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At 80, Dee Douglass dark saffron hair still dominates the gray. Her tanned and lined skin accents kind brown eyes set in a strong western face. Ive always believed in hard work and I always will, she says. My doctor cant believe how healthy I am. I tell him, You find something you love doing, stick to it, and it sustains you throughout your life.
Dee still raises horses, sheep and mules on her small ranches in Merlin, Oregon, and Clovis, California. Stock and critters are my children. My husband and I never had kids, Dee says. I wanted a baseball team but we never even got to first base.... Give me a day in the saddle or driving a team of horses from a wagon seat and Im content.
Dee grew up in the shadow of World War II and mirrored the life of Rosie the Riveter, earning money repairing military aircraft. My only sis, Eloise, and I worked like men. Actually, we could outwork many men. The two raised and rode horses after school and took them to the race tracks in Californias Central Valley to test them for time trials. Her two brothers were military pilots who died young and in combat: one was 18, the other 19.
The Applegate Trail brought stock into northern Nevada, northeast California and southern Oregon. By following that trail, Ive gained a greater respect for the early day drovers, stockmen and pioneers. They led the way, developing a tradition and lifestyle known throughout the world as the American cowboy.
Ill keep active until the day I die, Dee says, and I hope Im in the saddle when that takes place. Give me a good day in open country with a grand view. Heaven couldnt be better.
Larry Turner is a photographer and writer from Malin, Ore. He is the sharpest dresser and best dancer at Shooting the West in Winnemucca, Nev., each March. He appreciates the rural West. He appreciates women.
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