By Jean Schurman
The early part of January is somewhat of a quiet time for ranchers and Stockgrowers in the valley. Although there are animals to feed, calving and lambing hasn’t begun, and so it is a good time to get together and socialize. The Bitterroot Stockgrowers Association has recognized this fact and set this time of year for their banquet. The St. Mary’s Family Center was filled to capacity on Saturday night where friends, neighbors and families gathered to visit and honor one of their own.
B.P. (Prescott) Hackett was honored with the lifetime achievement award by the Stockgrowers Association. He is the eighth honoree for this award. He was presented his award by his son, Scott, who is a past president of the association.
The Hackett ranching legacy is one of the Bitterroot Valley. Hackett was born on a place on the east side of the valley where his family raised alfalfa. His family, two sisters and a foster brother, along with his parents, moved west of Victor to the mouth of Sweathouse Creek where they continued farming and ranching, raising cattle, milk cows, sheep and whatever was necessary to make a living.
Hackett and his siblings graduated from Victor School and he went on to study at Montana State University, now the University of Montana. After graduation, he joined the U.S. Air Force where he attended flight school. After a brief stint in the Air Force, a stretch with the soil conservation service and teaching school at Victor, he came home to the farm where he worked with his father, Ben, until Ben retired.
As with any operation in the early sixties in this valley, diversification was key to survival. They had pigs and chickens in addition to beef cows and dairy cows. They sold cream to the creamery in Hamilton (which paid for the groceries needed for the family). Hackett ran from 70-100 head of sheep. He was involved with the Western Montana Sheep Association and worked to develop a means to market the lambs by co-oping with other farmers and combing their herds to fill a truck with lambs every couple of weeks in the fall. The association also used similar marketing tools when marketing their wool.
Hackett used a team and wagon to feed hay in the winter and put up hay in the summer. But as times changed, tractors made an appearance on the place. Because the ranch is situated in the foothills, there were, and are, lots of rocks – big ones. They developed a quarry and sold rocks from it. They managed their timber for sale as well. Scott Hackett showed a photo of them blowing up stumps in the hayfield to clear more land.
“You can still see the holes,” he said with a laugh.
Hackett married in the early 1960’s and Scott and his brother Bruce made an appearance. About that time, they also began raising Beagles for sale. 1965 was a milestone year for them when they purchased a square baler. Through the years they upgraded machinery as they could, with front-end loaders, new hay sheds and even a new-to-them truck to feed with.
Hackett semi retired in 1987 and sold a portion of the ranch. But just as he came in and worked with his father, Scott and his wife Diane, came back to the ranch to help and now work it while Prescott travels and enjoys life with his wife, Jeanine McClung Hackett. And what was old, is once again new, Scott and Diane feed with a team, just like the early years.
Hackett’s sister, Barbara Jean Stephani, presented him with a bag of staples (used) for fencing, and a new pair of gloves. He was very honored to receive the award from the Stockgrowers.
“God love a rancher,” he concluded.
Another group of attendees were honored Saturday night. 4H and FFA members who took a market beef project this year and raised a steer that achieved the Steer of Merit were recognized. The Steer of Merit program is a statewide program that evaluates beef carcasses. This program has been in existence since the late 1960’s. Among the criteria used are hot carcass weight, dressing percentage, back fat, rib eye area, yield grade, quality grade and cut ability. Those recognized were Allison Beard, Emily Neville, Gabe Bennett, Louis Wandler, Michaela Wandler, Megan Pendergast and Miriam Larson.