Locals hunt elk for Washington, D.C. party in 1946

Aldie Oliver rides on Duke.

In the fall 1946, Associate Justice William O'Douglas of the U.S. Supreme Court had asked my dad, Roy Schaeffer, if he could get an elk or two so that he could have an elk dinner party for some friends.

I was attending school that year at Eastern Oregon College of Education in La Grande. My roommate at Pierce Hall was Leo Juve from Enterprise.

At the time that Mr. Douglas wanted the elk, my dad and his friend Dewey Cooper (a conductor for Union Pacific of La Grande) could not locate any elk, although they had put out a serious hunting effort.

My dad decided to ask Aldie Oliver to give him a helping hand. He drove to Aldie's home in Lower Valley. Aldie's wife, May Bell, told dad that A.J. (Aldie) had taken a truckload of hogs to Portland and about when he planned to return. Dad and Dewey Cooper drove to La Grande in the hope of locating A.J. when he arrived there. They found A.J. at the Eagles Club. He was relaxing and feeling no pain after the long drive from Portland. It took a little while for my dad to get A.J. off to one side and inform him of the hunting venture that he had in mind.

Aldie was inspired to join the hunting expedition so they soon headed for his home in Lower Valley; A.J. in his Reo farm truck and dad and Dewey in the '35 Plymouth. The compelling reason for being in a hurry is that cow season would end in two days. After a short night's sleep they got up before daylight and enjoyed a good breakfast (May Bell was a great cook). Aldie wasted no time getting his faithful horse Duke saddled and headed up Rock Creek. May Bell's uncle Jim Hartley had taken good care of Duke, so he was ready to travel. Dad and Dewey drove toward Promise and turned off on the Charlie Brown Road where they proceeded to hunt all day.

A few words about Duke

As one can see in the picture, Duke was a good looking horse. Very few people got to ride Duke. Aldie was quite particular. I rode Duke a few times, which was a great experience. One could ride him full speed and just touch his neck with a rein and he would change direction. One time my dad and I rounded up our horses on the Minam range and had them corralled at Chestnut Springs.

The second day near noon we brought in about ten head to the corral, a few strays. I remarked to my dad, a stray pinto looked real good and I might catch him to ride and give Duke some time off. Dad didn't say anything, so I went ahead and caught and saddled the pinto. He seemed to be fairly gentle, so I climbed on and rode him the rest of the day. However, as I think of that venture it was not a smart maneuver. That horse could have thrown me off and run away with my new saddle. I was 22 and I guess, as the old saying goes, I was ten feet tall and bulletproof.

We loaded several horses in the Studebaker truck that we thought might give us trouble driving. I started out driving the remaining 25 head by myself, while riding Duke. Some horses drifted toward Squaw Creek. I got them turned back and headed toward Minam. Then they started toward the Minam River. Duke was going full blast and came to a rock scab patch, with no time to slow down, so I headed Duke to the narrowest part and he jumped the rocks, then headed the horses and once again pointed them toward Minam. We finally reached Minam. My dad helped stop the horses long enough for me to catch a different horse to ride on to Lower Valley. Duke had done a great job that day - a magnificent performance.

Back to the elk hunt

Aldie, while riding Duke near an opening, located two elk and dismounted to take a shot, but the elk ran away. Aldie placed the rifle back in the scabbard, mounted Duke, and rode toward the elk. Actually Aldie, on Duke, pursued those two elk on a long chase until they stopped with their tongues hanging out. Aldie dismounted and shot both elk.

The harvesting process soon began. Aldie excelled in butchering deer and elk. He was fast and had the ability to do a good, neat job. Aldie dressed out both elk and placed fir boughs over each carcass to keep the birds away. By this time A.J. was running out of daylight, so he had to rely on Duke to find the way and take him home, which he did with no problem. When Aldie arrived at the barn, he said my dad was waiting for him with a forlorn look on his face. My dad's first statement was, "I suppose you didn't see anything."

As Aldie prepared to unsaddle, he told dad that he got two elk - a statement that instantly raised morale, and dad pulled a pint of Hermitage out of his pocket. They each took a few sips. That day had ended highly successfully.

They drove out the next day, hauled the elk quarters to Aldie's home, and proceeded to take good care of the meat. They let it age a few days and then wrapped it properly to be shipped to Washington, D.C. My dad loaded the quarters in the '35 Plymouth, drove to La Grande and to Pierce Hall, where I resided. I could see the back end of the car sagging with a heavy load.

My dad asked me to go with him to the state police office to get the meat tagged so it could be shipped by plane to Washington, D.C. I was a bit shaken. In my opinion, this was a semi-legal venture. The elk were legally tagged by my dad and Dewey. But Aldie did the shooting. Anyway, I went with my dad. The officers were real pleasant and cooperative as they tagged the quarters. Soon the elk (wapiti) were loaded on a plane and headed for Washington, D.C. As I recall, the party was quite enjoyable.

Arnold Schaeffer is a resident of Wallowa.

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