100-year-old ranch leaps into next generation

Lee Juillerat/For the Capital Press John and Linda Hussa serve up cake during their celebration for their Cedarville ranch's 100th anniversary on Aug. 13.

Operation shifts focus to stay viable in changing economy


For the Capital Press

CEDARVILLE, Calif. -- When John and Linda Hussa decided to celebrate Hussa Ranch's 100th anniversary, they weren't sure if the ranch would survive another generation.

But during the centennial celebration at their Cedarville, Calif., ranch on Aug. 13, the Hussas were given hope the ranch will stay in the family for years to come when they learned their grandson, Nick Tims, who's spent many of his growing up years on the ranch, hopes to make the ranch his career.

"I want to make my life here," said Tims, 19, who's beginning his sophomore year at Texas A&M.

"Nick's announcement was a complete surprise," John Hussa said. "He's always rode with us -- helped take care of the cattle.

"That was a tremendous surprise and delight to John and me," said Linda Hussa, who is also a poet and author of "The Family Ranch." "He spent a lot of time here as a child."

Announcing the decision was Nick Tims' mother, Katie Hussa Tims. Although her career has taken her away from the ranch, she's made frequent return trips, often with her son. They decided to make the announcement at the gathering, which drew more than 150 family and friends.

John and Linda are third-generation ranchers.

"We decided we should honor the many people, including our own family, who have worked at the ranch," John Hussa said at the celebration, where his family served a feast that included ranch-raised Navajo-churro lamb and tri-tip steaks.

W.H. Hussa started the ranch, located in Surprise Valley, located in far northeastern California just miles from its borders with Oregon and Nevada, in 1911. His circuitous route to Surprise began a few years earlier when he traveled from Kansas to Houston, Texas, then sailed to San Francisco. While on the ship, he learned to be a butcher, which led to work in San Francisco. It was there he met and married Elizabeth Donnelly.

In 1911, the couple, who had heard about undeveloped ranch lands in far northeastern California, traveled by train to Gerlach, Nev. From there they rode a freight wagon to Surprise Valley on the east side of the Warner Mountains. The couple bought a small ranch near the Cedarville cemetery and he began operating a slaughter facility. As the business flourished, "Old Man Hussy" traveled in an old panel truck selling meat to ranches.

Linda Hussa said children called Hussy the "weenie man" because he provided them with hot dogs. The family eventually had butcher shops in three Modoc County communities, Cedarville, Fort Bidwell and Alturas.

A son, Walter, who was born in 1915, eventually became a business partner with his father. After his father's death, Walter sold the butcher shops and focused on cattle ranching and haying. Walter's son, John, shared the passion for cattle and took over operations in the 1970s. Walter remained involved in ranch operations until his death in 2002.

In recent years, the ranch has specialized in Angus cattle and, since 1989, several hundred Navajo-churro sheep.

"They've done very well for us," John said of the sheep, noting the family sells about 300 lambs a year to buyers for restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area and, more recently, Reno.

Unveiled at the celebration was a Hussa Ranch Centennial sign provided by Bill and Lisa Jeanney, who own a neighboring ranch and installed the sign while the Hussas were briefly away from the ranch.

Now, with their grandson interested in learning and eventually taking over, the Hussas hope future generations of family will continue their family's ranching traditions.


Visit the ranch's website at www.hussaranch.com

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