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Ronald Chester McLean was born April 27, 1929, in Burns to Warren and Avis McLean. He was the second of four brothers that included Delmar, Ronald, John Kenneth and Keith. He grew up on the Hollis place between Fields and Andrews and in sheep camps.
Ronald attended Andrews School, and he and Delmar rode their horses there each day. He attended Crane High School, quit school as a sophomore, and went to Stonehouse to feed cattle and live in a tent.
Ronald and his brothers grew up with the buckaroos and reata men of the south end, A. J. Schull, Mustang Smith, Pete Foredyce, Taft Miller and his father, Warren. Ronald often told the story of meeting Juan Redon, a famous reata man who lived in Andrews as an old man. The boys learned to be good horsemen, and they were better than green hands at toppin’ off a cranky bronc. They could trot for miles.
Ronald was drafted in to the U.S. Marine Corps in March of 1952. He went to boot camp at Camp Pendleton, and was sent to Korea as a sharp shooter. Ronald remembered fondly that Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis put on a show for the servicemen, and after the show, he smoked a few cigarettes and had a drink or two with them.
When he was discharged from the Marines, he went to sheep camp for the summer because all the herders had the mumps, and then he went to work on the ranch.
He had met Melva Emmaline Gill, also known as Tykie, as a youngster, but in 1954, when she was a princess on the Harney County Fair Court, Ronald took a liking to her. He asked Tykie’s mom if he could court her, and Ole gave her permission.
They were married Oct. 23, 1955, in Burns at the Presbyterian Church, and lived at the Oregon End.
They had three boys, Bill, Rob and Mike. When Bill was of school age, they moved to Diamond to Tykie’s dad’s place, and ran cattle at Moon Hill at the north end of the Steens. Cattle were wintered in Diamond and some on the refuge. Ronald thought that teaching the boys to ride and handle their rope was important. They practiced dallying on a slick horned saddle with Ronald running the rope through the boys’ hands, telling them when to dally. If the boys lost their rope at a branding, they had to get off and work on the ground, and that’s just the way it was.
Fun times were had at Diamond with plays, pinochle parties and dances; some of the couples included Dwight and Susie Hammond, Walt and Janice Bailey, Marvin and Dovie Jess and Nevin and Shirley Thompson. Ronald very much enjoyed waltzing a pretty lady around the dance floor.
In 1968, Ronald bought his first swather which led to a lucrative hay contracting business. McLean and crew mowed hay at the Island Ranch, the refuge, Clover Swales and Roaring Springs. Guy Scott and family raked and baled, and Loren Sherburn ran the harrow bed and stacked hay at the Springs with them.
Tykie and Ronald purchased the Oregon End Ranch in 1969, and spent time between Diamond and the Oregon End.
Ronald and Tykie purchased the Doan Ranch in 1973, and drove the cattle from the refuge at Buena Vista to the Witzel corrals between Frenchglen and the Diamond turn-off. Ronald, Rob, Mike and Hank “Red Beard” Kramer camped in a tent, and it was 14 degrees below zero. Bill and Tykie were on the other end, receiving cattle.
In 1992, Ronald and Tykie bought an elderly care facility, and the McLean House began. They were there for five and 1/2 years. It was a rewarding experience as many folks went there to spend their last days, and with care and good meals, many went back home feeling better.
After the McLean House sold, Ronald worked at Arock for the Alvord Ranch, watching yearlings. In 2001, Ronald had a stroke, and spent a month in the Elks Rehabilitation Center in Boise, and then returned to Burns.
Ronald and Tykie went home to Denio in 2005, where he loved to have people stop by to visit. Ronald had a great sense of humor and loved to have a good time. He was a rancher, horseman, pilot, rock hound, hunter and patriot.
Ronald is survived by his wife of 57 years, Tykie; his son, Bill, and his children, Justin and Nicole; and great-grandchildren, Callahan and Kingston; son, Rob, and Lisa, and children, Kaki Morehead (Shawn) and Kade, and great-granddaughter, Brymlee; son, Mike, and Lori, and daughter, Michelle; brother, Keith, and his wife, Linda; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Warren and Avis McLean, and brothers, Delmar and John Kenneth.
Services will be held Friday, August 16. Graveside services will be held at 10:30 a.m. at the Denio Cemetery with military honors, followed by a Celebration of Life at the Fields School Gym at 1 p.m. A potluck lunch will be held after the service. The meat will be provided.
Memorial contributions may be made to Harney County Dollars for Scholars, in care of LaFollette’s Chapel, P.O. Box 488, Burns, OR. 97720.