The most anticipated agricultural award of the year, the Wallowa County Stockgrowers Cattlemen of the Year Award, went to an entire family this year. The award was presented Aug. 19, to the Imnaha-based Warnocks: Debi and Charlie, Cynthia and Dan, and Shari and Joe.
Stockgrowers Vice-President Cynthia Warnock made the first presentation to her brother- and sister-in-law Charlie and Debi, not knowing that she and husband Dan were next up to accept the triple award.
Cynthia Warnock praised lifetime cattleman Charlie who operates and manages Bragg Investments Ranch on the Upper Imnaha as a man who was willing to help anyone in any way he could.
“He and Debi are involved in many county groups and activities that benefit both youth and adults,” she said.
Debi works as the OSU county extension agent in charge of Home Economics and 4-H.
Stockgrowers Past President Rod Childers took the microphone next and surprised Cynthia and Dan and Shari and Joe as he completed the “trifecta” of awards.
He teased Cynthia and Dan, the youngest of the Warnock boys, by recounting how they met (through Enterprise rancher Mark Dawson).
“Then,” Childers said, “Cynthia went down to Madras and was feeding for an outfit for a winter and got her head banged up pretty good and came back and married Dan. We’re not real sure what happened there.”
The duo made a go of ranching in the Imnaha Canyon on leased land after that, built their herd with additional purchases of cattle from Lyman Goucher, and now have a nice set-up. Both are frequent supporters and volunteers in events that support 4-H, FFA and their community. In addition to all of her volunteer positions, Cynthia works for the Wallowa County Soil and Water Conservation District.
Stockgrowers Past President Phillip Ketscher (current president of the Wallowa County Ag. Resource Foundation) then took the stage and praised Shari and Joe, the eldest of the Warnock boys, for their lifelong work in cattle. Joe Warnock took over the family ranch in 1984 after his father, Grant, had a heart attack.
“Joe was just in his early 20s,” Ketscher said, emphasizing the responsibility Joe shouldered at an early age.
Joe married Shari in 1988 and they have two children (Bodine 1991 and B.J. 1994) and are now awaiting their first grandchild. Ketscher’s daughter Emily is married to B.J. Warnock.
“In addition to raising great cattle they raised two excellent kids they can be proud of,” proud father-in-law Ketscher said.
“Joe is a very good operator,” Ketscher said, “not only because he raises good cattle and takes very good care of his resource, but he’s smart enough to have married a teacher (at Imnaha School), and that’s real important in agriculture.”
The Stockgrowers surprised their Honorary Member this year as well, bringing Eileen and John Williams up for the award.
Rod Childers made the award, telling the tale of shooting John Williams the first time they met (with a toy dart gun).
“This guy and his wife have just been phenomenal in this county,” Childers said. “He’s been a great friend.”
Williams is Oregon State University Extension Agent for Wallowa County. He trained in animal and rangeland science but he’s worked extensively in natural resource issues since coming to work in Wallowa County.
“John came we were doing the habitat salmon plan, and he was a big involvement there, we formed the Natural Resource Advisory Committee for the county commissioners and he played a big part in that,” Childers said. “Any issue we’ve had in the natural resource area if you went in there and said ‘John, this is what I need,’ if he didn’t have it, he found it for you. With the wolf issue, he’s traveled to Washington with us and gone to California, and the states have asked him to help with the wolf plan revisions. And Eileen is right there beside him, she’s not behind him, she’s right there with him working and helping every day.”
Eileen does “about seven different things,” husband John said, later. “At one time, I counted and it was nine different things, but she’s cut down a bit.”
Among her volunteer work is acting as secretary of the NRAC, secretary of her church and managing the livestock on the home ranch.
A visibly touched Williams humbly accepted the award with his wife.
“I appreciate the support I’ve gotten,” he said. “We came here in July 25 years ago and I remember (Past Stockgrowers President and County Commissioner) the late Pat Wortman of Enterprise asking “will he fit into the community?” I’ve always tried to fit in, and I do feel like it’s a service that we need to be supplying to you and not the other way around. I thank you for all the 4-H and ag support. If there’s anyway we can make something happen we try to do it.”
“Any issue we’ve had in the natural resource area if you went in there and said ‘John, this is what I need,’ if he didn’t have it he found it for you.”
Wallowa County Stockgrowers Past President