Mule Days names its GMs

<p>2012 Hells Canyon Grand Marshals Grant and Barbara Warnock (right) and Honorary Grand Marshals Duke and Rhee Lathrop were guests of honor at May 2 dinner, also attended by many past HCMD grand marshals.</p>

Between past Hells Canyon Mule Days dignitaries and present directors, the Outlaw Restaurant was filled with mule fanciers last week at the annual dinner when the new parade grand marshals are introduced.

This year members of two of Wallowa County’s pioneer families were honored – Grant and Barbara Warnock of Imnaha were announced as Mule Days’ 2012 grand marshals, while Duke and Rhee Lathrop of Lostine were named as honorary grand marshals.

Many past grand marshals enjoyed the chance to rub elbows with each other at the May 2 dinner. During the evening the three 2012 recipients of the Max Walker Memorial Scholarship were also introduced. High school seniors Brooke Greenshields and Whitney Schaefer of Enterprise and Skylar Waters of Wallowa each received $1,000 in scholarships.

Two of the Lathrops’ nephews introduced the grand marshal honorees. Scott Lathrop, a member of the board of directors, talked about his trip to Imnaha to interview the Warnocks, and of course, stayed for dinner.

Dave Yost had a chance to present the Lathrops, saying that his uncle Duke will always stretch the truth. “Now it’s my turn,” he said.

Grant and Barbara Warnock, both natives of Wallowa County, have lived in the Imnaha canyon since their marriage in 1961, in the same place Grant lived since his birth in 1930; his parents were Charles and Wilma Warnock. Barbara Hockett was born in Flora in 1942.

The couple loves canyon life. “It’s a wonderful place to live and raise a family,” they agree, adding that the hardest part is trying to make a living. The Warnocks are mainstays of the Imnaha community, with all three of their sons raising their own families (six grandsons and one granddaughter) in the canyon.

In addition to raising cattle, the Warnocks know their way around a mule, especially Grant who was a partner in a pack and guide business from 1968 to 1977. He also drove cattle truck for seven years, driving over 800,000 miles across the country.

Barbara Warnock started driving school bus in 1973 and is still driving today.

“The Warnocks exemplify what it means to be family-oriented,” Scott Lathrop said. “They are salt of the earth people, the kind of people we want to represent Mule Days.”

“It’s a great honor to have this happen,” Grant Warnock said. “You don’t expect it, but I really appreciate it.”

Yost reported that Duke Lathrop was born in December, 1924, at Wallowa, the ninth of 13 children of Louis and Hazel Lathrop. While that’s no exaggeration, Yost noted that Duke’s story of a 30 below zero birthday with three feet of snow on the ground may be.

Rhee Caudle grew up on a horse, thanks to her cowboy father, Harley Caudle. “I was my dad’s boy,” she recalls.

The Lathrops were married in Lewiston, Idaho, in 1950.

Yost said that Duke has many stories of growing up on the family farm with 14 other Lathrops. His father not only gave haircuts to his whole family, but the neighbors as well. There were usually 20 to 30 people at the dinner table. Duke later became the house barber in his house. “But be careful if you ask for a haircut, it’s either a crew cut or shorter,” Yost said.

Duke was introduced to mules when he and his brother Shorty bought a place at Christmas Creek on the Snake River. He didn’t know much about packing so he put his slowest mule at the end of the pack string. That white mule pulled the whole pack string down. When asked if they remembered the mule’s name, Rhee thought for a minute and said, that most of the time Duke called it S.O.B.

Through the years, the Lathrops worked hard to make a living, raising cattle and farming, with Rhee working for the census bureau, while raising their two children and 17 foster children.

“They wouldn’t trade the life they’ve lived with anyone,” Yost said of his uncle and aunt.

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