Idaho speaker has deep roots

Pioneer legacy helps ground politician

By Dan Popkey

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Jan. 14 2013 11:15 p.m. MST

The grandson thinks of that when he sips at the water cooler in his mudroom. "It sure does taste good in summertime. In anything that mattered, John D. Rockefeller didn't have anything more than Ray Bedke."

Speaker Bedke's father, "Ray C," felt the same way; he couldn't wait to get home after two years of stateside Army service during the Korean War.

"He was one of the original old-time cowboys," said Merv May, co-owner of the Burley Livestock Auction where the Bedkes sell many of their cattle. "He was a hard-working old boy."

The Bedke children were raised Mormon. Scott served a two-year mission in Italy, reads scholar James Talmage and teaches Sunday school to adults. But he speaks of his faith only when asked.

"I think it's best not practiced on your sleeve," he said.

All five kids were expected to go to college. Scott, 54, is the oldest and graduated from BYU with a degree in finance. Eric also graduated from BYU, in business management. Alex Bedke went to Utah State and works for the LDS Historical Society in Salt Lake City; the only girl, Leslie Barrowes, attended BYU but left to help her husband through grad school and raise a family; and Brice Bedke graduated from BYU and makes artificial joints in Indiana.

A sixth child, Derek, would be the oldest, but he died at 12 days. Scott and Sarah named the first of their four children Derek. All four are married, and the Bedkes have two grandchildren.

A ranch life

Ray C and his wife, Nedra, married in 1952. Ray C died in 1998 at age 67. Nedra, now 80, lives across the road from her oldest son in the brick house where she raised her kids. She's kept the ranch books for more than 50 years and still teaches 19 piano students.

She grew up in Logan, Utah, where her father was a building contractor. She insisted on testing the well at the summer place in Nevada, called the Winecup Ranch. "This city girl didn't trust drinking water from a well. It came out perfectly pure," she said.

Last year was the first time in 60 years she wasn't at the Winecup for haying season. Her children worked on the ranch, including summers at the Winecup and the Jew's Harp Ranch, across the Idaho line. They drew water, cut wood and lined up hay bales for the stacker. Nedra cooked in a coal stove in a 12-by-20-foot log cabin at Jew's Harp.

"It was better than a tent, that's about all you could say," Scott Bedke said while feeding cattle near the Jew's Harp cabin and reflecting on his mother's life as a farm wife. "I guess I'm saying it must have been true love."

Mom wouldn't have anything different.

"The secret in raising kids is that they know how to work and where the money comes from," Nedra Bedke said. "When they go off into their own lives, they still know how to work. I think that's why they're all successful."

Bedke might have been a better student had he not felt the tug of the ranch. He contrasts his experience with that of a soldier whose commander burns the ships upon landing in foreign territory.

"He could sail home if he wanted to," said Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, another fourth-generation rancher who sells bulls to Bedke for breeding.

"A lot of people don't fully appreciate where they came from in today's mobile, hectic lifestyle," said Brackett, who was a president of the Idaho Cattle Association, like Bedke. "It grounds you, furnishes core principles. Otherwise, it's easy to get whipsawed. If you have those core values, then people might not agree with you, but they'll respect you."

The 'idiot cowboy'

Bedke said he has three avocations: gardening, golf and the Legislature. He's also a wisecracker.

Asked about Gatorade, Pepsi or water for his guests on a daylong ranch tour, he tells his wife, "They can drink from the trough."

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