Local News

Sunday, Jan 19 2014 08:00 PM

Kern cattleman, cattlewoman of the year have deep local roots

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    By Contributed photo

    Bill Rankin has been named 2014 Cattleman of the Year.

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  2. 2 of 2

    By Contributed photo

    Kathy Williams has been named 2014 CattleWoman of the Year.

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BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer jcox@bakersfield.com

One is a lifelong cattleman carrying on the ranching tradition established by his great-grandfather in Walker Basin in 1863. The other grew up on a ranch but didn't return to the industry until after she had dedicated most of her career to nursing.

Together, Bill Rankin and Kathy Williams are being celebrated as the 2014 Kern County Cattleman and CattleWoman of the Year.

The Kern County CattleWomen & Cattlemen plan to honor them Jan. 24 in a banquet at the Petroleum Club, on the 12th floor of Stockdale Tower, 5060 California Ave.

Besides a love for the ranching lifestyle, the bond between them is their respective families' local heritage.

"Both of their families have deep roots dating back to the 1800s right here in Kern County," Amanda Rankin Barrett, last year's Kern cattlewoman of the year, wrote in an email announcing the honorees.

Bill Rankin, though born in Bakersfield, grew up in Walker Basin at Rankin Ranch, which last year celebrated its 150th anniversary.

His childhood chores included milking cows, cutting down weeds and feeding animals. But along with the hard work came fun: fishing, hunting and horseback-riding.

After graduating from Bakersfield High, where he played on the school football team, Rankin earned a degree in agricultural economics and the University of California at Davis.

He returned to the ranch to help his widowed mother raise cattle, grow hay and, later, look after the family's guest ranch. In 1971, he married Glenda Hill. The couple raised four children, and now they have eight grandchildren.

Glenda said Bill, 68, made a point of teaching his kids, and now his grandkids, to enjoy the life, and work, of a rancher.

"He loves his life and has always said he never worked a day in his life because he loves what he's doing," she said.

Williams' great-grandmother started her family's ranching tradition in 1871 by buying a small cattle herd with money she earned sewing and teaching English.

But Williams, who like Bill Rankin attended Bakersfield High, was called to a different line of work. After attending Bakersfield College, she transferred to Mount St. Mary's College, where she earned a bachelor's degree in nursing.

Her early career took her from Kern County, where she worked as a public health nurse, to Fort Worth, Texas, where her husband, Gary Williams, was stationed in the U.S. Air Force. She worked there as director of the St. Joseph Hospital's School of Nursing.

After the couple returned to California in 1966, Kathy Williams took a job as a public health nurse and, later, as a school nurse for the Los Angeles Superintendent of Schools. She and her family returned to Bakersfield in 1989, and she worked locally as a school nurse until 2006.

Though still active in the Kern County Medical Reserve Corps and the California School Nurse Organization, Williams, a mother of two and grandmother of two, has returned to her ranching roots.

West Kern rancher Ken Twisselman said that although Williams, 75, doesn't own any cattle, she can be counted on to lend a hand on the ranch his son-in law owns west of Maricopa.

"When they need a little help, she brings her horse out and helps them," he said.

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