John McErquiaga (1916-1979)
McErquiaga was born at Horse Creek Ranch in Kings River, Nev. on October
7, 1916. He was one of twelve children, including his twin brother Julio
who were born to Basque immigrants, Bruno and Candidia Marcurerquiaga.
The name was shortened later on. Kings River Valley was a remote place
back when John was growing up. With such a large family, the older kids
took care of the younger ones. Everyone was taught to work at an early
age. Animals were a big part of life, dogs, burros, horses, cattle, and
They broke their own horses and mules to work cattle on the ranch and
to use as a way of transportation. Work horses and mules were also used
for pulling the wagons and haying equipment. The hay was put up in a stack
using teams of horses or mules. John worked as a young man, herding sheep,
haying, and feeding cattle for other ranches to help support the family.
John was a natural with horses and broke many darn good horses. He enjoyed
working with horses and teaching them tricks. He always had a few that
would bow, count, and even lay down. He made them all gentle as he could
from the start.
John could always be found with a good cow dog beside him and his horse.
A loyal dog and one that could work cattle and guard his saddle and bedroll
when he was away. A soft spoken word was all that was needed to make a
good dog mind. With no range fences, sharing the range with neighboring
ranch outfits was common, they would buckaroo many miles around the country.
Most of the ranches had buckaroo camps on the range where all the ranches
stayed and worked together. They gathered the cattle, worked and sorted
the herds, then took their own cattle home. They sometimes had a cook,
but many times they batched (cooked for themselves) and took turns doing
the chores. In the evenings they would shoe horses and fix their gear/tack.
Swapping stories, comparing horses, dogs. and gear was an evening event
around camp laughing and teasing each other made their jobs more enjoyable.
John bought the River Ranch in 1939, starting his own spread. He spent
many long days fencing and fixing his place up, while he also cared for
his cattle and building the size of his herd. He married Grace McNinch
in 1945. Together they worked to keep the ranch growing and improving.
They enjoyed the rodeos in McDermitt and in Winnemucca, NV. John would
enter the halter and reining horse classes. John enjoyed roping and also
the horse races at the rodeos. Sometimes Grace would enter the horse races.
He had a lot of pride in their Quarter horses and cattle.
Though broncos didn't bother John. Out through the brush he went, before
sunrise with a horse bucking. The kids would just watch him and give him
plenty of room. He'd be fanning the bucking horse with his hat. After
the horse decided it wasn't doing him any good to buck, he would settle
down for a long day of work, gathering, roping and working cattle.
John and Grace raised two daughters and taught them the ranching way of
life. Seven grandchildren were small, but John made sure they had horses,
gear, and wise advice from their Grandpa. He always had a wink in his
eye and a smile to encourage them.
John passed away at the young age of 63, leaving behind his loving wife,
who still lives and operates the River Ranch, Orovada, NV .His daughters
and their husbands and grandchildren still love him and all that he stood
John left behind a legacy of love, kindness and wisdom that lives in the
memories of his family and friends... John McErquiaga was a "true
John McErquiaga was inducted into the Buckaroo Hall of Fame in September