In the community

McElroys personify local ranching heritage as Vale 4th of July Rodeo grand marshals

VALE – Linda McElroy said she was fairly sure how her husband, Tom, would react when he learned he was selected to be one the 2023 Vale 4th of July Rodeo grand marshals.

“I don’t think Tom will like it because he doesn’t think he’s that old,” Linda McElroy joked.

They will be honored at the traditional Grand Marshal Barbeque at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 29, in Vale’s Wadleigh Park.
Tickets are $7, and there is no cost for children under 5. Hot dogs, hamburgers and chorizos will be served.
The event is the kickoff for a week of rodeo activities, with the rodeo shows set for July 1-4 in Shamrock Arena, and Oregon Trail Days activities in town.

Linda and Tom McElroy said they were honored – and surprised – to be selected as the grand marshals for the renowned local event.

The couple exemplify Malheur County’s ranch life. Tom McElroy was helping county resident Steve Russell brand calves when the honor was announced.

Both of the McElroys have strong ties to the rodeo culture and to the Vale 4th of July Rodeo.

At 19, Linda was the 1971 Vale 4th of July Rodeo Queen and the couple have spent decades on the local rodeo circuit, competing in roping events.

Over the years, as the couple lived and worked on their ranch off of Stage Road, they’ve learned to work well together, said Linda.

Tom agreed. With a slight proviso.

“She gets mad sometime because I don’t talk to her when we are sorting cows,” said Tom.

Married for four decades, the duo met at the 1971 Vale 4th of July Rodeo when Linda was queen and still attending Treasure Valley Community College.

Linda grew up in Homedale but said she quickly fell in love with Malheur County and its people when she was attending college. People, she said, care in Malheur County.

“One of the things about this community is we all help each other,” said Linda.

Tom said that community cohesiveness is a hallmark.

“We may bicker and fight but if we have a disaster, everyone pulls together,” he said.

Linda, 71, hails from a rodeo family, and participated in team roping, team penning and team sorting over the years. She and Tom both stopped rodeo competition about 15 years ago, yet both remain active locally in other ways.

For example, Tom, 75, is a member of the Malheur County Grazing Advisory Board, the Bureau of Land Management Advisory Board and chairman of the Warm Springs Irrigation District board.

Staying involved is important to him.

“I like the advisory board stuff because you get to meet a lot of different people,” said Tom.

Linda said the couple always worked hard so they could “go play” with their roping events.

The couple said their ranching life was been rewarding and a lifestyle they enjoy.

“I’ve been fortunate in my life,” said Tom.

Their success as ranchers, they said, has a simple formula.

“We’ve had a lot of support from the community,” said Linda.

The McElroy family has lived on the ranch on Stage Road since 1924 and Tom and Linda raised two sons – Bob and Gary – on the place.

Tom said he has traveled through life using a simple motto.

“I will help someone as long as they will help themselves,” he said.

Linda said the Vale 4th of July Rodeo is a special event.

“It was an honor to be queen and I’ve met at lot of people (at the rodeo) I’m still friends with,” she said.

Tom said the biggest change over the years with ranching is the advent of technology.

“When I was six or seven, it took six or seven guys to hay this ranch and now two guys can put up all the hay and more of it,” he said.

Tom said he never really thought about doing anything else other than ranching.

“I like this life. There is something special about it,” he said.

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