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Fred Raker
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Fred Raker

George Fredrick Raker (1895-1951)

Born on July 24, 1895, in Susanville, California, George was the eighth child of ten born to George Franklin and Edith Gertrude Long-Raker.

In the early 1870’s, after the Civil War, Christina Raker and his brother, William, both of whom were born in Germany and migrated to Knox County in Illinois, moved west with the many emigrants along the wagon trails and settled in Honey Lake Valley near Susanville at a small community, Milford on the east side of the Sierra Mountains in northern California.

With a background in farming from Germany and Illinois, they raised livestock and farmed the rich soil of the Honey Lake Valley. Christian brought with him a son, George Franklin, the oldest of seven children, who was born in Knoxville, Illinois, in 1855. The other six children were born in Knoxville or Susanville after the migration.

The Rakers became prosperous selling fattened oxen and fresh livestock to the following wagon trains who came west through Winnemucca via the Blackrock Desert on the Noble Emigrant Trail that would take them to Honey Lake before heading north and west over the Sierras and on to California. Along with other prosperous ranchers of the valley, they earned the nickname, “The Neversweats” because of the ease with which they turned a profit from trading with the many wagon trains that had little choice but to trade livestock if they were to be successful in reaching California before winter set in.

At around age 26, George Franklin married Edith Gertrude Long of the Susanville area and they began their family with their oldest daughter Mary, born in 1882. A daughter Christian had died in 1874, shortly after arriving in Milford and the home place was inherited by George Franklin. George Fredrick Raker was the third boy of the ten children but eighth in order of birth. He had a cousin a year or so older, who was also named George, so he became Fred and remained so all his life.

Of the Raker boys, Fred and younger brother Ray stayed on the ranch and became well known in the newly popularized rodeos held in ranching communities all over the west. Fred’s picture of him riding a white faced bull in 1922 at the Susanville Fair became the advertising poster used to publicize the fair for many years. (Brahma bulls were introduced as bucking stock later). Ray was noted for riding a famous saddle bronc called Midnight at the 1928 Pendleton Roundup.

Fred eventually acquired the home ranch at Milford and courted and married Alice Olds of the nearby Tule Mountain Ranch in Nevada, just west of Pyramid Lake, in 1923. Sons Lee Fredrick born in 1925 and Donnel Ray born in 1928 made up the family at the Milford place at the start of the country-wide national disaster then labeled “the depression.” By the early 1930’s Honey Lake dried up, coinciding with the bank calling in the loans on the Raker ranch, and the Fred Raker family looking for employment joined the depression.

Alice was by then a “normal” graduate of the University of Nevada at Reno, and qualified to teach school. Where Fred found work, Alice taught school in rural ranch communities throughout northern Nevada; grades one through eight in a one room school house.

Fred worked where he had expertise, in working with livestock and working with people. During the balance of the 1930’s ranch work opportunities presented themselves at the Jackson Mountain Ranch, west of Winnemucca, Nevada, The South fork Ranch in Elko County on the Humboldt River, before it became part of the Indian Reservation, Spanish Ranch in Independence Valley, north of Elko, Stewart Ranch in Paradise Valley, Abel and Curtner and the Lucky 7 in McDermitt. Alice taught school at the Spanish Ranch, Tuscarora, Paradise Valley, Central School at Willow Point and at Shelton Lane. She also taught at Dyke at the foothills of the Pine Forest Range and McDermitt.

Working in various capacities on the ranches, Fred's knowledge of ranching operations lead to “cow boss” responsibilities, taking the cattle to the range in the spring and for the fall roundup. Summers were spent running the hay crew, installing water troughs on the open range and fixing the thousand things that was required on a working ranch.

While working in the Paradise Valley area, buckaroo camps like Hardscrabble, the Forks, Harvey Camp and others were frequented every year as the cattle were taken out in the spring. The camps were moved every few days by chuck wagon. The cattle moved along slowly and spread over the range, and the cavvy was tended to by the wrango Boy. On many spring rides to the back range, Alice was the camp cook and sons Lee and Don helped out with bringing in the firewood, helping the wrangler, riding drag when moving the hers, or fishing and getting into mischief.

Out of McDermitt the camps were Coyote Creek and Cannonball. One trip required was a day fishing on Louse Creek, a tributary to the Owyhee River and a couple of times to the buckaroo bath tub. This was a hot spring that had formed a natural tub as it cooled and ran down into the Owyhee River.

Fred and Alice never let their loss of the Milford Ranch bear on their ability to look forward to a positive future. Anywhere they were found, you could bet there would be a party soon. Saturday night generally found them both involved in dancing and lots of laughter. While Alice was a good storyteller, Fred enjoyed a practical joke. If not at someone else’s expense, occasionally on him.

In the summer of 1940, while buckarooing in the Owyhee desert for McCulloch’s Lucky 7, Fred and young hand Jim Anderson had an ongoing debate about whom weighed the most. Fred was 6’ 1’ and around 185 pounds. Jim was almost as tall and obviously broader and maybe heavier. Since they were on the desert for several weeks before getting back to the ranch at McDermitt. The debate became a daily issue. Back at the ranch where the bet was to settle, they agreed to meet right after breakfast at the grainery where there was a scale. Fred detoured past the blacksmith’s shop and “loaded” his boot tops with ten pounds of horseshoes, carefully pulling his Levis tight over the boots to hide the evidence of skullduggery. Fred weighed first and confidently tipped the scales at 195. Now it was Jim’s turn, and not suspecting anything, Fred watched the scale bump up to 199 pounds. The laugh was on Fred, even more so when he revealed his conniving.

July of 1940 brought the start of the second family for Fred and Alice with the birth of Alice Jean Raker, later Mrs. Ed Mentaberry of McDermitt, followed by a son John E. Raker in 1943, recently living in Reno, Nevada.

In early 1941, Fred decided to hang up his spurs and became an entrepreneur by opening up the long closed Paradise Valley bar, The Roundup. With two other bars already going, that was not exactly what the small town needed. But, World War II started in December 1941 and provided new opportunities in defense work. Fred took his family and everything he owned on a truck, sold the rest and moved to Henderson, Nevada, where Fred provided support for the war effort as a security guard for the Basic magnesium plant there. For the first time Alice taught school in a graded school and picked the elementary level as her choice. Fred and Alice made their home there and for the first time in their lives they lived in a house with running water and an inside toilet. Fred was pleased, no wood to chop, coal to bring in or ashes to haul out. And you could go to the toilet in the winter without freezing your butt!

Fred’s avid interest in horsemanship and people stayed with him all his life as he and Alice always had horses and Fred was always sought out for his expertise in training and working horses or in shoeing them.

Labor Day weekend of 1951 found Fred and Alice in Winnemucca, Nevada to watch sons Lee and Don ride Bareback broncs in the rodeo, along with nephew Dean Johnson. Brother-in-law Virge Buchannan, a long time cattleman in Humboldt County, and his wife, Jessie (Alice’s sister) hosted a bunch of the family. Long time local Buckaroo’s Lynn Kimball and wife Martha (Alice’s sister) and Tex Bonnet and good friends of Fred and Alice’s were there. Also, Al Olds and his wife Mae (Alice’s brother) was a long time area Buckaroo and Miner.

Alice had to teach school right after labor Day, so on the early morning of September 5, 1951, Fred and Alice headed out to paradise Valley to say goodbye to newly married sons and spouses, Don and Mary Raker, and Lee and Norma Raker. At sunup, just east of Paradise hill, Fred and Alice were killed in a head on car crash by a car leaving Paradise Valley, headed toward Winnemucca. They left a legacy of how to live a full life with expectations that everything will be all right. Don’t worry about things over which you have no control. It was always a positive experience and a lot of fun being with Fred and Alice.