Finding Success in an En-Deering Place
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When he's not working at the Brazos River Authority or rescuing injured or abandoned deer, Dirk Bland can be found building deer stands for the local soldiers and their families to have a place to hunt or helping with fishing events where he teaches kids how to tie knots, bait hooks, clean fish, and shoot bows.
Bland is a natural deer whisperer, and that title began with a deer he named Buckaroo.
Bland spent four years in west Texas working as a dam tender at Lake Alan Henry, where he and his family lived as part of his job for the BRA. "My wife and I were out checking gates and fences at Lake Alan Henry when we found a doe hung in the barbed wire fence. We were pulling her out of the fence when we looked over and found the fawn. There was a lady in the city of Post that took care of deer, but she wouldn't do anything with it if it was a buck. This one wound up being a buck, so we decided to try to take care of it on our own."
When the fawn ran around, it hopped like a kangaroo, so they named him Buckaroo. At the time, the couple had a dog who had just given birth to a litter of puppies. The momma dog accepted the fawn as her own, allowing it to nurse along with her pups in addition to what the Bland's were feeding him.
"When we moved to Belton, our neighbor was getting her license to be a rehabber for birds, raccoons, opossums, and stuff like that," said Bland, "we told her about Buckaroo, and she ended up letting us help her. We now work under her as a substitute. We only do the deer, we tried to do a little rabbit, but it's too hard."
Bland thinks they've rehabbed several dozen deer. Over the years, they've lost a few because nature dictates they should be with their mom. He says, "We end up getting fawns that people find. They think that the mom left them when in reality, she's only away at the time."
After rehabbing a fawn, Bland and his wife release them into their rural Belton neighborhood. He estimates there are probably 17 or 18 running around that they've nursed. He says most of them come around but keep their distance, with one exception.
Tinks is a 7.5-year-old Bland alumnus. "Tinks will come into the house, walk in the front door and go right out the back door. She eats peanuts, bread, Oreo cookies, fruit snacks, and dog food. She even sleeps on the welcome mat on the front porch," Bland said.
His newest granddaughter, Eleanor Paige, born February 24, 2023, just met Tinks for the first time, although Eleanor slept through the first meeting.
Bland grew up in Killeen and has lived in the Killeen/Fort Hood area most of his life. He and his wife, Cathy, have been married for 27 years.
When the couple married, each had a daughter from a previous marriage, and both girls were named Kayla…Kayla Grace and Kayla Renee.
Their first daughter together is Corybelle. It's a unique name based on the two counties he and his wife were from. "I grew up in Bell County, and my wife was from Gatesville, which is Coryell County. We put the two together and came up with Corybelle," Bland explains. "Our second daughter together is Lacy."
Bland grew up doing "anything outdoors," and they've raised their daughters the same way. The girls were in archery and outdoor clubs. Every weekend the family did something outdoors. "Our vacations even included hunting trips. I took the girls dove hunting in Argentina; it was a great event for the family," Bland said.
While doing construction on Fort Hood and working at Pepsi in the evenings, a friend told him about a job opening at the BRA-run Temple-Belton Wastewater Treatment plant. He applied and was hired. Bland stayed there for a little over 8 years before taking on his next position at another BRA-run facility.
His next move took him to far west Texas to Lake Alan Henry, where he worked as a dam tender, watching over and maintaining the rural property that serves as the water supply for the city of Lubbock. Bland has fond memories of his time at Lake Alan Henry for many reasons. The most memorable was when his youngest daughter, Lacy, was born 86 miles away in Lubbock.
Bland explains, "I enjoyed Lake Alan Henry. It was 14 miles to the mailbox, it was out in the country, and I'm an outdoorsy type of person. Our family got close, playing in the dirt, hunting, fishing, and exploring. The people in West Texas were friendly. It was a whole different experience. I'm still friends with those people."
When the BRA divested of Lake Alan Henry, selling the reservoir to the city of Lubbock, Bland and his family moved back to Central Texas, where he began working at the Waco Metropolitan Area Regional Sewerage System, another BRA facility. He became a supervisor for the dryer building where compost pellets were made. When the city of Waco took over the wastewater treatment plant, Bland returned to the Temple-Belton Wastewater Treatment plant and worked his way up to the maintenance supervisor.
In 2017, when a position came open at the Central Office location, Bland applied. "They were looking for a Construction project coordinator, construction and maintenance," Bland said. "I thought it would be a good fit." Bland has worked for the BRA for 34 years with no plans to retire anytime soon.
Having worked with many people in varying capacities throughout his time at the BRA, Bland has developed some close, life-long friendships. No matter who you ask, Bland's work ethic and ability to simply get any job done is the common statement across the board.
"Dirk is an outstanding employee and asset to the organization," said Blake Kettler, BRA technical services manager and Bland's supervisor. "He has the ideal qualities that we all strive for in our careers and represents the guiding principles of the organization,"
"He is always willing to help and take on any task, even the ones that fall outside his normal job duties. And, you know it will be done, and done right," Kettler said. "I appreciate him more than he knows. It's always great to see him, and I enjoy the conversations we have."
His coworkers feel the same.
"If humanly possible, Dirk would absolutely do anything someone asked him to do," said David Jones, capital improvement planning administrator.
"Dirk is the most dependable person I have ever met," stated Jackie Scott, assistant reservoir manager/program coordinator at Lake Limestone
John Dickson, reservoir manager at Lake Limestone, has been one of Blands closest friends at the BRA. Dickson said, "Since becoming Dirk's friend, a feeling developed that I don't want to let Dirk down."
Dickson added that "Working with Dirk has taught me: 1) don't stand around with your hands in your pockets while everyone is working, 2) get busy, and 3) always, always ride for the BRA Brand," Dickson explains. "But becoming friends with Dirk has taught me: 1) be kind to everyone, 2) help people out if you can, 3) always, always be an hour early."
After working in many different positions, Bland's job continues to evolve. He's now helping with construction projects by overseeing plans and specifications to ensure accuracy.
Bland elaborates, "I'm currently working on the slope repair at East Williamson County Regional Water System with the erosion issues there. I'm involved with the tainter gate replacement at Lake Limestone and the Copper Ion project in the Williamson County Regional Raw Water Line intake structure at Lake Stillhouse that will keep the mussels from clogging up the line. I'm helping with the environmental building and boat storage that will be built on the grounds of the Central Office. I also help with smaller projects like asphalt repairs in the parks, the chip seal at the parks in Granbury, Board Room remodel, and concrete jobs for bicycle racks. If it needs to be fixed, I hope they call on me to help fix it."
Over the years, Bland has added licenses and certifications to help with his work at the BRA. He's taken an Automotive AC course at Temple Junior College, has a Class A Wastewater Treatment license, a Level II NACE/AMMP Coating inspection certification, and a Texas Nondestructive Visual Testing Level I and II.
When asked what he likes most about the BRA, Bland doesn't hesitate, "It’s the people. It’s like family here. When I went through neck cancer, the support I got from everyone was unbelievable. People took off work to drive me to my appointments and drove from Waco just to bring us meals.”
“I would like to stress that the BRA is the best place to work,” Bland continues. “Everybody that I’ve worked with and worked under is a good leader. We have a lot of talent in the BRA staff. When the article comes out, I hope that people see being here and being a family makes this a good job.”