The Carman Ranch Story

Our great-grandfather, Fritz Weinhard, brought the first Hereford to the ranch in 1935. To this day, the mother cows on Carman Ranch are direct descendents of those early Herefords.

Born in Dayton, Washington, Fritz Weinhard was the only son of Jacob Weinhard, who came to the Pacific Northwest from Germany and learned the art of brewing beer from his Uncle Henry. (Yes, that Henry!)

The family assumed that Fritz would follow in his uncle’s and father’s footsteps and sent him to brewery school. Fritz was given various jobs and responsibilities within the brewery, one of which was to utilize the leftover barley mash. Fritz purchased steers, which he fattened on the mash and sold for beef. One day, as family legend has it, Fritz came home with an entire herd of cattle, many more than the few head of steer he usually brought back. His father’s response: “If the boy wants to be a rancher, then let him be a rancher.”

In 1913, Jacob traded a house and property in Dayton for a few hundred acres in Wallowa County where Fritz began to carve out a life in the sparsely populated prairie ground north of the town of Wallowa.

Fritz married Nina Miller, the local school teacher, and in 1919 Nina gave birth to their first child, Ruth. Fritz and Nina went on to have three more daughters, all of whom attended the one-room school house and never wandered far from their saddle horses.

When Ruth was 18 she met a jaunty young logger. Much to her parents’ dismay, Ruth and Hoy Carman married quickly, leaving the ranch to work in La Grande, Oregon. They had been there for one year running a local hotel and service station when Fritz finally invited his daughter and son-in-law to return to Wallowa and the ranch.

Ruth and Hoy helped with the cattle, crops and hay and began building their own herd. They purchased property of their own, and when Fritz passed away in 1979, they inherited a portion of his ranch. Ruth and Hoy’s first son was born in 1940, and over the next 14 years, Ruth gave birth to four more children while managing to spend time with her beloved horses.

The last two, Kent and Garth, were born two years apart, fulfilling Ruth’s dream of sons. The boys were very close, but Kent opted to come back to the ranch right away while Garth left for Oregon State University and then went on to Michigan to pursue a PhD.

In 1979, after Garth and his wife, Sherry, had their first child, they loaded up their possessions, three-month-old Cory and an impatient cat and began the cross-country journey back to Oregon.

Cory and her sister, Katie, grew up riding horses with their grandmother Ruth, squeezing in beside Hoy in the feed pickup and looking forward to their Uncle Kent’s nightly visits to the house. The girls learned the value of hard work and experienced the bittersweet life familiar to most farm kids—of the land’s promise of freedom and independence balanced with the harsh tragedies it bestows.

Much has changed in the two decades since Cory begged her father to let her stay up past her bedtime and check the cows with him. Garth passed away in 1993, the victim of a farming accident, followed by Hoy in 1997. After her children grew up, Sherry left the ranch. Kent remained behind, keeping up the steady pace of work that held the ranch together for the next 15 years.

After graduating from Stanford with a degree in Public Policy and spending time on Capitol Hill, Cory began to feel the pull of the ranch. Reluctant to give up the career she imagined for herself, she decided to return for the summer. During those few memorable months, Cory came to understand that her attachment to the ranch and its way of life was as strong for her as it had been for her father and grandparents. When she met Dave Flynn, her soon-to-be husband, it became clear that she would stay.

With her own ideas and plan, the ranch is always changing, but much remains the same. Cory and Dave’s three children, Roan and twins Ione and Emmett, are growing up much as the generations before them-- respecting the land and their animals.