Photo by Lorie Palmer
Ernie Robinson stands in the foreground of his New Meadows grassland, cows grazing in the bright green background.
As of Tuesday, July 3, 2018
NEW MEADOWS 2018’s Border Days grand marshal is the real McCoy . Ernie Robinson lives the cowboy life 24-7, 365.
Born in Grangeville and raised on a ranch on Deer Creek, Robinson attended school there through eighth grade. “I rode a horse to school for eight years,” he recalled. Robinson learned to work on the family cattle ranch – an ethic that has served him throughout his life. When he entered high school, he got to White Bird by vehicle, then caught the bus from there to attend Grangeville High School. “I was a country boy , so this was a change,” he laughed. Still, the ranch chores called, and he did not spend any additional time at school for sports or other extracurricular activities. Robinson’s parents felt an education was important, he said, so after high school graduation he went on to Boise Junior College (now Boise State University) for general studies. “Boise was a very big change from how I grew up,” he said. There, as fortune would have it, he “met a girl,” from Nampa, originally from California. “She was a city girl,” Robinson smiled. He married the love of his life, Judy , in 1957, and, he said, she was a true partner. The couple moved to a cattle ranch where they worked for several years and later built their own ranch in White Bird (near Twin Bridges), the “41 Ranch.” Cattle winter in White Bird and spend summers at the family ranch just outside of New Meadows. “Judy took to the country life,” he said, riding horseback with him on many outings and trips along the Salmon River and beyond. For eight years, he said, there was no road to their home at Twin Bridges, and they got their three kids to school and home each weekday by boat. “We were sure glad to see that road come in,” he recalled. The couple raised three children: Sam, who lives in Lewiston; Becky , who runs Ernie’s Steakhouse in Lewiston; and Craig, of Pomeroy , Wash. The Robinsons celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 2017, and shortly thereafter, Judy died. Robinson’s mother died a few months later, making the past year a tough one for him. “I had been asked to be Border Days grand marshal before and I turned them down – I didn’t think I was old enough,” Robinson said. He took past words from Judy to heart, though.
“She said, ‘if they ever ask you again, don’t you dare turn them down. That’s an honor,’” he said. “She was right – it is, and I didn’t.” Robinson has 10 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. He said he feels fortunate to have son-in-law, Kip, help with the White Bird ranch, as well as many friends and neighbors who are always willing to lend a hand. He is especially thankful, he said, that his twin grandsons, Wade Greig and Wyatt Greig, love the ranch and continue to work it. The young men graduated from GHS in 2011 and spent a couple years in Pendleton before returning home. “They are my mainstays,” Robinson stated. Wade and his wife, Dana, actually live part time in the “little red honeymoon shack,” he and Judy also lived in at New Meadows. “It’s definitely a different operation now – a rancher has to have a bigger setup now, more cattle, more land, to earn a living,” he said. In many ways, though, the ranchlife has remained the same with moving cattle in winter and summer, riding horseback every day , using cattle dogs, calving each February and “being available 24 hours a day , just in case,” Robinson said. He has served on the Idaho County Light and Power co-op board for 38 years and has also served as past president of Idaho County Cattle Association and the State of Idaho Cattle Association. Robinson said he’s been attending Border Days events since birth and is happy it’s still a “good, country rodeo that people enjoy attending.” He and his father team-roped at the Border Days Rodeo in the ’60s, as well. “I don’t know how good we were, but we always made a little money ,” he grinned. With the changes in the past year of losing both his wife and mother, the ranch has been even more of a friend to Robinson. “Working keeps me busy ,” he said. “I have been blessed to live this life.”