Young man sees his future – and it’s in Rappahannock

Carter Bruce restored and painted this 1950 Farm All H tractor in Rappahannock High School shop class. Photo by Manly Bruce.

Former Rappahannock County High School students do not have to leave the county to make a difference in the world. Carter Bruce, a 2006 graduate, is making his mark right here.

After two years at Germanna Community College, where he earned a career studies certificate with four mechanical specialty certifications, Bruce determined to realize his dream by working in a field he thoroughly enjoys. During his college training, he took a job “over the mountain” in an auto shop. “I had an interest in cars and building motors. I thought auto mechanics was my route, but I didn’t like being in the shop all the time.”

Bruce’s big break came when Will Dodson, a high school classmate, told him of a job opening at Brown Ford Tractor Sales in Culpeper. He landed the job and became an agricultural equipment mechanic and equipment hauler. “I get to work on tractors — my passion. Farming and agricultural stuff is in my blood. It’s what I’m destined for. I love it.” He gets to pursue his passion while working alongside Dodson. “We were best friends in high school, are still best friends, and now he lives right across the road from me.”

Relocating to Culpeper to be nearer to work was not an option for Bruce. “I love Rappahannock. I call it ‘God’s country.’ There’s nowhere else like it. No traffic lights, no McDonald’s, none of that. Yes, it’s grown up some, but its keeping its traditions, its roots. Everyone knows everyone. If you broke down on the side of the road, chances are somebody who knows you would pull over to help. I’ve been up to the big city to work. I’d rather take this any day.”

With a gentlemanly Southern accent, laced with respectful “yes m’am” responses to questions, Bruce revealed that he is the sixth generation of his family to live in Rappahannock. “The place I’m living is now my dad’s. There’s too much blood, sweat and tears in this ground for me to ever sell it. It may not be large acreage, but I’m looking to expand it in the future. I’d like to farm here.”

As Bruce contemplated the county’s future, he offered some thought-provoking insight. “I slowly see Rappahannock getting out of the agricultural part of its roots. Of course, there’s more to the county than that, but our local history is the agricultural use of the land. I see less and less kids from farms. I would like to see the school getting back into FFA [Future Farmers of America]. Ol’ Rappahannock is a lot of farm land, but there doesn’t seem to be many kids into it anymore.”

Part of Bruce’s plan to impact his generation involves awareness of the importance of agriculture. “If something big happens in the world, people will look to the farmer. Much of the farming now is organic. They have little vegetable plots, but I’m talking about farming: tons of hay, over 100 head of cattle, that scale. It’s up to us younger generations to keep farming going.”

Bruce’s post-RCHS life is certainly an example of success. A county native who is proud of his family and their heritage and is looking to preserve a long-standing American way of life. In his plight, he is plying a trade about which he is passionate and enjoying every moment of the ride.

His advice to the rising high school graduates? He laughingly said: “I’d love to sit and talk to them.” He reminded the teenagers to “listen to the people who know — the people who’ve been there and done that. As hard as it is to listen to your teachers and the adults, you don’t want to repeat their same mistakes. And don’t judge a book by its cover. It applies to many things. Looking at a piece of ugly equipment with a bad paint job . . . well, it may be the best running equipment on the farm. Same with people. You look at someone from a troubled life and judge that person, but God looks after people like that. You never know the success their lives might be.”

1 Comment

  1. As a 7-year resident of Rappahannock (grew up just over the county line in Culpeper) and farmer’s daughter, I am much impressed by Carter Bruce’s outlook. He seems to have figured out in his 20s what takes most of us until our 30s and 40s to figure out. Much luck to you Mr. Bruce!

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