In July 1994 Vern Gerdau learned he'd been secretly nominated and secretly selected as a new member of the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Posse.

Since that day at Mother Lode Motors, where he's sold cars and trucks for 22 years, he's held numerous posse offices, ranging from treasurer to Mother Lode Roundup co-chairman. This year he's in the lead.

He's captain of the group responsible for the annual Mother's Day weekend event. As posse captain, he oversees meetings and sets the agendas, too.

"It's just been a great, rewarding year," said Gerdau, 57, who was nominated for the top post in July and took over the next month.

Gerdau had wanted to work with the posse since he and his wife, Debie, first saw the Redshirts working at the 1990 Roundup rodeo.

"I thought to myself, 'someday I hope to be involved with this group,' " he said. "I thought, 'this isn't a bunch of guys with silver saddles they're out there working in the dirt.' "

Gerdau learned he'd been accepted to the Posse from his late friend and fellow posseman Art Bryson. "He came here one day and said, 'Congratulations, you're in the posse,' " said Gerdau. "Since then I've been involved, constantly, and loved it."

Over the years Gerdau has twice co-chaired the Mother Lode Roundup, and served as the posse's first lieutenant, assistant drill master and treasurer. He's also saddled up and ridden with other posse members in dozens of parades throughout the state.

Hard to believe, considering Gerdau didn't always like horses. "My father had horses," he said. "I really wasn't that interested."

That changed about 25 years ago when he and his wife, then living in Cupertino, rented horses and went on a ride one weekend in their San Jose-area community.

"The next thing you know, the Corvette's gone and we're getting a trailer," he said. "By the next weekend we had the first horse. By the next we had the second."