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Elmer D 'Shamy' Johnson (1916 - 20__)

The following is a tribute to Shamy Johnson, by Judy Potts, Donna Murdock, Patsy Jo McMichaels, and Dashiel Clark ... submitted June 20, 2009

Elmer D. Johnson was born in Vale, Oregon on May 26, 1916, and spent his life in Malheur and Harney counties. His father nicknamed him Shamrock when he was a toddler because he always wanted to hear his dad sing the Shamrock song. The nickname was soon shortened to Shamy.

Shamy earned a lot of respect as a cowboy, real estate agent and community servant. He loved to retell the events that occurred during his long and productive life.

Shamy was on a horse from the time he was a preschooler. He remembers riding his dad's horse, Old Bally when he was about five years old. Old Bally wouldn't get out of a walk when a kid was on his back, but Shamy wanted to go fast so he climbed off of the horse and got a stick. Old Bally wouldn't let him back on as long as he had the stick in his hand, and in fact chased him back to the house nipping at his backside. Shamy finally got his own horse when he was eight years old and no longer had to put up with Old Bally.

When Shamy was eleven he landed his first cowboy job from Dick DeArmond. He was to drive a couple hundred head of cattle from outside Adrian to Vale along with an old cowboy named John Boston. When they arrived in Adrian the herd got spooked and stampeded through town tearing down clotheslines and knocking over outhouses as they ran. The herd was too much for one old man and a young kid to handle. The finally got the herd under control and competed the job.

Shamy never moved back home after that. His cowboy life was born and he spent the next several years working on ranches throughout Oregon.

Shamy started to buckaroo for Elmer Robbins when he was twelve years old. He worked for Robbins on and off for several years. At times he was alone at Freeze Out, and at time other cowboys joined him. Bob Maupin, Lars (Fat) Hansen, and Al Wilson were among some of the old timers that Shamy rode with during his teenage years.

One year Shamy was working with Fred Weisner pushing cows at Drycreek. Fred was riding a colt and Shamy's horse was lagging behind, so Shamy spurred his horse to catch up. When his horse ran up, it spooked Fred's horse and Fred got bucked off. Shamy was told to stay in front. A little while later a gust of wind came up and blew his hat off. The hat landed on the head of Fred's horse and the colt blew up again. Needless to say, Fred wasn't too happy.

When Shamy was fifteen years old he spent some time at Double Mountain catching yearling wild horses which he brought to Vale and sold. He also spent some time herding sheep.

Shamy married Erma Maupin in 1936 and everything they owned fit into one suitcase. They enjoyed their nearly sixty-six years together, and both worked hard to make a success on their ranches and other business undertakings.

Shamy worked at the Hines sawmill in his early twenties. He saved every dime he could spare to buy cows. He leased pasture from Tom Johnson to run his cows, and when he had 30 or 40 head he decided to buy a ranch at Westfall, Oregon. The ranch ran about 250 head of cattle. He sold the ranch after five years, but kept about thirty of his cows. He also had a herd of mares that would be gathered each spring and the yearlings broke to lead and then sold. Shamy kept the better colts to break and to ride at a later time or to add to the herd.

He worked as a brand inspector for three or four years while helping to manage the Stockman's Café and Bar that he had purchased with partners Kenny Johnson and George Troy. He then went to work for Harold Jenkins on his ranch in Harper, Oregon.

In 1957, Shamy got his real estate license and sold ranches all over the northwest. He was instrumental in putting together the first grazing association. The Bell A in Burns, Oregon had twenty-four buyers in the association. He helped ranchers purchase the right place for their needs, and sellers get a fair price for their ranches. He sold the Arvord, Becker Ranch, Crow Ranch, Murphy Ranch, and the Double O Ranch to name a few.

Shamy served on the Vale rodeo board for several years. He was president of the Board in the spring of 1957 when a big flood hit Vale and destroyed the rodeo grounds. Shamy gathered a crew of volunteers to go to the woods and cut posts and poles and they rebuilt the chutes, corrals, bleachers, and arena. The rodeo grounds were ready for the rodeo by July 4th of that year. While Shamy was president of the Vale Rodeo Board, he was instrumental in starting the suicide race that is still a major part of the Vale rode. During the Suicide Race, cowboys race down Malheur Butte, across the Malheur River and finish in the rodeo arena. The exciting race has drawn cowboys and spectators to the Vale Rodeo for over fifty years. He also got the Grand Marshall program started. The Grand Marshall is chosen by the Cattleman Association. Each year a person who has contributed to the ranching-cowboy life is chosen to lead the parade and reign over the Vale rodeo. He worked every job imaginable from chute boss to arena director while serving on the Vale Rodeo Board. The rodeo board honored Shamy by naming the Vale rodeo arena the Shamrock Arena because of his commitment and hard work for the Vale rodeo. In 1978 he was given the honor of Grand Marshall because of his contributions to the rodeo and ranching industries.

Shamy also served as president of the Lions Club and Chamber of Commerce. He helped organize the Vale Auxiliary Police program, and served as captain of the organizations. He also volunteered on the ambulance and fire crews for several years. He was an active member of the Malheur County Livestock Association for years. He served as secretary for a few years and he fought for the rights of ranchers and the cattle industry. He was given an Honorary Lifetime Membership in the Malheur Livestock Association in recognition of his outstanding contributions t the livestock industry and ranching interests on March 18, 1978.

Shamy bought his second ranch in 1960 in Durkee, Oregon which his son Darrell managed. Shamy spent all of his spare time working on the ranch while making a successful living as a ranch salesman. He kept the ranch for three or four years, then sold out and went in partners with Dooley Shelly on Star Mountain Ranch at Riverside, Oregon. He spent as much time as he could working on the ranch. He buckarooed, helped with haying, branding and performing other ranch duties for seventeen years at Star Mountain Ranch, then he sold the ranch and concentrated on real estate.

Shamy and Chuck Palmer took their children, grandchildren, and other kids on several pack trips through the years. They spent a week or more on horseback and the kids were taught to pack a horse (Shamy taught some of them how to throw the diamond). They got to experience the finer points of cooking outdoors and enjoyed sleeping under the stars. They packed from Vale to Mudflats and then helped brand calves. The kids have a lot of wonderful memories of those trips.

In 2006, at the age of 90, Shamy climbed on a horse and joined the other past Grand Marshalls in the Vale July 4th parade. He is a Malheur County pioneer, and was crowned King of the Pioneers in 1995. At the time of this writing Shamy is 93 years old and spends a month or two of summer fishing on the Oregon coast. He still operates his boat, and drives his pickup pulling his 5th wheel RV. He spends the winters in Arizona riding his 4-wheeler over the desert. Between travels you can find him building fence, working on his tractor, attending music events with the Old Time Fiddlers, attending rodeos, or sharing stories and tales from the past with his family and friends.

Shamy was still living in Vale when he was inducted into the Buckaroo Hall of Fame in September 2009.

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