The owners of a Wallowa area ranch were honored by their peers for 30 years of hard work Saturday by the Wallowa County Stockgrowers Association.
Max and Jeanie Mallory received the Stockgrowers' "Cattleman of the Year" award during the organization's annual banquet at Cloverleaf Hall. They are the 50th recipients of the award since the Stockgrowers started presenting the award to its members in 1951.
"It's cool to be recognized by you peers for all your hard work," Jeanie Mallory said after receiving the award.
The Mallorys own a 250-head cow herd based at their ranch on Promise Road about four miles northeast of Wallowa. They winter their cows in the Wallowa Valley and pasture them on 11,000 acres of Boise Cascade land at Grossman during the summer. They also keep yearings on Smith Mountain, and last year started leasing property from Reid and Marilyn Johnson.
The Wallowa ranch couple built their operation from the ground up, starting in 1973 when they moved to Wallowa County from Asotin with only seven cows to go to work for rancher Don Hough. They later bought property near Hermiston in an attempt to put together a ranch in Umatilla but returned to Wallowa County after five or six years.
"Max really missed the mountains," Jeanie said of their return to Wallowa Coutny. The couple purchased what is now their home place from Frank Kirschten and enrolled their kids, Clay and Erin, in school at Wallowa.
For the next 20 years they eked out a living by working government jobs which they needed to subsidize their cattle operation. Max, 56, went to work for the Forest Service as their trails supervisor in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area while Jeanie was employed as a program technician with the U.S. Farm Service Administration.
"We both went to work because the cow market was so bad," Jeanie said, adding, "It is not economically feasible unless you have jobs."
The market was so bad in those first years that they sold off all but 35 of the 150 Herefords that they owned when they returned to Wallowa County.
It hasn't been easy, but Jeanie takes in stride holding down two jobs all these years.
"You've got to be dedicated," she said. "It's all in where your priorities are. It let us raise our kids in the lifestyle that we wanted for them. Our kids are a big part of what we do."
She jokes that they plowed all of their money back into the ranch.
"Good cows, good horses ... particleboard floors," she said. "My kids like to say they grew up in a cabin."
Now grown, both children stay close to their family roots, and their mother credits them with being hard workers. Clay works for Henderson Fuel & Logging and runs 65 cows with his parents. Erin (Melville) recently graduated from the University of idaho with a degree in range management, which she is putting to work at her new job with Wallowa Resources.
Max, who retired from his Forest Service job last year, is a ghird generation Wallowa County rancher. He graduated from high school at Anatone, Wash.
Jeanie, 51, grew up at Asotin, Wash., and graduated from high school there in 1968. Shortly thereafter she married Max, and the couple recently celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary.
Jeanie is beginning her second year as vice president of the Stockgrowers. She also serves as a member of the Grande Ronde Model Watershed board of directors, and spent nine years on the Wallowa School Board.