William “Wild Bill” Campbell – A vintage of a man passes!

A little update since the writing of this post!  Recently after all these years I have found that Diane Campbell, Wild “Bill” Campbell’s wife is still living on the ranch in Pilot Rock, Oregon!  Diane put up with all of us that frequented the ranch!  One of the greatest places to ride horses, hike and hunt for pheasant hunt, elk and deer hunt!

I had an email a while back from an old friend; well he is younger than me.   He had been on a Texas deer hunt with his kids on a friend’s ranch.   Mention about a dear friend that is no longer around and that the tradition of the hunt would change.  How true his words were to me that day!  Over the past 30+ years or more I have had the privilege of hunting a number of private ranches.  Some were rancher friends that I have met via hunting with someone else, met in the road near their place, through work and from knocking on doors.Relationships with ranchers change with the times and the conditions of life.This reading with me is about a rancher that I met during a deer hunt near Pilot Rock, Oregon that I was invited on from a Naval Officer that I first met when I was stationed at the Naval Security Group Activity in Imperial Beach, CA.  Rod Briece was from the Portland Metro area and was on his active duty obligation.  I took him on an unsuccessful duck hunt along the Tijuana border.   The day before there were more than a 1000 ducks and geese held up in tidal flats…?  This story about a rancher; he went by the name “Wild Bill Campbell”, a rancher that lived up on East Birch Creek outside of Pilot Rock, Oregon.  Bill Campbell was a Cattle Rancher, Horse Trader, Husband, Peacemaker, Hunter and mostly a Friend of mine.
As I said earlier I first met Bill on a deer hunt with Rod.   Rod was hunting with his usual deer hunting group.  I was the outsider invited to the hunt; I came ready to deer hunt prime private property on eastern Oregon Cattle & Horse ranch.
Bill’s ranch was along East Birch Creek and had boundaries south near Pearson Creek and the Umatilla National Forest.  There are many notorious places that are still thought of by the hunters or persons that roam the area.  Such places that might be alone the 4230 road such as Foggy Knob, Four Corners, Little Pearson Creek, California Gulch, Government 80, Sagebrush Flat, Dark Canyon, Merle Canyon, Tamarack Gulch, Cold Springs Canyon, Hascall Spring, Pole Mill Rd, and Spring Hollow just to name a few spots that are like having a GPS with waypoints when talking.Right from the get goes; I knew that I was going to like Bill a lot.  Bill looked like he came from out of the “Old West”; never saw him without a Single Action Revolver and or wearing suspenders.
On this hunt Bill gave me knowledge and taught me to be patient, go with the flow.   On one particular day I was riding with Bill, he would stop and talk with every other rancher or ranch hand he knew.  In my mind I am going is this ever going to get over with, it’s daylight out and I need to be hunting and not BS’n.   There had to be a big buck waiting for me in the timber.  Later I find out that with Bill talking with everyone, he is gaining knowledge on game and getting us permission to maybe get onto another rancher’s property…
Since that time I have learn to take time out during the mid-day and slow down. 
Bill was a man of many stories of past times.   Bill had a cabin up near Sagebrush Flats that all of us would jockey on the use of the cabin.   On the walls were written passages of days spent on the cattle trail moving cattle from the out of the mountains to the valley floor.  I remember one passage written by Bill when he was with his father-in-law, “the snow was more than three feet deep, with drifts over your head, wind blowing hard, 10 degrees out, horses tired and a pack of coyotes following their every movement”.  If one had foresight they would have taken pictures of these passages on the wall of the cabin.  I understand that the cabin is gone, as an outfitter bought the property some years back from Bill’s widow.  Being and old horse trader, or better yet a gun trader, I have always felt it to be a privilege to hunt someone’s property.  Not much on paying with “Green Backs”, but with something that every rancher might want to rat hole.  Has anyone every known a rancher that might not want a new rifle, possible good pair of bino’s, knives or how about a master case of 30-06 Remington 180 gr. cartridges.
Well Bill was always one that would want something new that he has never had in his gun cabinet.   Being able to get some items demo out to me or be able to pick up a new rifle for wholesale, I could not past up the opportunity to do this barter system.
We always had a place to stay, leave our horses, go anywhere, do anything, hot meal in the evening and even drive Bill’s truck up into the back country.  Bill would be ready to go on a hunt at a moments notice.   No one ever had to worry that he would not be ready.
His truck was never without a rifle, six shooter, knives or ammo.  On the Ready! 
The following are a couple of short thoughts and happenings with Bill Campbell.
Oh!  Bill was a Reserve County Sheriff and would go out on any call.  One look at Bill and I think an outlaw would just put their hands up.
One afternoon Bill and I had to go into town to the local market, we had just come out of the canyon above Bill’s main house.  We were packing iron on the hip.  Getting out of the truck I started to remove my holster and belt.  Bill quickly said “Frank no need to do that, we pack here”, so it is probably first and last time that I have walked into a store with handgun on he hip…  Looking at us would have most likely seemed like a picture from the past.Another time Bill had the county veterinarian come out and look at one of his horses that was sick.  The county vet., said that he would have to put the horse down, he felt the horse was contagious to the rest of the herd.  Bill slowing put his hand on his hip, of course where his 45 Colt was and look straight into the Vets. Eyes and said “I don’t think so Doc”.  The Vets eyes went to the size of golf balls and he left most hastily. There was the time that Bill gave me a pink lariat for my Birthday on an early scouting trip in June.   Inside of the package was a set of chaps from the turn of the century and this pink lariat.  Bill, his wife Diane and Stick gave a really bad time to me on this gift.  It was given to me because I thought I was a macho cowboy from the valley…  Anyway I still have the lariat.  My lariat was always tied to my saddle, even when I was in the bottom of Hells Canyon.  It reminded me of the great times I spent with “Wild Bill Campbell” at his ranch.One of the most memorable hunts that I had with Bill was a middle of the season deer hunt at this place.  Bill had dropped Ben and I off at the head of California Gulch for a two person deer drive.   Ben and I split up on the two walls of the canyon and worked our way down into the timber.  Ben was a great partner, when working canyons we seem to know were and what the other person was doing without ever seeing them. Anyway I had beat Ben to the bottom of the canyon and was working my way up the center into some down timber and grassy area.  All of a sudden I jump a large black bear that was sleeping.  The bear jumped up and was on top of a down tree broadside at 50 feet.  I had my 257 Weatherby at the time.   I quickly shoot into the boiler room of the bear, nothing happen, so I shoot again at the bear into the same spot.  The bear is off the tree and running.  I shoot twice again at the bear as it is moving left to right into the same spot but on the opposite side of the animal.   The big black bear expires in the creek bottom!  Now what I said to myself.   One has to remember that while shooting the last two rounds I had yelled up the canyon for Ben.   Ben came running down and thought that I had a small war going on.   To his surprise there was a bear laying dead in the creek and not a big buck.   In my mind I wanted to skin this bear and be able to have a life size mount done.  We could not budge the bear out of the creek as the creek had steep walls due steepness of walls from spring flooding.   We skinned the bear in the creek which took some time to do.  No we knew that Bill would want the bear meat, being an old mountain man.   Just getting ready to quarter the bear and we hear a truck coming to us down into the canyon.   Bill with his Blue and White Ford F250 pickup stopped at the edge of the creek wall.   You have to be kidding me, Bill drove to us.   Morale of this story, have patience, a rancher can get anywhere to pickup game.Sometime in 1987 Bill Campbell “Wild Bill” passed away in his favorite sitting chair in the living room.  I suppose he had a glass with good aged whiskey in it.   He had honor, give you the shirt off his back, lone you a weapon if short and he would open his home to you to stay.“Wild Bill” I hope you are still chasing elk and deer up in the clouds!depearsoncrk.jpg 

Elk were taken every year up at East Birch Creek.

Bwana Bubba aka Frank Biggs

11 thoughts on “William “Wild Bill” Campbell – A vintage of a man passes!”

  1. I have very sad news to report, Stuart Rollin Harms, son of the late Dorothy McBroom Harms and Donald Harms, nephew of Diane McBroom Campbell, passed away 12/16/2017 at 51 years old; born 09/21/1966.

    I would very much appreciate getting in touch with Diane Campbell. My contact information is:

    503 890 4300
    PO BOX 744
    JOHN DAY, OR 97845

  2. Just another guy lucky enough to have met Bill and hunted his land. Stayed a time or two in the cabin and killed both my first buck and first elk up there around Government 80 while still a teenager. Fantastic memories. My hat will always be off to Bill- A giant guy who truly loved to get people onto game. Greg Brody

  3. Holy crap–I am so glad that I continued searching for Diane. This is Stu Harms, son of Dorothy nee McBroom Harms and Diane’s nephew. I so much want to get back into contact with her. The last time I spoke with her was at my wedding reception in 1998. I’m ashamed that we fell out of touch for such a terribly long period of time, and I really have no excuses outside of that I’m terrible about calling people. But then, so was Diane, which my mother used to complain about all the time :). If you’re wondering about Dorothy, she died in September of 1990 from kidney cancer. That was a horrifying year for me, since both she and Bill died within 6 months of one another. Bill was my second father, and in many ways my first father.

    If anyone has her contact information, I would really appreciate getting it. I want to make up for a lot of lost time.

  4. Hello,
    I wanted to update everyone that Diane is still alive and doing well. I check on her from time to time. My fiancé and I have her pasture now for our cows. I am incredibly interested in the old farm house and have heard lots of stories from Diane. I was wondering if anyone has pictures of the old farm house from back in the day??

  5. Dianne — I was thrilled to learn that you are still alive and living in “the ranch house” I loved so while I was growing up. I lost track of you for decades and really I had assumed you were no longer living. Wayne and I (both 87 now)live in a retirement center in Corvallis now. He has both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s but we are doing fine.
    All the recollections above touched me deeply. Janet McKensey, who wrote above, is our daughter. I’ll add my own thoughts when I can gather them.
    Love from you cousin, Pat Gibbs Phillips

  6. Ah! Wild Bill Campbell! He was a great man that could spin some yarn. I happen to be one of the guys to hunt and play on the ranch. Bill put up with all of us and was a great host. I got to stay in the cabin by Government 80 and it was a blast. I remember when there was yelling down on the main floor of the cabin by the big fireplace that was burning really well. I guess the heat of the fire woke up the yellow jackets that were hibernating in the ceiling. Guess Frank had his sleeping bag open as it was getting pretty hot, well he found out about really be hot when about two yellow jackets nailed him in the thigh! I do believe the elk hunting was the best as we got elk a number of times. There were the times that you met other hunters the guys from Merlin who stayed up by Foggy Knob. To Bill and Diane, it was great to be part of your lives during the 80’s. Bell Lang old buddy of Bwana!

  7. Hi all, I am friends with Diane. I met her when I began working at Oregon Trail Veterinary Clinic in Hermiston, OR. She is now retired and lives in the big blue two story house outside of Pilot Rock. She has had a few surgeries but is doing really well. She has that independent spirit about her. She has her cats and feeds an array of animals from raccoon to skunks and peacocks, etc. I go up and visit her from time to time and try to get up there to shovel snow off her path ways in the winter. I am going to send her all of your responses and letters. She will be to tickled! She is such a neat lady and I feel so privileged to have gotten to know her pretty well and to get to spend time with her. What a legacy that family has left behind!! I love reading all the stories so keep them coming and I will forward them on to Diane. She does not have internet but if you wish to contact her you can let me know and I will either give her your contact info or I can ask her if I can give you her info. Have a very blessed day!

  8. The following is some history from Linda M.

    Hi, so nice to hear back from you. I appreciate keeping the obit about Helen.

    I remember in your blog that you said he died in his chair. Rollin (Mac) also died in his chair, I believe. He used to work so hard. When I was visiting, he would sit down after Sunday dinner and watch basketball on t.v. in his chair. That was just a little rest time he would take.

    I remember Bill and Diane and Dorothy, all young and active, smart and beautiful as we all were. ( 🙂 Anyway. I remember Diane got an appoloosa that was very frisky. A young lady had been hired to help Diane around the house. Anyway, Bill had the young lady sit on the appoloosa and he said she “got bucked so high up she had time to light a cigarette before she came down.”

    The family was so friendly and wonderful. My folks met Rollin and Helen through the Presbyterian Church in Pendleton. I just came along with my folks, Joe and Evelyn Gjertson (later the baby – Julie) from the time I was 8 years old. I still remember all the dogs would bark and run out to see the visitors. A little scary but the men always yelled at them to Be Quiet. This was the smaller of the 2 farm houses. It had a bay window, which was Dorothy and Diane’s room. The other bigger farm house was where Grandma Ella lived… The first time I visited the ranch with my little 8 year old friend, I was demonstrating how to climb in the lilac bush in the front yard and got stuck in it. I was extricated. I kept visiting them when I could and as I got older, I would help Helen cook or I would make breads, biscuits, desserts, fudge, and help with the pie. She had me mop or wash laundry. I loved the house and barnyard, the chickens (got chased by the rooster) and sometimes I got to go in the barn. It was all so wonderful, I often am comforted thinking of it. I loved the mourning doves that sang in the morning just out beyond the yard somewhere. I never did see any.

    I found some Wizard of Oz books in Diane’s room and would lie on the bed and read them. Later on, I read the same books to my children.

    I played the piano and Rollin would sing in his wonderful baratone and Diane’s equally beautiful alto. “Roll on, Thou Deep and Dark Blue Ocean” was one I liked for the drama. They also sang “Danny Boy” and “That Lucky Old Sun.” It was so wonderful.

    Helen had a record player, we liked “The King and I.” Also “State Fair.” Things were simpler then. We all would sit under those beautiful big trees in the front yard and sip the iced tea with lemon from 12 noon to 2 pm, they couldn’t work when the sun was directly overhead. Rollin took salt pills to keep from being dehydrated. The haying time was difficult. They hired on extra workers. We would feed all of them. I remember the big roast beefs Helen would make. She made so much roast beef in the oven, it was pretty much coated with “a special flavor.” It just had to come out good from being in there.

    Diane had a cat named “Sylvia.” The cat used to leave a poo under her bed. She would be going on about that cat. Now I sometimes call my little 1 year old cat “Sylvia.” I think she likes that. Her name is Tilly. And there’s a Stella cat.

    I remember Diane came in to talk to Helen and me. I had been making the desserts and all. We had some chitchat, then Diane said, “Well, must go out and worm a herd of goats now.” That always makes me smile. She was so busy, working for a veterinarian (surgery on the large animals), had I think 3 poodle shops where they clipped poodles, and she loved to drive her baby, which was her sports car. I really admired her for the wide range of activities that she did. I looked up to both Diane and Dorothy.

    Dorothy was close with Diane and Bill. She married Don Harms and had Stuart. I found that Stuart lives in a small town which is south of Portland.

    Do you know if there was a car accident that killed someone? I have looked into various internet spots – I have found geneology for McBrooms but I thought they said there was a car accident and some died from it. I was perplexed. It is hard to know what you are looking at on the internet.

    Do you know if Diane lives now where Ella used to? That house had a big garden behind it and large chicken coop. A big barn was close by. They went up on the hill to cut wheat. It was bigger than Rollin’s ranch area, I think. I had assumed that Diane and Bill would go in there. I knew that Diane took care of Helen in her later life, and she died of Alzheimers.

    I miss them all. I still get up early in the morning and “do my chores,” much as Rollin did all the chores before he would have any coffee or breakfast. I admired that ethic. Then I go out to work.

    My father died early 1990 of brain cancer. It was about 18 months of dwindling abilities. We all miss him. Mom passed away in April of 2012. She was 97 and very stalwart. Stayed in her home until 2 years before she died, then went to assisted living. I would guess she died from old age, some dementia. But strong like a pioneer. My sister and I did everything we could, we sold the house and belongings and the property to make sure she had enough money so she could take it easy at the Assisted Living. She did like it pretty well after she adjusted to it. It had a lot of really nice amenities.

    I am a single mom. I was married but it did not work out so I went off to live “nearby.” I still stay in touch with the Mathisons. One of my sons lives in Bellevue, WA. His name is Todd. My young son Brian lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Gwen. They met during college at USC. He works for insomniacgames.com – he is a game developer. His wife works with autistic children. She has a degree in art and in psychology. It’s a long way away for me, I don’t travel so well. I miss Brian a lot. They have a Himalayan cat named George, so pretty. Big fluffy curly hair on him – hard to comb in the summer but so pretty. George is the “grand-baby.”

    My sister and husband have 2 children. One does artwork, drawing, computer drawing. He lives in Portland. Their daughter is going to begin teaching preschool this fall in Albany. The parents live in Lebanon, Oregon. Julie and Bob, a very good couple. The husband just got back from a motorcycle trip to Ohio and back. (arms of steel). He worked with the Forest Service for many years, and is “mostly” retired. My sister is very strong, like my mother was. She volunteers at the Food Bank and is a gardener. Kristin, the daughter, is very very funny and excellent at photography. Takes very beautiful pictures.

    I work at Seattle University College of Nursing. I’ve been at this place since 1986. It’s a good school. We have graduate programs in family nursing, gerontology, psych, and midwifery. And of course we have the BSN (RN) program.


    Rising early, feeding my cats, cleaning the litter boxes, doing the household chores, then going to work, it all comes from McBrooms and of course, the family – early risers.

    Thanks for sending the information, hopefully this letter could go to Diane, or if she has Facebook

  9. Hello, I knew the McBrooms and Bill Campbell. He liked Marty Robbins music. He worked with A. Rollin McBroom. I used to stay with them when I was young, as a guest during haying season or sometimes during the year for a week or two. I helped Helen with cooking and cleaning up the kitchen and house. My parents were friends of Rollin and Helen McBroom, from the Presbyterian church in Pendleton. The family was very generous and kind-hearted.
    I would like to know of family still alive or what happened to Bill, Diane, and Dorothy. Thank you for your website,
    Best wishes, Linda Mathison, Seattle, WA

  10. Thank you for writing about “The Cabin,” a place that was integral to my childhood summers.

    Bill Campbell was married to Diane McBroom, daughter of Helen and Rollin McBroom. Rollin was first cousin to my grandmother, Merle Oliver Gibbs. Rollin’s mother and Merle’s mother were sisters. Their parents, Eleazer and Nancy Robbins Gilliam, were early East Oregon pioneers who homesteaded the land on which you hunted.

    The writing on the walls of The Cabin was one of my biggest memories of it. Another was that big kitchen table. Also, the rock fireplace was constructed during my first visit there, when I was probably only about 6 or 7 years old. I rode out in the truck with the men when they scavenged the area for just the right rocks, and I also got to help spread the mortar.

    My grandparents had told us that the area around The Cabin had been used by the Umatilla Indians as a hunting ground, and they urged us to keep an eye out for arrowheads. I looked every summer. Finally, as a teenager, I decided that was kind of silly, so I quite looking. Voila! That was the summer I found an arrowhead, and it has been a treasure all these years.

    I didn’t spend much time around Bill, but your description of him fits my memories exactly.

    When I discovered your blog, I was trying to figure out the address of the ranch on East Birch Creek Road. Using Google, I entered the words “East Birch Creek Road” Pilot Rock Campbell. Voila! What an amazing find. I have forwarded the link to my mother and sisters.

    I can’t thank you enough for bringing these memories back to life.

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