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Family keeps this ranch going

By Erick Peterson

For the Capital Press

Five generations of the Hess family have been ranchers, and don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

“Many people think that the life of a rancher is very rich,” said Doris Hess. “Financially, it’s very tough to make it work, and people don’t get that.”

Doris and her husband, Gary, operate McBride Hereford Ranches with her son, Eric, and his wife, Becky. It is a 17,000-acre operation in Mabton, Wash., with 550 pairs of cattle and yearlings. The ranch also runs a horse program.

The ranch dates back to 1906, when Benjamin and Dollie McBride, Doris’ great-grandparents, moved to Sixprong, Wash.

“He had applied and been granted 160 acres and was there the length of time to homestead. My grandpa, Clarence McBride, started farming on Sandridge, which is still a part of this ranch,” she said.

She said that Clarence acquired a couple of heifers and built a herd of 18 cows by the age of 21.

He and following generations continued to build on that success, and Doris’ father expanded into horses.

“My dad started our horse program with a breeding program,” she said. “Our mare herd runs out on the range, which develops good feet and exceptional muscle on our colts.”

“Today Eric has continued that program and breaks, rides and sells some fantastic colts,” she said.

They have 13 mares and two studs in their breeding program.

But this is not the end of their expansion. She has also opened her own business on the side, called Wild Rags & Scarves By Doris, which sells scarves and accessories.

She said that she is happy to participate in the legacy set out by family members more than a century ago.

She met Gary when they were both college students. At that time, he was studying forestry, but he changed course. Marrying Doris, and taking up rangeland resource management, he promised Doris’ father that he would take care of his daughter and his ranch.

“The more I was around it, the more I got into it,” Gary said. “College gave me a good basis to learn, but the real lessons didn’t start until after.”

Ranching is not an 8-to-5 job, he said. It is a demanding lifestyle that can require around-the-clock work, depending upon the time of year.

At the same time, it has been a job that keeps him close to his wife and children, who had chores to do after school.

Eric, now 24 years old, recalls that he started helping on the ranch at around 3 years old, as soon as he could get on a horse.

Becky, who married Eric two years ago and lives with him on the ranch, said that there are times when they have to sleep in two-hour shifts because of the amount of work needed. Still, she enjoys it.

“I love it. It can be hard, but being able to work together is a real blessing,” she said.

McBride Hereford Ranches

Started: 1906

Generations: 5

Acres: Approximately 17,000

Location: 32 miles south of Mabton, Wash.


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