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Bank Going the Extra Mile for Student
Special Correspondent
Wednesday, January 28, 2009 • Posted January 27, 2009

Going the extra mile – that’s what the Johnson City branch of Cattleman’s National Bank is doing as part of its support of the Blanco County Stock Show.

At the show in mid January, the bank purchased the overall Grand Champion shop project – an ornate 15-ft. outdoor metal entry gate made by Johnson City High School senior Jesse Rabago – which was the second item that came up for bid at the evening’s event. “We saw it and started talking about buying it,” says Vice President and Branch Manager Jimmy Davis, who says the bank typically buys a Grand Champion or Reserve Grand Champion every year to recognize student achievement.

The bank made a $1,000 starting bid, but no other bidders rose to the occasion. Maybe because it’s a tough year financially for everyone, said Davis, a sentiment echoed by Ag/Shop teacher Myron Uecker of Johnson City High School. “The sale was down compared to last year’s record total, but that was expected due to the economy,” he said. “The projects did not bring as much, but all students made a profit while learning some valuable skills constructing their projects,” the teacher added.

Whatever the reason, the bankers felt that Jesse hadn’t made enough money for all his hard work – especially since the shop students have to reimburse the school district for the cost of materials once the items is sold. In Jesse’s case, he used $640 in materials, which left him a profit of only $360.

“You could tell the young man put a lot of work in to it,” said Davis. “We just don’t think he got enough for all of that,” he continued, remembering that in past years, winners have received much more, like last year’s metal project Grand Champion that garnered $5,500. That’s why the bank is trying to let a broader number of potentially interested parties know about the gate.

“We can try to help him sell it himself, or we can try to sell it, said Davis. “We probably have more contacts, and would wind up getting more money for him. We’re still thinking of ways to help this young man,” says Davis. They also would welcome any suggestions from the public.

The hand-welded gate is made of 1-1/2-inch square tubing of mild steel, is 14-ft. 2 inches wide, and has a double curved top, going from 64 inches at the center to 52 inches on the low side. Within the double curved top are five 12-in. metal stars in circles, flanked by 2-in. wide metal scrolls. In the center of the gate is a 43-inch diameter circle, with an arrowhead inside and the outline of a metal deer head and horns in the center of the arrowhead. The design also incorporates a ½-in square stock of metal supporting gusset running diagonally across the width of the gate.

Posts are welded to either side and the gate is ready to set into the ground in concrete. With the posts, a buyer will need to have an opening of 14-ft., 9 inches, says Uecker.

The judge who awarded this gate the overall Grand Champion title was impressed, Uecker said, by the overall quality of workmanship and artistic design incorporated into a difficult project to build. Uecker said the judge mentioned the quality of the welds and the fact that the project is really difficult to line up. Each piece was cut individually, Uecker said. Overall grand champion is selected from the champions in the shop metal, wood, metal/wood and trailer categories.

In addition to the gate, Jesse and the other students who built and sold a project are paying for a decorative sign to give to their buyers for display in their office or home, said Uecker.

The shop teacher also seems to be going the extra mile to help Rabago get the gate sold. “If someone who wants to add the ranch’s name to the existing arch, we can do that,” he says. The structure was built as an entry gate, but it could even be used as a decorative display piece in the right setting,” he added.

Jesse was ill at home on Monday, but his mother, Ferne Rabago, said he was “just so happy to get the Grand Champion,” even though, of course, he was hoping to get more money for his project. He’s very happy that people are stepping up to help him, said his mother.

“Welding is his thing,” said Mrs. Rabago, who moved with her family from their home state of Hawaii to Texas nine years ago. After Jesse’s graduation, they plan to move to Wyoming, where there is an accredited welding school fairly close to where they’ll live. They are looking at getting Jesse into that school.

Interested parties may view the gate at Johnson City High School, at the Ag Shop. Or, for further information, call the high school’s main number, 830-868-4025 during school hours, and punch in “Ag Building” where Uecker can be reached. Or, call the bank at 830-868-4051 and the answering operator will direct callers to more information.

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