and had four locations to choose from: Vega, Plainview, Seminole or Muleshoe.
�I got the map down, looked it over and by April I was headed to Seminole,� Gober recalled.

He was a rookie engineer technician with 160 SCS/NRCS Great Plains Contracts that offered producers assistance to install and apply a variety of conservation practices.

Gober smiled as he reflected on his first trip to Seminole as a new employee, �It was a great experience, the day we headed to Seminole we got caught in a bad sandstorm, but the people were nice once we got there.�

Following Seminole, Gober spent over a year in Crowell, Texas.

�It was a new ball game when I arrived in Crowell, I did not know much at the time about ponds and terraces. I was an irrigation fella,� Gober noted.

�You have to know about all aspects to work with people in this business, grasses, soils and so forth, but I specialized in engineering.�

Gober enjoyed his full time agency status, but he ached to return home to San Saba County.

�I worked for a young district conservationist in Crowell, but he knew I was looking for a chance to get back home.� Gober recalled.

That chance came when J. C. Tate, one of Gober�s previous NRCS district conservationists (DC) had taken over the NRCS office in Brady. Three months after Tate started in Brady the engineer technician retired.

�Tate called me and asked if I wanted to transfer to Brady, I went to my Crowell DC and he told me if that was what I wanted he would help to make it happen.�

Gober started, what has turned into a 45 year stretch, in Brady on December 4, 1966.

�I worked for Tate for nearly 25 years, he was a real fine individual.� Gober said, �I have been very fortunate in my career to work with great people; it makes the job a lot easier.�

Gober has observed a variety of changes within the agency, most being mechanical and educational improvements.

�In 1985 the office got its first pickup with an AC and a radio, it sure did beat the first vehicle I had with the agency,� Gober chuckles �It was army green, with stiff seats, it was not fancy but it had a heater.�

The change in equipment seemed ironic to Gober; it brought to mind an agency policy that was strict about the use of a transistor radio.

�When you went to the field to work, you would take a lunch and stay out all day. You would find a shade tree and enjoy your sack lunch as you listened to a transistor radio. They told us later not to have a radio with us, we were being paid to work and not listen to music.

�News didn�t travel as fast back then; it was 5 o�clock in the evening before I got home and learned that J.F.K. had been assassinated.�

Adapting to change was part of the job for Gober; transistor radios were followed by office computers, global positioning systems (GPS) and electronic engineering equipment.

�I remember when we used boards and rods and it took us weeks to accomplish what we set out to do; now that we have a GPS and a computer, we can have land mapped in a day.� Gober said.

The past 50 years for Gober have been filled with technical advancement, relocation and long lasting friendships. He plans on keeping with occupational consistency and fill his future with gardening, ranching and maybe a little hunting.

�My wife wants to travel, but McCulloch County is just fine with me.� Gober smiles, �My career has been filled with good people and genuine folks that wanted our assistance. I am proud of what our agency has accomplished.�

As of March 11, 2011, Robert Gober will have 50 years of federal service with the SCS/NRCS. He has the longest running tenure in the state of Texas with the agency.

Robert Gober, Brady NRCS civil engineer technician

Robert Gober, Brady NRCS civil engineer technician
Robert Gober, Brady NRCS civil engineer technician, celebrates 50 years of federal service on March 11, 2011.