DECATUR -- Steve Drew has known Alan Roberson so long, they used to play marbles together.
From the mid-1960s, when they went to Pugh School together along with Roberson's older brother, Terry, to the mid-1970s, when they both began working for the Macon County Conservation District, to today, the two have remained friends.
There have been times when they drifted apart, and they don't spend as much time together as they used to – life happens – but ask Drew about Roberson and he doesn't hesitate: "We're best of friends."
Both have worked various jobs with the conservation district, but each has settled in: Drew is the unit supervisor at Sand Creek Recreation Area, and Roberson is the unit supervisor at Friends Creek Conservation Area.
Neither had planned on making conservation district a lifelong career when they began working there in August of 1975. Drew was looking for work and a friend of his was dating a girl who worked with the conservation district as a naturalist: Roberson said he thought her name was Cathy. She told Drew there were openings, so he applied for the job and got it.
"It was a maintenance position at Friends Creek," Drew said. "When I started, everyone (with the conservation district) worked out at Friends Creek."
At that point, Drew had recently reconnected with Roberson. Drew was three years older than Roberson, but the two had often found each other in the same games of baseball or whatever outdoor activities were going on as kids growing up near each other. Roberson hadn't seen Steve in awhile until running into him at Terry's house in late 1974.
"After we were kids, we kind of lost touch," Roberson said. "But after I saw him at my brother's we started running around. We'd go fishing together and things like that."
After Drew, then 23, was hired at Friends Creek, he told Roberson, then 20, about it and soon they were working together.
There were times the two worked side-by-side. But as the conservation district grew to include more properties, more opportunities arose.
Roberson and his family bought five acres and a house a couple miles from Friends Creek 30 years ago, and he's been at Friends Creek near in Cisco permanently for 25 years. He runs the campground every summer.
Drew became supervisor at Sand Creek 16 years ago. That job comes with a house that's on Sand Creek property. It's off Elwin Road between Decatur and Mount Zion.
"We both have families, so we're not as close as we used to be, but we still get together and play cards when we get the chance," Roberson said. "We don't get a lot of chance to work together anymore, either, but if one of us needs help, we'll go out and help each other with a prescribed burn."
While neither pictured being with the conservation district 40 years after they first applied, it didn't take either long to figure out they'd found the right job.
"There's a variety of work – it's something different every day," Roberson said. "I like never knowing what I'm going to do when I come in. We had the storm damage a couple weeks ago, then the flooding. And in the summer there's the campground."
Drew's list reads similarly. His current challenge is keeping the Sand Creek trails passable and unplugging debris from the creek crossings.
"There's always something new to deal with," Drew said. "But I like it a lot. It's worked out well."