From the Corps XVI: Nick Gonzales

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Nick Gonzales grew up west of Houston in the community of Brookshire. It's not a place known for farming, but one home-grown talent is rising through the ranks as a Texas A&M cadet.

The Corps was certainly a big A&M attraction for Gonzales, but so was another historic aspect of the school. Here's a hint: it wasn't mechanical.

"I was encouraged to join ag science and FFA in high school, and it just really stuck to me," he said.

Now stuck in farming classes, Gonzales is especially fond of working with livestock. Multiple times a week, he can be found out at the O.D. Butler, Jr. Animal Science Complex in hands-on classes. Weighing piglets is the order of one day, working with some 15 other students.

"I just like being able to work with people in agriculture, and I really get along with them well," Gonzales said. "I really enjoy it."

It's a big part of the reason why Gonzales is going after a career in ag education, hoping to teach high schoolers all the synergy of agronomy.

"I really liked how you could take an animal -- let's use a pig for example because pigs are always my favorite -- and the way you alter that pig's ration, their environment, everything affects the overall outcome," he said.

Rations, environments, the overall outcome -- everything a cadet does affects the Corps life, too. Gonzales's life revolves around the Parsons Mounted Cavalry.

The horse cavalry program originally began back in 1919, but was eliminated in 1943, considered "obsolete," that according to A&M's PMC website. However, in 1972, cadets petitioned the Corps' commandant, Colonel Tom Parsons, to bring the group back. It's current name reflects Parsons' call.

Fiddler's Green out on FM 2818 is the group's home, 27 acres for their dozens of horses to roam, along with its dedicated students like Gonzales.

"I stay up here all summer and during the Christmas break because I really care about those horses and the success of that unit," Gonzales said.

It is certainly a throwback, a simpler yet complicated life in PMC, one lined with leather and dripping with attention to detail.

"There's a lot of stuff that can go wrong out there, and there's a lot of stuff that can go right," Gonzales explained. "You have to have people that are dedicated, that are willing to work, and that are coachable."

Gonzales admittedly wasn't much of a horse person before his time in the cav, but things did change, especially if it means getting off the Corps' quad.

"I'm the type of person that likes to be outside doing something productive, like working," he said. "I hate being cooped up inside the little dorm."

It's been a blessing for Gonzales to be a part of PMC, and has developed into one of its shining stars. Plus, he's gotten a good base once he leaves the green as a student.

"The skills that I learn in the cavalry, especially me being an ag major, I can apply to my career when I leave A&M."

That coaching is one of the key tasks of the leadership on the green, making sure the next generation are ready to go. Torches may be passed in single ceremonies, but lessons are taught throughout the year.

"When it's time to sit down and do stuff, we're going to sit here, we're going to work together and accomplish this goal," Gonzales said. "I'm now willing to talk to people and listen to people."

One of the latest talk and listen sessions: Gonzales and Interim A&M President Eddie Davis. The cadet's idea: an outfit in the Corps specifically for ag majors, and an aggressive recruitment of those cadets.

The Corps' answer: the return next year of the old Company C-1 for that very idea. It's a unit Davis was once a part of, and an idea Davis was quite supportive of. Plus, Gonzales will head up that unit for its big return.

"When they leave high school and come up here to A&M and want to major in agriculture, that they know they can be a part of this and get the ultimate leadership experience that you would get out of A&M and the Corps," Gonzales said of the new venture.

In a university surrounded by and shrouded in history, Gonzales has embraced the agricultural and military traditions of Texas A&M, made them his own, and owned the responsibilities that come with life in the Corps.

"Even though the Corps changes everyday, it's still exactly the same as it's always been," Gonzales said, "and that's probably one of the greatest things about it."