Don Miller (1922-2009)
Donald Maxwell Miller
was born to Taft and Nellie (Sitz) Miller on September 19, 1922. He joined
an older brother, Gene, at the Homestead Ranch. Later they were joined
by three sisters; Virginia, Lucille and Tiny and two younger brothers;
Joe and Jerry. Around 1927 or 1928 his parents leased the Rock Creek Ranch
in Catlow Valley, which they later purchased in 1937.
Donald attended part of first grade at Blitzen and then went to school
in Burns for a month or two while their house was being built in Frenchglen.
While in Burns he stayed with Jack Robinson's mother. He finished first
grade at the Frenchglen School and attended the rest of his grade school
Joe Fine brought Donald and his brother, Gene, a two year old saddle horse
to break while they attended grade school. Don's buckarooing probably
began when he was four or five years old and he continued buckarooing
into his eighties. During the drought in the early thirties Donald and
Gene stayed in buckaroo camp with the cows, moving them where there was
feed and water. He graduated from Crane High School in 1941. He was a
good student and active in all sports, including boxing. The highlight
of his years at Crane was when he and Pinkie Catterson coached the grade
school boys basketball team. After graduation, Donald worked on the Rock
Creek Ranch with his family.
In 1944 he became ill with spinal meningitis. He was a month to the day
in the hospital in Burns, paralyzed with the disease. The doctors then
said that there was nothing more they could do for him. He was still running
a fever of 102 every day. In the meantime Jack Fine had been to John Day
to see a Chinese doctor for a problem of his and the doctor told Jack
to send that boy to him. Doc Ing Hay was a Chinese herbalist. He said
he could get the poison out of Don's system and cure him. Taft and Nellie
took their son from the hospital to John Day and Doc Hay started Donald
on an herb drink that was to make him sweat. He did that for two weeks
and then he cooked up onions, salt and a medical concoction, which he
placed in a sugar sack and covered his body. After a month, he told Donald
he was cured. The family was eternally grateful and gained a lot of respect
for the Chinese way of medicine.
Donald continued working on the ranch and began putting together a bucking
string and other rodeo stock. First Don put on rodeos with Bob Hughet
and later with Jiggs Catterson. He took the rodeo stock to rodeos for
about 15 or twenty years.
In 1952 Donald married Florence Reed. They had four children; Beverly,
Donna, Ronald and Daniel. Florence and Donald divorced in 1961. In 1963
Don married Janet, whom he was married to for the remainder of his life.
He gained three more children from this marriage; Skip, Sheri and Gary.
Donald bought the Ranch at the Double 0 in 1958, which at that time was
a sheep ranch. Donald continued to run sheep and also his cows and horses
for ten or twelve years, then he sold the sheep and a few years later,
the bucking stock. He continued running cows and the Double O is still
a working cattle ranch today.
Donald grew up running horses and chasing cows. He was a master at doing
a job on green and cranky horses. He could lose both stirrups, be bucked
plumb off and pop back up on center and get a horse rode. When he was
younger and producing rodeos he would try out the prospective bucking
horses himself to see if they would fit in his bucking string. He always
figured that if a horse could buck him off, he might be alright in his
bucking string. Saddle bronc riding was his specialty and he made a lot
of money doing it.
Newspaper clipping from the Burns Times-Herald, September 16 (year unknown):
HARNEY RIDER WINS BUCKING TITLE AT FAIR. Harney County's Don Miller of
Frenchglen, Saturday rode Honest John to the bucking championship of the
Harney County Fair in the final event of the largest attended show in
the Fair's history. John Barry, Lakeview, riding Black Flag, was second
and Pete Longfellow, also of Lakeview, won third on Crow's Nest.
It took lots of bucking horses to produce rodeos in those days. Once at
Lakeview they had 60 bronc riders and 80 bareback riders. They usually
had 2 go rounds and a finals over three days. They trailed the bucking
horses 85 miles from Rock Creek to Lakeview and then home afterwards-
or sometimes on to Burns to do that rodeo, which was another 85 miles.
Once when Donald was running horses they gathered up two ZX horses with
saddle marks on them. One was a blue roan and one was a gray. Most horses
with saddle marks meant they might be kind of gentle, so Donald decided
to ride the gray the next day. He didn't do too bad in the corral, but
when we took off through the lower field at Augustines, the horse blew
up and bucked right through the fence and back again without ever seeing
it. He scattered wire everywhere. After riding him that day, Donald decided
he would try the blue roan. He could buck really hard, but Donald kind
of liked him. He called him Blue Jay. The ZX gave Donald Blue Jay. I don't
think they wanted either one of them back very bad.
There were over a thousand head of horses that ran on the desert those
days and when you would spot a bunch a mile or so away, Donald would kind
of sit there on his horse, look them over for a few minutes and say, "By
gosh, that's old Dandy Dan's bunch, or Hot Sauces bunch, or Blue Vitriol"
or some other bunch, and you would go out and start them and he was usually
right. He could do this on Hart Mountain, South Catlow, Jack Mountain
or Buzzard. This was an unusual gift for someone who had around 150 head
of bucking horses. Donald had an eye for cows too, he could look at a
calf in the rodero and in no time he would pair it up with the cow.
Donald Maxwell Miller passed away September 2009.