In the Spring of 1981, local ranchers and packers
met with representatives of the Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce
and USDA Forest Service to explore the idea of putting together
a new county event.
As a result, the mule - tough,
intelligent, individualistic, often maligned, but the mainstay of
the many packers and outfitters working in Wallowa County - was
elevated to center stage for the first annual Hells Canyon Mule Days
celebration on September 19 - 20, 1981.
Hells Canyon was an appropriate title
because that area owes most of its early settlement and development
to the mule which predominantly served as a major means of
transportation to gain access to this rugged region of the
Given the well-known independence of Mule
Daysí long-eared star, the entertaining, action-packed event has met
its initial goal - both mule skinners and spectators a like can be
part of this family oriented mule show, with events and games for
HELLS CANYON MULE DAYS
1981 – WADE HALL & ETHEL THOMAS
1982 – MIKE & JOYCE McFETRIDGE
1983 – GLEN HAWKINS & GRACE BARTLETT
1984 – LEE MANES & LYNN MITCHELL
1985 – JESS EARL & CLARA HEARING
1986 – LAWRENCE & ILENE POTTER
1987 – CARMEN MAXWELL & A. L. DUCKETT
1988 – JOE McCLARAN & MARY MARKS
1989 – OAKLEY JOHNSON & HAZEL BARTON/FLEET
1990 – JOE ONAIDIA & GUS MALAXA
1991 – EMORY CRAWFORD
1992 – MAX & MARCEL WALKER .
1993 – JIM & JEAN BROOKS
1994 – JIM & LOIS BLANKENSHIP
1995 – GENE & MILDRED MARR
1996 – SAM & LAURA LOFTUS
1997 – DICK & BETTY HAMMOND
1998 – PEARL INGLE
1999 – DELBERT (DEB) WART
2000 – FRED TALBOTT
2000 – Noel & Genie Wright Honorary
2001 – MANFORD & VERA ISLEY
2002 – MEREL HAWKINS
2003 – ARNOLD SCHAEFFER
2004 – BENNIE BANKS
2005 – DOUG & JANIE TIPPETT
2005 – Bonnie Shields Honorary
2006 – BOB CASEY
2006 – Gerald Perren Honorary
2007 – BLANCHE MAXWELL
2007 – Gene & Bonnie Westberg Honorary
2008 – JUANA MALAXA & MARIE ONAINDIA
2008 – Mike Brennan Honorary
2009 – CARMEN KOHLHEPP
2009 – R. A. “Ace” Barton Honorary
2010 – BIDEN & BETTY TIPPETT
2010 – Ben Tippett Honorary
2011 – LEO TIPTON “Tip” PROCTOR
2011 – George Hixson - Honorary
2011 Hells Canyon Mule Days Grand Marshal Tip Proctor
Tip was born Leo Tipton Proctor on June 8, 1928, in Cold Springs, Missouri. He was the second child of Felda and Olive Proctor – with one older sister and two younger sisters and a younger brother. His family farmed with horses and mules. He started cultivating with one horse at the age of eight. His grand- father gave him his own team to work when he as 12 years old.
By the age of 20 he was working in a sawmill for his brother-in-law in Sandy, Oregon, where he met and married Ruth – his wife of 62 years. Ruth was born in Montana in 1932, the youngest of six children. Her family moved to the coastal area of Oregon and later to Sandy.
Tip and Ruth have two children - a daughter Shirley who lives in Powell Butte and a son Rondo who lives in Lakeview.
Tip worked various logging jobs - fell timber, hauled logs, and worked at several other mill jobs. Later he worked on the power transmission line from Dufur, Oregon to Troutdale. When that big job was finished in 1953, they moved to Prineville, where he got his first ranching job on the old Frank Houston ranch. His love of ranching began there. When that ranch sold, they moved to the head of Crooked River and worked on the Calvin Sherman ranch, with Tip doing every kind of ranching chore there was and Ruth cooking for the crew, which included cooking for up to 25 men in the summers. Grass always seems to be greener on the other side, so they worked on the Abe Hackleman Ranch and the Bonham Keerins Ranch at Izee. Tip got a chance to work as a lineman for a Washington company putting in new lines for the Suplee and Izee area. When the lines were all in, the company asked him to move to Washington and be their mechanic, which Tip did for six weeks. Not liking all of the rain – Tip and Ruth moved back to Prineville and worked for Hudspeth Land and Livestock. They worked for Hudspeth three different times... the first two time Tip rode and the third time, he was the farm boss. They left there for 3 years and went back to Missouri as his dad had a heart attack. Arriving back in Prineville he worked for Les Schwab Tires where they made him the first night foreman in the recap production shop.
In 1971, Ruth quit her job at the bank and Tip quit his job and they moved on to another ranch. This time, moving to the MC Ranch at Adel. The MC sold – they left and ran the neighboring ranch for Jerry Berry, who was a Christmas tree dealer in the Willamette Valley.
In 1972, they decided to move to their place that they purchased in Wisconsin. They stopped to see some friends in Joseph and before they got out of town Tip was offered a job for Bob Hobson Construction building roads for Boise Cascade. They never did get to live on their place in Wisconsin, even though they owned if for 25 years. Rather than follow Hobson to Emmett, Idaho, they decided to stay in Joseph. They bought a little place on Dobbins Road and Tip took care of the valley ranch for McClarans. In 1979 Katie and Steve Combs took over the valley ranch and they moved to McClaran’s lower Lightening Creek Ranch where Tip put the land back into production. Those were special years for them, as both of them loved canyon life. Off and on, they worked for the McClarans 30 years or so and have never worked for a better outfit.
After they left the canyons Tip broke a team and did horse logging for Harvey Gillworth. He also did some horse logging with Dave Pender.
They sold their little place on Dobbins Road (big mistake - they both agree) in 1990 and went to Missouri to take care of Tip’s mother who was in the nursing home and during this time Tip came back to ride with Scott McClaran each spring and fall.
They moved back to Enterprise to their little place in town in 1999. They love the people and the beauty of this area. Even though they aren’t natives of Wallowa County they have always felt accepted
They take life easier now and enjoy their lives together...
2011 Hells Canyon Mule Days
Honorary Grand Marshal George Hixson
His father never coddled the boys or treated them like kids, but, gave them jobs that a man
would normally do. At the age of ten George drove the wagon trailing a band of sheep from Las
Vegas, through New Mexico, to Limon, Colorado, and was forty-nine days on the trail.
He attend high school at Ordway, Colorado and after graduation he continued his education at
Colorado Aggie. In 1943 he married his high school sweetheart, Evelyn Meyers, and they will be
celebrating their 68th wedding anniversary this year.
In 1949 George bought a sheep ranch at Alamosa, Colorado. The ranch had three sheep
allotments on the Rio Grande National Forest for grazing sheep from July 1 to October1.George
bought twelve mules, and he had one mule that was broke; and the rest were broncos. The mule
pack string was used to carry supplies including the fifteen-ton load of salt that was ordered for
the sheep outfits. The one mule that was broke was a good one... George recalls that when they
went hunting every fall, they would put the eggs, whiskey, and beer on that mule. He said you
could take that mule to a camp once, then take him down to base camp and load him with
supplies and let him go back to the camp and the mule would wait for the herder to unload him.
That mule had seen about forty years when he died. He died the day George had him shod to go
to the mountains...
The Colorado ranch was sold in 1965 and George, Evelyn, and their sons, Monty and Bret, moved to Oregon in 1968 and leased a ranch in Long Creek, and went in to the cattle business
running Mexican steers.
That same year, Bill Schaan, owner of Baker Livestock Auction Company in Baker, Oregon,
decided he wanted a hitch of small mules and bought forty Shetland pony mares and started
breeding them with his white Spanish jack. Bill would sell the colored ones and keep the white
ones. It took Bill about four years to get twenty-six head of white mules. In December of 1971
Bill asked George if he could break those mules and have the hitch ready for the Portland Rose
Festival Grand Floral Parade by June 1972 and the rest is history!
George drove that 20 Hitch matched white mule team in the 70's and 80's and it was a job that
took him and his team throughout the western United States, from county fairs to The Cow
Palace in San Francisco, the Denver Stock Show and of course, The Portland Rose Festival,
which started this chapter is George’s life story...
In November 1983, J.R. Simplot had seen the mules at Boise and other events and asked Bill
what the price would be for the entire package... The price Bill gave him was in the six figures
and J. R. agreed and the deal was closed and Simplot was in the road show business. George was
asked to continue working with the team, but George had plans for putting a longhorn cow herd
deal together to sell roping cattle and returned home to further his business plans. George
became well known in the Watusi business and judged Watusi classes at the Colorado State Fair
in 1990 and also at the Tri-State Fair in Amarillo, Texas. In 1998 he sold his cows, but continued
to run them for the buyer for two summers.
In 2000 George and Evelyn sold their home in Long Creek along with the ranch land, and
moved to Pendleton... Even though, George is retired he still rides and ropes and enjoys the
For Three Days of
Pack 'Em Up and Head 'Em out for Hells Canyon Mule
Enterprise, Oregon ∑ Wallowa County Fairgrounds
"Always the Weekend after Labor Day"