Tom Rodgers, known throughout the Coastal Bend as Tom Ball, was an extraordinary cowhand. With few records kept during slavery times, there are conflicting accounts when Tom was born. Tom was an all around tophand on the Welder Vidauri Ranch. There were two Toms - Tom Curly and Tom Ball. Tom Curly had nice hair and kept it combed, Tom Ball let his hair go and it balled up. Tom Ball attained legendary status among the cowhands and ranchers of the Coastal Bend. Known affectionately as a consummate liar/storyteller, and petty thief, the tales of Uncle Tom's heroics are still being passed down. Kerry McCan tells of Tom breaking horses barefooted. Milam Thompson witnessed Tom's horse falling and Tom getting his foot caught in the stirrup and dragged quite a distance. Yet Tom was able to grab the saddle by the horn and the reins and bring his horse down. After his working days were over, the patron system advanced him to camp cook and general worker around the ranch. He became a great teacher and mentor to the younger generation.
Rafael de la Garza - Tom Ball
L.V. Terrell - He used to ride all the way from Welder ranch and come by, and you know nobody care about huntin', go down to the West lake, you know, and he'd always have a morral made out of grass sack, hung on the horn of his saddle, you know, My daddy he knowd he do things, a lot of things. my daddy say "mmm, there's death in that sack, its death in that sack. Cause he had that shotgun laying across there, he going down in that bottom and he kill anybody's hog or anything.
Jesse Jones - I remember one time they was workin' cattle, you see he was a cook, and he would take that bacon stuff home. So Mr. James told him, "say Tom, what you got in your bed?" Say "nothin' Mr. James, nothin', nothin' Mr. James. Well unroll your bed, now Tom and let's see what you got in there." He unrolled his bed and there was a big ole slab of bacon, now. "You know, Mr. Welder, somebody always trying to pull a joke on me."
Tom Rogers - Well he told me one time, he would talk about the ranch and stuff and how he used to would work on the ranch and there'd be sometime when they'd sleep out. And it would be so cold and a big frost and they'd put off their slickers and stuff and you could stand it up and the slicker would just stand up it'd be so cold. He didn't have anything against us but the way he had to work, he'd come to town and he had to go back, you see. We never did get a chance to see each other too much. They worked long hours. I mean from can't to can't. You get out in the mornin', three or four o'clock and you get your breakfast and you ready to get out and it's dark. When they come in it was dark. For fifty and seventy five cents a day. Uncle Tom loved that ranch out there, he just couldn't get off of it, he just stayed there. Well he was on that ranch practically all his life, from what I can get, born and raised out there, you know.