Earl Marvin ‘Bearpaw’ Clelland
Earl Marvin ‘Bearpaw’ Clelland

Earl Marvin Clelland, 84, passed away at the Billings Clinic on May 18, 2013 surrounded by his family.

Earl was born on Nov. 7, 1928 in Midvale, Idaho to Edgar Raymond and Hilda E. (Heinrich) Clelland. He grew up in Midvale with his two brothers, Louie and Virgil. His dad, "Ray" died of cancer when Earl was only three years old. His mother remarried a few years later.

When Earl was around 11 years old, he lived with another family in Midvale. He went to school until the eighth grade, then started working at a sheep camp. When he was 13 or 14 years old, he came down with the measles and had nowhere to go. Graciously, his uncle Charlie and aunt Gretchen (Clelland), along with Stanley and JoAnn took him in as their own child and thus, became his "new" family. Gretchen nursed him back to health.

When Earl was a young man, he acquired the nickname "Bearpaw", which there is a folklore for the nickname. Most family and friends know the story about a bear he shot back then.

He had heard about Winnemucca, Nev., and the buckaroos there. The town was just getting started and he wanted to see what the country looked like. He worked in sheep camps to make enough money to buy himself a car to move to Winnemucca. He later found out that buckarooing wasn't paying enough so he continued to work in the sheep camps. From 1947 through 1950 he was a cowpuncher for the Bullhead Cattle Company. He was called to serve his country in the US Army during the Korean Conflict from 1950-1953. During his service he was wounded with shrapnel to his arms and legs and was honorable discharged receiving a Purple Heart. At one point during his service, he was called to go up and down Pork Chop Hill three times!

He met and married Marilyn Ellen Lesh on Oct. 10, 1959 with her little boy, Bryan Harold. They lived on Keithly Creek for a little over a year before moving to Paradise Valley where he worked as a Buckaroo Boss for Leslie Stewart for four or five years. To this union two more children were born, Stephanie K. in 1960 and Carson Ray in 1962. He later adopted Bryan as his own. The couple later divorced.

In 1962 Bearpaw started working for Humboldt County, first as a cook then as a road grader. He worked there for 26 years before retiring in 1988.

Bearpaw was a fantastic cook, sheepherder style. He made the best sourdough hotcakes! He was an avid reader. He enjoyed books about politics and natural healing. He loved trapping, hunting and fishing with friends and family. In his later years he enjoyed having coffee with a few close friends as they discussed current world events and other interesting things. He was involved with the Buckaroo Hall of Fame and the VFW.

Bearpaw was the most honest straight shooting guy that ever lived. He was very savvy about money and about as generous as he could be when someone was in need. He taught his children the same principles. He made friends wherever he went, many of those friends lived in Winnemucca and were like family to him.

Earl was a private sort of guy who didn't want to be a burden to anyone. He was a wise, tough ole Buckaroo. He even spent a winter in Weiser, Idaho in a tent with a heat stove at a sheep camp when it was -20 to -30 degrees. Once when he was buckarooing, he swam cattle across the Snake River. Another time he decided he wanted to visit a friend, so he crossed the river with his horse in the morning when the water was high and came back in the afternoon to cross it again, which was quite hard on his horse. He was always available to help fellow ranchers with horse shoeing, roping, branding, or shearing. He taught his children about how to care for sheep. He was also fond of cowboy poetry and good old time country-western music. He was always defending the right in the local and national politics in his own way. He loved his children unconditionally. His grandchildren, Adam Lee and Marcus Ray meant a lot to him. He finally got to meet his great grandson on the last day of his life.

Because of health reasons, Bearpaw came to live with his daughter, Kay, for six months in 2011. He had decided to move to Wyoming this spring, but was only able to be here a week before his death.

He was preceded in death by his parents; sons Bryan Harold and Carson Ray; brothers, David, Louie and Virgil.

Survivors include his daughter, Kay (Blaine) Beall of Worland, grandsons, Adam Beall of Worland and Marcus (Erin) Beall of Casper, Wyoming; great-grandson, Logan Ray Beall of Casper.

A private family service will be held in September in Midvale, Idaho. Memorial donations may be made to the American Kidney Foundation in care of Bryant Funeral Home, PO Box 524, Worland, WY 82401. Online condolences may be made at www.bryantfuneralhomeonline.com.