Powering History: A Cowboy Connection at the George Ranch
By Steve Nelson
Fort Bend History Association Board of Trustees
Cowboys have long been an independent lot. From Buffalo Bill to the Marlboro Man, stoic and self-sufficient are traits often associated with the iconic symbols of the American West.
Out at the George Ranch Historical Park, that image is alive and well – fully on display each day through the modern-day cowboys, livestock demonstrations, cattle brandings and working pens. Riding, herd-sorting, calf-roping, dipping vats – more than concepts or history lessons, these are daily activities that take place and have become some of the most popular aspects of the ranch for visitors to experience.
While they look and act the part of the solitary cowboy, today’s reality is that George Ranch cowboys are far from the lone wolves they portray. As demonstrators of ranch life that visitors are eager to soak up, these cowboys are equal parts ambassadors, tour guides, interpreters and storytellers.
Stoic? Isolated? Loners? Hardly.
“Sharing knowledge and interacting with guests is a great part of my job,” said Lauren Samuelsen, site lead, 1930s Ranching Heritage, George Ranch Historical Park. “Everyone, I think, has a little inner cowboy in them, and I’m happy to relate what it’s like to live that role.”
Besides being energized by the ranch’s visitors, Lauren, the cowboys and the ranch hands are supported by another group in an equally important way.
“Providing the authentic experience we do requires more than people with the skills and passion of a cowboy. We also need strong partners who understand the importance of our heritage and the value of preserving it,” said Krystal Willeby, director of programs, George Ranch Historical Park.
Enter community partners – a modern-day concept that’s vital to maintaining the level of authenticity that makes the George Ranch … well … the George Ranch.
As guests arrive to the Cowboy Demonstration area and approach the fenced-in pen where Lauren and her fellow cowboys ride, rope and herd, they’ll see two signs on either side of the site. The message and words are simple – “This Area Sponsored by NRG.”
These signs are the visible representation of a partnership between NRG, one of the country’s leading power companies with headquarters in Houston, and the Fort Bend History Association (FBHA). NRG has supported the FBHA in several ways over the years, with the most recent being its role as a site sponsor of the Cowboy Demonstration area.
“One of our core values is supporting the communities where we live and work,” said Elizabeth Killinger, president, NRG Retail and Reliant. “As a sixth generation Texan, I feel a strong connection to our state’s unique heritage. We’re so excited to continue supporting the mission of the Fort Bend History Association and the value it brings to local residents.”
NRG owns and operates the W.A. Parish Generating Station, a power plant located a short ride from George Ranch, and is the parent company of Reliant, a local retail electricity provider. In addition to powering, protecting and simplifying life for homes and businesses across Texas, Reliant is also a huge supporter of the ranch. This year, another signature program – the annual Texian Market Days event on October 20 – will be presented by Reliant.
Cowboys and energy go hand-in-hand. At the George Ranch, so do cowboys and NRG.