Stanley Crocker was born on a cold day in December. A really cold day.
“It was forty degrees below zero in The Dalles the day I was born,” Crocker said. That was Dec. 1, 1919. He celebrated his 100th birthday at Flagstone Senior Living in The Dalles over the weekend, with a party on Monday.
The Crocker family ranch was homesteaded in the Goldendale area in 1877, and purchased by Stanley’s grandfather in 1898. His mom was bundled into a Model T Ford and “hustled to the hospital in The Dalles” for his birth.
The family raised wheat and alfalfa, and his grandfather was a noted horseman, Crocker said. “Grandpa had a threshing machine, I remember watching him work. He went all around the area, threshing for people,” he said. “In those days, they had four 8-horse outfits to farm with,” he added. They bought their first tractor in 1937.
Crocker loved the farm, and especially the horses. It isn’t something he can explain easily. “I just love horses,” he said, “it was wonderful,” growing up on the ranch.
They ran cattle, and from age 10 or 12 Crocker was on horseback working the cows. “I rode all over the Columbia Hills, even down into Wishram.” In spring the cattle were pushed up to mountain pasture 18 or 20 miles away, and in summer down into Swale Canyon, 10 miles away. They wintered closer the ranch. The flats were farmed for wheat and alfalfa.
Crocker worked for a time in The Dalles at a Texaco station for $3 or $4 a day, then started college in Pullman, Wash. “I came home from college one Christmas, and my grandfather asked if I liked college. I said I didn’t. He told me, ‘you stay home and work the farm, and I’ll leave you the land.’”
Crocker came back to the farm, and stayed there.
“I was a farmer, I loved to farm,” he said. “I liked everything about the farm. I wasn’t ambitious, but I wasn’t lazy.”
He said Centerville and Goldendale were “an ordinary man’s place to live.”
“You won’t get rich there, but you’ll get a living,” he said. “There are a lot of nice people there, a lot of good people. I knew everybody in Goldendale, I went to school there,” he added.
He said he has arranged for the land to go to his three sons, so it stays in the Crocker family.
He lives now at Flagstone Senior Living in The Dalles.
“I can’t ride now because of my legs,” he explained. “And I can’t take care of the horses like I should.”
“I sold them all,” he said. He leaned in closer, droped his voice and added, “well, no. Family don’t know it, but I still have some.”
He leans back again.
“I just really, really love horses,” he said again.