It’s been 100 years since my Great-Grandfather Whittaker stepped off a train and arrived in Leadore, Idaho, to establish a ranch of his own. He and his young wife loved the area that reminded them of home in Circleville, Utah, with the majestic mountains on either side of a wide valley and plenty of room to farm and graze. They built a cabin and raised 11 children in the Lemhi Valley. My Grandpa Whittaker was No. 3 of 11 and kept up his parent’s tradition of hard work. He really started expanding the ranch when he took over.
Legend has it, that the ranch had its beginnings started with two bum lambs. My grandpa, as a boy, had two lambs to care for and his brother got two as well. They bottle fed the lambs, kept them warm and eventually earned something for their round-the-clock efforts. His brother sold his sheep and bought a saddle. My grandpa took his earnings and invested in more livestock, which led to opportunities to purchase land … and so on and so forth. That decision by a young boy at a fork in the road made all the difference in the path he took and the progress he made.
My grandpa as well as my father became the anchors in the family operation. They both had a vision that guided every decision as more land was acquired; larger herds of livestock were developed and other ranching operations were purchased to add to the main ranch. His home became the epicenter of family activities and especially Fourth of July celebrations.
My father continued in his father’s footsteps and last Fourth of July, we held a Centennial celebration to honor the legacy and sacrifice of the Whittakers. More than 100 relatives from across the country gathered at my parents’ home.
We participated in the hometown activities like the EMT breakfast and the Leadore parade down Main Street. We then gathered at the house for a big meal of pulled pork and barbecue beef sandwiches and of course, a Centennial cake.
Older relatives spent the afternoon telling stories and sharing memories of the ranch. The highlight was bringing out the old wagon used by my great-grandparents. My cousin Melva went to great lengths to have the wagon restored and ready to roll.
The event was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed in those relatives who lived fairly close but chose not to attend. Moments like that are few and far between and I firmly believe we have to take advantage of opportunities to honor the past and strengthen family bonds for future generations.
I love the place where I grew up and all the life lessons I learned while working hard for the good of our family operation. I’ve tried to pass on those experiences to my children who are the fifth generation to work on our Centennial Ranch. I hope we all make my great-grandparents proud.