COW CREEK Area rancher Melvin Gill has been chosen as the Border Days Grand Marshal 2017.
Climbing up a winding road on Cow Creek from the small town of Lucile and into the Salmon River mountains, located on a strip of land that runs between the Snake and Salmon rivers, sits the Gill Ranch.
“I’ve been here all my life,” smiled Melvin Gill.
That lifetime has spanned nearly eight decades, but the Gill family has been in Idaho County for five generations.
Born to George and Opal (Robinson) Gill Nov. 21, 1939, in Grangeville, Melvin Clark Gill was raised on the ranch he still calls home.
As a child, he and his older brother, Deward, lived and worked the ranch life.
“I was riding horses with my mom when I was tiny – that’s how long I’ve been in the saddle,” Melvin smiled.
Melvin worked with horses and steers and rodeoing was a part of his family’s life early on. He was a junior steer riding champion, and he also broke horses. He and his brother attended Cow Creek School for many years, then later went on to school in Riggins.
Melvin had met Margaret “Midge” Lea Nelson at Salmon River High School and the two married June 4, 1961. She had grown up in Riggins, working in the motel and grocery store industries since the age of 12.
At the time, the ranch ran less than 200 head of cattle. A land exchange allowed the family to obtain acreage adjacent to their ranch on Cow Creek and they now run about 600 head.
A Forest Service allotment allows the Gill cattle to graze on 29,185 acres.
When his parents’ health failed, and they eventually died at young ages, Melvin took over the ranch full-time, though he spent many years working at other jobs, as well.
This included work as a logger for a few years, working for Bud Wilson’s Hells Canyon sheep ranch for a decade during his “spare” time, and horseshoeing year-round.
Melvin and Midge raised two children — son Marty and daughter Shelley — on the ranch, continuing the rodeoing way of life. The family calf-roped, team roped and Melvin also rode saddle bronc through the years.
The Gills were the Idaho-Lewis County Cattle Association Cattle Family of the Year in 2012.
Melvin said Shelley, and her husband, Garret Neal, “do the majority of all the work.”
Son Marty has two grown sons and lives in the Parma area and works for AgriBeef.
“He helps us here whenever he has free time, and we put cows down on his property part of the year, so he’s very involved,” the Gills reported.
Melvin said he’s honored to be chosen as Border Days grand marshal.
“If I could go back, I may adjust a few things. I knew getting into this lifestyle I would never be a millionaire,” he said. “But I would do this ranch life all over again, no regrets.”