Who was Ernie Kuck?

EAK color Wilma Roberts R-small

Photo by Willma Roberts

He was a simple man, and a very complex man. He dressed like a common cowhand, but created millions of dollars seemingly out of thin air. He owned thousands of acres of land. He never intended to make money, but he made lots. He was intelligent, self-reliant, honest, and hardworking. He was dealt some hard blows in his life, but recovered and moved on.

He expected high standards from his workers and his friends—but never higher than the standards he set for himself. He hated small talk, and yet he could talk plenty if the subject interested him. His word was inviolate; he did what he said he would do, and he expected others to do so as well. If they didn’t, they fell out of Ernie’s world. It was their loss.

In the 1970s, Ernie envisioned a foundation that would establish a museum to preserve the history of Wasco County. At his death, he endowed $9 million for the building and maintenance of just such a museum. Ernie was part of the history of The Dalles. He made some of that history, he preserved that history, and loved that history. His breed has vanished with the cattle that once surged through town, but the independent and principled virtues of this common man will be long remembered.