By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

Myron Miles raised his hand.

That simple act, a gesture that volunteered his time and grain, helped launch the tradition of a Shrine steer that linked the Baker County Fair to the Shriners Hospital for Children.

“I’ve been steer chairman since day one,” he said.

Rod McCullough presented the idea at a meeting of the Cattlemen’s Association — he suggested the club buy a 4-H steer and donate it to support the East-West All-Star Shrine Game that was coming to Baker City for the second year.

“You could have heard a pin drop. This was a radical idea,” Myron said.

But there was a problem.

The fair — called the Junior Show at the time — was the first week of August. The Shrine game wasn’t until the third week in August. Where would the steer go in the meantime?

The idea fizzled.

Then Myron raised his hand.

“I have some grain in the bin. I’ll take him,” he told the group.

That was in 1974.

It is that dedication, along with other involvements in the fair, that earned Dotty and Myron Miles the honor of being named Fair Family for 2019.

In their nomination letter, Dan and Haley Morris, the 2015 Fair Family of the Year, wrote: “Myron is a true believer in the Shrine Steer Program and has been an inspiration to the kids who have had Shrine steers. This is an extremely honored achievement and he is always there to help in any way to make it work out.”

Cheryl Buchanan has seen the couple’s dedication to the fair for 40 years.

“When I showed over 40 years ago their two little kids were playing in the sand and wood chips by the beef show ring,” Buchanan wrote. “They have been active in all aspects of our ag community and supporters of youth, especially the Shrine Hospital.”

Growing up showing animals

Myron, 78, grew up south of town, along Highway 7 toward Sumpter.

“I showed both 4-H and FFA when I was growing up,” he said.

His mom, Delma, had a horse club. Myron was part of the Powder River Wranglers, led by Dan Warnock Sr.

He has loads of stories from those years, but one in particular makes him laugh before he even tells it.

It involved Bob Vandecar, who was determined to win club herd in beef.

Well, a motley crew of steers was gathered from the barn to compete against Vandecar’s club.

The judge was let in on the secret, and that faux club held first place until, at last, everyone gave away the joke.

“Vandecar was going berserk,” Myron said. “That was one of the best jokes I participated in.”

Dotty, 77, grew up in Klamath Falls. She met Myron during her first year at Oregon State University.

“I was taking ag,” Dotty said. “Back in those days, girls didn’t take agriculture.”

Myron graduated in 1962, the youngest in his class. They married in the fall of the same year.

What followed were several moves back and forth across the state between Baker City and Klamath Falls. In Eastern Oregon Myron worked first for Dick Truscott up Old Auburn.

Dotty got a job in town as a cashier. She earned $28 per week.

Then one day she came in to get a tire changed at the service station now occupied by Ragsdale Mobile Glass on Dewey Avenue near the David J. Wheeler Federal Building. It was cold, so she went next door to the employment office to warm up.

They asked if she needed a job. She said no, but was told that the Forest Service was hiring for an engineering technician.

She applied, and got the job.

“That was back in the days when women didn’t work for the Forest Service, not out in the field,” she said. “I’d had two years of college and a lot of math.”

She helped engineer plans for projects, including the Anthony Lakes Highway.

She worked for the Forest Service for 15 years, including a stint in the Siskiyou Forest when Myron was a county agent in Grants Pass for one year.

Their children, Gregg and Wendy, were born in Klamath Falls in 1968 and 1969.

The family came east for good in 1970.

“I moved him away three times; he moved me back four times,” Dotty said.

Before farming and ranching for himself, Myron spent about a year working on a dairy for Dan Warnock.

Later, it was their turn to farm and ranch for themselves. They first leased the Inman place near Haines.

“That’s where we had our first 4-H group,” Myron said.

They were members of the Lone Pine Heirs.

“That club is still going. Gregg is the leader now,” Myron said.

They moved to their current place, just outside of North Powder, in 1979. Dotty worked as a substitute rural mail carrier, and was Haines postmaster in 1989 to 2013.

A family tradition

The Miles family made fair a tradition every year — first the Eastern Oregon Stock Show in Union, the Junior Show in Baker City, and the Baker County Fair in Halfway.

Both Gregg and Wendy showed steers. Gregg also joined a cooking club.

“He liked to beat the girls at their own game,” Dotty said with laugh.

She especially remembers one cooking competition, when Gregg arrived in his hat, a hand-me-down gift from Rob Thomas.

“That was Gregg’s lucky hat,” Myron said.

Gregg ventured into showing swine for a few years after his steer died and they bought a pig as a replacement.

He also raised honeybees for an FFA exhibit.

“We said, ‘Gregg, how do you show a bee?’ ” Dotty said, breaking into laughter at the memory.

Over the years Myron served as superintendent for beef and swine. Their two children went through the 4H program, and then their grandson, Christian, followed with raising cattle and cooking.

The couple pitch in wherever needed. In 2013, when Baker City’s water was contaminated with cryptosporidium, Myron volunteered to haul clean water every day of the fair in a North Powder fire truck.

“You do whatever you can to help,” Dotty said.

These days, they supply steers for local 4-H projects.

They invite families to their ranch and separate the available steers into the barn. Halters go on, and soon the kids are getting familiar with their 4-H projects. The steers stay on the ranch for a few more days to make sure each will be a good project.

“It’s really gratifying to be able to do that,” Myron said.

Picking the Shrine steer

Now that the Shrine game happens before the fair, Myron and a selection committee finds the Shrine steer ahead of time.

“We interview the parents, the kids and the steer,” he said. “It has to be gentle.”

The chosen steer appears at the Shrine breakfast the morning of the game, rides in the parade, and then is auctioned live at halftime.

“The kids have gotten to where it’s an honor,” Myron said.

Proceeds from that live auction go to the Shriners Hospital.

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