by Steve Silva
Tom Hall, a well-known Bruneau-area rancher passed away recently. I was saddened when I heard the news but grateful that I was able to spend an afternoon with this bona fide cowboy last summer.
The tall man in jeans and cowboy hat stood on the tree-shaded, well-groomed lawn in front of his tidy home near Bruneau.
“Welcome to the Hall Ranch," Hall said, eyes taking in the small group from the Owyhee County Historical Society who were gathered around. “I’m Tom Hall. This is the Hall Ranch. We’re kinda proud of it. We really are. The ranch has been in the family since 1917. We’re proud of that, my wife and I." After a pause, he added, "Nobody will have the love for this place that we do. I get a tear in my eye every time I look at it because I think how beautiful it is.”
That was my introduction to a man who lived in the same house he was born in 88 years ago. He continued.
“[My] great uncle was the first settler here in Bruneau," Hall said. "My mother was born in Arkansas. [They] thought they could have a better life here. They said that when our relatives left Arkansas and moved to Idaho, they raised the intelligence level in both states.” The laughter was loud as Tom smiled.
For the next hour or so, the rancher, husband, father, historian and son of pioneers regaled us with tales from the past and a steady stream of one-liners.
“Bought this place in 1917 'cause there was a school down here a-ways," Hall said. "I didn’t get along too good in school. When I first started school, they sent me to church school—I got kicked out for swearing! Then they sent me to public school and I got kicked out for praying!”
As the afternoon wore on, Hall took our group for a tour of his little museum, a collection of interesting and historical items from the area: pocket knives, blacksmith tools, saddles, barbed wire and more. The rancher-turned-historian was an encyclopedia of information and taught us all so much about the area.
At the end, as Hall thanked and encouraged us all to visit again, he sent us off with some final words of wisdom.
“Behind every successful man is an astonished mother-in-law.”
Happy trails, Tom.