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My Name is Orvin Ray Ackley IV. Most people know me as Lucky. Well, these days I don’t feel so lucky.

by Tulelake rancher Lucky Ackley 5/26/2020

"For those who are concerned

My Name is Orvin Ray Ackley IV. Most people know me as Lucky. Well, these days I don’t feel so lucky.

I am a third generation Rancher in the Klamath Basin. Here is a little background of my family so that you can understand the full story and why I feel the way I do. My great grand father Orvin Ackley I, was a Kansas farmer who lived through the dust bowl and the Great Depression. He made a living any way he could as he struggled to feed his family through these tough times. He succeeded in such dire times, not by being weak, but by a lot of blood, sweat, and hard relentless work. My great grandfather survived these pivotal points in history by being a fighter and never giving up. But after the world got back on its feet he soon saw the writing on the wall and decided it was time to look for a better life outside of Kansas.

He bought a ranch in Colorado just north of Denver and was going to make a life with his wife and family there. They had spent a year or two on this ranch making improvements and looking toward the future. But that was not to be. The US government stepped in and made an Eminent Domain claim against the ranch for the city of Denver’s water shed. In one foul swoop that dream was gone.

Now WWII starts. His son is soon drafted, my grand father Orvin Ackley II. Orvin II did his part in that great war and in turn spent six months in a body cast for his efforts. Returning home, he kept a promise and married the women (my grandmother) that he met at a dance the night before he shipped out to war. Starting a life and following a dream of his own, he packed up great grandmother and great grand father and moved the family to Washington State to try their hands at Logging. It was a hard life but as before they would not let the hard work stop their dreams of becoming successful.

Again, here comes the US government, but this time they want to give my family something! They contact my grand father, Orvin Ackley II “ a WWII veteran”, to put in for these new homesteads in a place called Tulelake, Ca. A grand new project created by the Bureau of Reclamation to open up more farm ground for the better of the nation. It would be “ for the people of the nation”. As luck would have it, he drew a fine peace of ground in a part of this project called Copic Bay. Sight unseen my grand father again packed up my great grandma, great grandpa, my grand mother, and my father, young Orvin Ray Ackley III, to try their hand in this new project.

The government was nice enough to move old barracks from the Japanese Interment Camp for these new settlers to use until they were able to build a permanent home for themselves. But still times were extremely hard. They had no real roads or infrastructure to support these new homesteads. The barracks were cold and necessities were hard to come by, life was really hard at first. My grand father had brought a D5 caterpillar with him from Washington to the new homestead and that is what kept them alive in the coming months. He would trade dozer work for things that they needed. Again always looking to the future to justify the sacrifice.

As time went by he and my grandmother, my father and now aunt were starting to make a living at this peace of black ground. “Duck mud” as they called it would grow anything well. With crops succeeding, infrastructure was slowing being built and life was starting to become a little easier, (if you can say that about the early 60s farming.) Still, all back breaking work. Even with the success of the project land, my grand father and father were still not satisfied. They wanted a place to grow their cow herd and the wind swept black sticky ground was not ideal for cattle to be raised.

This brings in a new area of expansion and growing for the future. They had bought three different ranches out side of the project and began the extremely difficult task of making this ground pay and setting it up to sustain and grow a successful cow herd. We now move from being farmers to ranchers.

This required more ties to the US government. They pick up a range permit to run this new cow herd on US forest ground adjacent to the ranch. Perfect, or so you would think…

As the ranch development goes on and the homestead produces a strong income, they begin to add more homesteads to their ownership in Copic bay. Some came from the original homesteaders who were getting too old to continue farming and some were forced sales. All the time looking towards the future and future generations.

My grandfather passed away with out ever really getting to see his vision of a successful working ranch all the way through. That being said my father has continued working towards it, mixed with his own knowledge and what his father taught him. I now continue to build on the vision my grandfather strived for with my knowledge, utilizing lessons passed down from my families trials and tribulations, along with what I’ve learned as a rancher in this modern world.

It sounds like The American Dream. But…

Now we enter into the late 90s and early 2000s.

Enter US government. Again. This time with a different tune. Saying things like we must stop irrigating. No water for farmers?

ESA says its bad for fish?

Environmental Groups sue the federal government?

The farmers and ranchers all pull together and try to come up with a solution that will work for all parties, but are slapped in the face at every turn. The same US government that not so many years ago invited and brought farmers to the basin, now turns its back. Abandons the community that they created by draining Tulelake and causing the project to wither and die.

Now we are at a cross roads. 2020. What a year. Covid 19 and now no water for the farmers again. But this time they “the US government” figured out what they did wrong in 2001 in trying to remove the farmers of the basin. They told us ahead of time there would be no water. That was their mistake and this year they remedied it for their agenda. This time they told us that we MAY have enough water to get by with good management, some set aside, and well water. With this false hope given, Basin farmers put seed to ground for the coming year. Fertilizer was spread and labor put to work, all costs that will never be recovered. All because of misguided hope.

And now the punch line. I say that because I feel that we are a strong and bountiful community that has been played from the start by this so called water shortage. Here it is…There is NO water shortage!

This is all a man made shortage by the government and the tribes to shrink the Klamath Basin Project down to what they see is fit in size. Meanwhile decimating a 3rd 4th and in some cases 5th generation American dream. Dreams of looking towards the future and producing food, fiber, and meat for the masses by the sweat of our brows and the pain in our backs.

The American dream does not seem to be alive any more within the US government, but it is all that keeps my fellow farmers and ranches going. I am sad that the work my great grandfather did, so that my grandfather could succeed, may have been for not. I am sad that the hard work and sacrifice that my grand father did, so that my father could succeed may have been for not. I am sad that the hard work and pain and going with out by my father, so that I may succeed, may have been for not, if now our land and livelihoods and all that we’ve worked for is now stolen from us.

We have to get our great country back. We have got to believe in something again. The American dream has got to be worth something again.

If not, we are all in peril.

Not just the farmer with no water.

Not just the rancher with no range.

Not just the logger with no forest.


Thanks And God Bless"

~ Lucky Ackley

3rd generation Klamath Basin rancher











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