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By: LEE JUILLERAT
What's the biggest change in Paisley over the past 75-plus years?
"Well," answers Ed Murphy, "you don't see no horses staked out when you go to town anymore."
Except for time in the Army during World War II, Murphy has been staked out near and in Paisley.
For years he was one of the cowboys who rode horseback to town and tied it up on a post outside the store or restaurant. The way his wife Dorothy tells it, that was part of ritual.
"He came courting on his horse. He'd ride up every evening," remembers Dorothy, 72, with a grin and chuckle. "They had cars. They just wanted to show off cowboy stuff."
It worked. Ed and Dorothy married June 1, 1946.
But life didn't begin or end with their marriage.
Ed, the son of Michael and Florence Windom Murphy, began his life at the Murphy Ranch home just outside of Paisley. "Dr. Hansen, the Paisley doctor, he was the one," says Ed.
Ed's father immigrated from Ireland, eventually arriving in Paisley in 1918. He worked as a sheepherder and saved enough money to buy the first part of the since-expanded ranch. For a time the ranch had upwards of 2,500 sheep. "I helped him do everything," recalls Ed. "I went out on the desert and helped with lambing. I drove the team for him when he was cleaning ditches. He started a little bunch of cows, 50 or 60. We milked them and sold the cream." The cowboy life continued until 1943 when, "The draft board hollered at me."
After basic training and becoming engaged to Dorothy, Ed found himself in the Army infantry in France. He and another solider "I was only 19. I didn't have better sense" volunteered as scouts.
" We just crossed the river and started up a potato patch and they got us," tells Ed, who took five bullets in the groin. "The doctors didn't expect us to live, the way we were shot up. We said we had different ideas."
He spent nine months in overseas hospitals and another three months in California before being discharged and returning to Paisley in 1945. He hasn't left.
Dorothy's family has long-time Paisley roots, deeper even than Ed's. Her parents, William and Myrtle Parnell, started the town's first sawmill and logged with horses. She remembers first meeting Ed while at Paisley High School "He was heckling me, that's how we met." Dorothy and Ed married June 1, 1946. Their wedding day remains a great memory, but the days after remain memorable for other reasons. "I had a one day honeymoon and went right into camp and cooked for sheep sheerers," says Dorothy, who remembers the two-room cabin at Silver Lake and the famished workers. "They were mostly Irish and they were onry. And after that I was cooking from the chuckwagon."
Cooking has been her life. She's spent more than 30 years as an assistant cook at the Paisley School. At school she's served up meals for thousands of young people, including her own children. All four Martin, Theresa Bickerman, Noreen Shoun and Patrick "Len" still live in Paisley. Martin has charge of the ranch's 500 cows while Len takes care of the machinery. A grandson, Brett Vickerman, breaks horses. Ed and Dorothy moved to town, just across the street from the Paisley Community Center, in 1952 to be closer to school.
The main ranch, where Ed was born, is located along the Chewaucan River near town. In all, the Murphys own about 4,500 acres, including fields further upstream along the Chewaucan plus holdings in Silver Lake and the Warner Mountains. Along with cattle, they annually raise about 1,100 tons of hay. "I like what we call Coleman Rim that's where we run most of the cows. You drive over a hill and come down into a grassy meadow. Early in the morning you can see deer big bucks. Until hunting season," chortles Ed, "then they're not there."
Spring is when the Murphys move cows from the ranch to the mountains and desert. But fall, "When we start gathering the cattle," is Ed's favorite season. Health problems, including a brain aneurysm in 1996 and a four-way heart bypass last year, have plagued him, but Ed still rides horseback. "I guess that's what I like about it," he says of ranching, "I love to ride." Riding is his love and ranching his work, but he's also devoted to his community. Ed spent many years as the Paisley fire chief, Paisley City Council member and Lake District Hospital board member, and was an emergency medical technician for more than 20 years. "I grew up with animals and I thought that was a good way to continue," says Ed of ranching. "I never did think about moving. I had plenty to do here and I enjoy it."