SALMON, Idaho - Until a wolf was shot on Gene Hussey's ranch south of Salmon in January, he was just "Hussey," a prankster with a sharp tongue who lived without a phone.
Since the wolf's killing and Hussey's
confrontation with three U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents, the
bachelor has been besieged by journalists and scrutinized by the
Hussey, who met the armed agents with
rocks and a steady stream of the "F" word, has become a symbol of
the old West. To those who believe ranchers have ruled the range
without enough regulation, Hussey represents what's wrong. For
those who believe government is getting too big and too demanding,
Hussey is David fighting Goliath.
bucked authority for years. At the one-room Iron Creek school where
he and his siblings got the better part of their education, he and
two other students once disassembled the school bell, then threw
the parts into the Salmon River.
When he went to
Washington, D.C., for a House subcommittee hearing about his
confrontation last spring, he took a rock from his ranch and
presented it to Fish and Wildlife Director Mollie Beattie. Next to
the power, might and fanfare of the federal government, Hussey
said, the rock looked puny even to Beattie.
may be a turkey, but I'm not a turkey all the time," Hussey said.
"I like to scare the hell out of them right off. But now I've got
some of the best friends I have in the government around here."
Hussey was born on Iron Creek in 1920, four
years after his father bought the place. In 1937, three years after
the Taylor Grazing Act was passed to control unbridled grazing on
public lands, Hussey moved with his family to Oregon where he would
stay for 20 years, not counting a stint in World War
In 1956, he returned to the ranch at Iron
Creek, where he's lived ever since. While ranching, he nursed his
parents through old age. Both died in their
While he has no phone, Hussey is hardly
reclusive. Mornings, he may pop in at the Salmon River Coffee Shop
where he flirts with the waitresses and ribs other ranchers.
Evenings, he's a regular at high school athletic
"Hussey is the kind of guy who, when the
wrestling team needs uniforms, the money mysteriously appears for
them," said Lemhi County extension agent Bob Loucks. To fellow
rancher Bruce Mulkey, "He's what this country used to be all
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