Tom Rodgers

1880 - 1953
Role: Old Head, Camp Cook
Nicknames: Tom Ball, One Hundred
Known for: extraordinary cowhand

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.

Introduction to Tom Ball Rogers

Louise S. O'Connor
Talking about Tom Ball Rogers
Rafael DeLaGarza - Tom Ball
L.V. Terrell - Yep, Tom Ball was a good one.
Milam Thompson - Yeah, Tom was one.
L.V. Terrell - He was good frenchin'.
Rafael DeLaGarza - He could cook and throw calves and break horses, he do everythin'.
Milam Thompson - Everythin', he just an all the way around man.
L.V. Terrell - Cowboy
Richard Harris - Cowman, all around man, he just, Mr James put him up on a stand and had a big crowd of 'em and he said, he said something about he was anything you want to put him to. Break horses, cook, work cattle. I guess he said somethin' about a hog stealer, I don't know.
Rafael DeLaGarza - You know that man could take a cow and catch that horn, put it on behind and throw over.
Milam Thompson - Sure nuff.
Rafael DeLaGarza - Tom Ball, strong.
Milam Thompson - He was a good rider, wasn't he.
Rafael DeLaGarza - Yeah, good rider. Barefooted.
L.V. Terrell - That's what they tell me.
Rafael DeLaGarza - Barefooted.
Kerry McCann - Tom use to break mules...barefooted. Tom used to grab those mules by the ears and he'd be barefooted and bite 'em in the nose, er the lip and hold 'em there. And those mules would just be stampin' on his bare feet.
Smithy Welder - He was the premier guy, you know.
Simmie Rydolph - One of the best cowboys, the best cowboy that was in this country was old man Rodgers. We called him Tom Ball, what was his name.
Tony Lott - His nickname was one hundred. Tom Ball---one hundred.
Nathaniel Youngblood - Tom Ball was his real name.
J.Y. Lott - Rodgers
Simmie Rydolph - Ole Tom Ball....they had a throw they called...french.
Bailey Shaw - Oh yeah, frenchin' calves.
Simmie Rydolph - Frenchin' calves....if you didn't know what you was doing you would break your own neck. And they could break a calf's neck that way.
Bailey Shaw - Uncle John did a lot of that. Yeah they'd break it.
Tony Lott - Now he was a cowboy. Now we was young and he would take a great big yearling, weighs five, six hundred pounds, and catch 'em, frenchin', catch 'em by the ear and the flank and that thing go to pitchin' and throw that leg over and throw 'em over the head. He was a cowboy. Now we was comin up---he learned us.
Jesse Jones - He was an old, old man when I was a young boy.
Willie Brown - He was an old cowboy
Jesse Jones - Uncle Tom, when I knowd him he wasn't too much of a cowboy, he a cook. He'd a quit cowboyin' so much.
L.V. Terrell - He was cookin' at the Welder ranch when I went there. In the cow crowd.
Rafael DeLaGarza - Sometime couldn't get no cook, put him to cookin'. He'd be barefooted, cookin', and steppin' on them coals and everythin'.
Tony Lott - He'd drive that cook wagon out there in the country, out in the pasture, and Mr. James'd say "Tom. how long before dinner be ready? No time, Mr. James, no time.
Dan Youngblood - No time
Tony Lott - And by the time we'd make that roundup
Dan Youngblood - No time
Tony Lott - How long you gonna be Tom---no time, Mr. Welder. That bastard could cook.
L.V. Terrell - Oh yeah
Milam Thompson - Everybody knowd Uncle Tom Ball nearly, didn't they?

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.