BONE — A long list of Dale and Marla Meyers’ accomplishments and accolades just got a little longer.
The Meyers both received the 2020 Cattlemen’s Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bonneville County Cattle Association recently. Each were given custom-made Montana Silversmith belt buckles sponsored by CAL Stores.
This is the first year that a husband and wife team has received the award.
“It doesn’t happen that a woman is honored as being so valuable in a farm relationship with her husband,” Marla Meyer said. “Oh, my gosh, it was such a nice evening and such a nice tribute for us to get the award. We do everything together, but Dale and I were still so surprised that they’d give the award to both of us. I cried.”
Their daughters Sherry Freund and Lisa Wilson participated in the ceremony, together narrating the story of their parents’ lives. Freund gave the life sketch and Wilson read a poem she wrote about them.
Dale and Marla have spent their entire married lives raising cattle, grain and hay at their ranch in Bone, east of Idaho Falls.
“For as long as I can remember my parents have always been together, not only as a couple but on just about every aspect of life,” Freund said. “They’ve always worked together as a team in everything they did from raising three girls on the ranch to daily ranching operations. They’ve always had a vision of what they wanted to accomplish. They were a united team as parents as well as ranch managers.”
Both were raised on farms — Dale in Bone and Marla south of Idaho Falls — during an era in which helping out was a part of growing up. Marla, daughter of Oscar and Verna Oltmann, met Dale 70 years ago at the two-room Washington School when Dale’s parents, George and Helen Meyer, moved their cattle from Bone to Idaho Falls during the harsh winter months.
In spite of severe winters in Bone and working jobs in town, the couple built their life together. Two years after they were married, Dale was called into active duty with his 116 Combat Engineer Battalion Unit. After 11 months in the Army in Vietnam, Dale suffered severe burns. It was a tough recovery but it made them stronger as a couple, Dale said.
Working together knits a family together and the Meyer’s believe anything can be accomplished with perseverance and hard work. Today, the Meyer’s and Sherry and husband Eric Freund have separate ranches in Bone but farm much of the land together. The Meyer’s raise grass and alfalfa while the Freund’s raise hay, grain and Black Angus cattle.
Each summer, harvesting about 1,500 acres of dry-land alfalfa and grass takes the whole family. Marla and Sherry’s swath the hay and Eric and Dale bale it. Granddaughters Audrey and Jaydyn Freund, pitch in raking. Once the hay is loaded on semi-trucks, it’s hauled and stacked at the ranch located high above the Snake River Plain on Bone Road. The hay crop is marketed locally and in Wyoming and Montana for horses and cattle.
“They believe you can do anything as long as you can set your mind to it,” Freund said of her parents.
The Meyer’s not only built the farming side of the operation, but also grew their cattle herd to 250 mother cows with the help of artificial insemination with thoughtful sire selection. They designed and built a huge log home. Doing much of the work themselves, they also built a dam that holds enough water to irrigate 250 acres of thirsty East Idaho cropland via a gravity-flow system. Furthermore, they built miles of fences, fixed roads, founded the Trailblazers 4-H Club and raised three daughters, Sherry Freund, Marci Lawyer and Lisa Wilson, who were active in in 4-H and junior posse.
The couple was given the National Farm Safety for Just Kids award for their efforts.
“Little did my parents know that they’d still be involved in 4-H to this day,” Freund said. “They supported each of their three girls in their beef projects. It takes a lot of unseen support to have a child in 4-H and my parents were always the backbone of our success. Now they watch their grandchildren Audrey Freund, Jadyen Freund, Tyler Wilson and Morgan Wilson participate in 4-H.”
In addition to farming and ranching, the Meyers initiated a drive to get year-round mail delivery in Bone, and Marla has served on the Bonneville county Cattle Association board for 10 years. Marla has also served on the Bonneville County Fair board, where she played a role in getting the new county fairgrounds built on St Clair Road.
In 1982, Marla promoted the need for a telephone system in the Bone community of about 20 residents and enlisted the help of a local television reporter Laurel Porter. Each household contributed $1,000 and everyone split the cost of about $500 to lay about 30 miles of telephone lines. The effort caught the attention of the producer of The Fantasy Show, a popular NBC show at the time, and their effort was the subject of the hour-long show. Bone residents had to travel to Idaho Falls to watch, because they only received Channel 3 at the time.
What started 106 years ago when Dale’s great-grandmother, Tilda Johnson, a widower, homesteaded property in Bone, continued when her son Gardner Johnson and Dale’s parents George and Helen Meyer became partners and merged their two ranches together.
Dale and Marla taught their daughters to do any task needed on the farm and to work hard, like their parents taught them, all the while maintaining strong family values.
“They’ve been a love story from the very beginning. Little did they know in grade school that they’d be together for this long. Mom and Dad are a team and to this day my parents are still farming, helping with the cattle, picking rocks out of the fields, tending to grain crops, cutting, baling and hauling hay, and working with the next generation to achieve the same greatness in caring for the land,” Freund said. “The ranch is what it is today because of them and those who have come before them. The lessons they’re passing on to the next generation are priceless.”