I became aware of Wayne Foster in 2003.
I was reading the January edition of “Cascade Cattlemen.” There was a two-page spread about McNab Shepherds by a man named Wayne Foster. Even better, there was a great photo of ten ranchers with their McNabs. All competitors in the Napa County Fair sheep dog trials. I was so moved by his enthusiasm and love of the McNab breed, that I wrote to him. To my pleasant amazement, he wrote me back.
Foster sent me an original photo of the one featured in the article. The photo was taken at the 1950 Napa County Fair in Calistoga, California. The photo was made up of ten ranchers from the surrounding counties of Mendocino and Sonoma. They were all the usual suspects in the sheep dog trials—names you will see throughout this website from the 1950s to the 1980s. Foster and his McNab, Topsey, took first place. On the photo, in his own hand, were the inked-in names of each rancher, their dog, and their place in the trials. Every dog was a McNab.
Wayne seemed to have his own style. In that photo, like many others of him, Foster wears his cowboy hat just a little different, tilted down on his forehead, and shadowing his face. In the Winner's Circle photo, he looked comfortable throwing some swag especially when he had the top dog that year. When I called Wayne to thank him, his enthusiasm for the McNab at 83 was clear as he spoke of his days working with his dogs.
That act of kindness was typical of what I have read about Wayne Foster. Foster was a consummate rancher and representative of “The Greatest Generation.” In high school, Wayne and another student, Dick Gray received the "American Farmer" award. Dick would later stand as Wayne's best man in his wedding. At that time, he was a high school student growing his business, paying off leases, and expanding his holdings. His father had passed away when he was six years old so responsibility wasn’t a choice for him. In 1962, Foster leased the McNab Ranch running 2500 ewes and some cows, and in our phone conversation, he told me “with 20 McNabs.” His generosity is documented through his career with his time and energy to promote farming, livestock husbandry, active in FFA, and the McNab breed. Foster was a founding member of the Redwood Empire Sheepdog Association (RESDA), which still carries on trials promoting herding skill in dogs and handlers. Enjoy getting to know Wayne through photos and stories about him over the years. This includes his son, Don, as a child with his McNab “Merry Legs.” Foster was a McNab man. He always used McNab Shepherds for work and for trials. His enthusiasm and advocacy for the breed was unfailing and done with integrity. Because of this, he will always be a hero to me.
Wayne Foster Obituary
Baker City, Oregon
Wayne Libby Foster, 92, a longtime Baker County rancher, died Aug. 21, 2012, at home with his family present.
A memorial service in honor of Wayne will be Sunday, Sept. 9, at 3 p.m. at the United Methodist Church 1919 Second St. in Baker City. Friends are invited to join the family for a dinner being served immediately following the service at the church.
Wayne was born on Sept. 9, 1919, in Stockton, Calif., to Arthur Albert (Bert) Foster and Mary Rebecca Libby Foster. He grew up on a small farm near Santa Rosa, Calif., attending school there through the first year of junior college. He graduated from Santa Rosa High School in 1938.
Wayne had a short childhood as his father suffered a debilitating illness when Wayne was 6 years old. Being "the man of the house" came with many responsibilities that required a strong work ethic that he kept his entire life. In spite of many chores before and after school, he managed to find time to excel in several hobbies.
He raised and raced homing pigeons at a young age that culminated in winning a race from Salt Lake City to home base in Santa Rosa in one day. His winning bird carried a message from the governor of Utah to the governor of California, which Wayne personally delivered.
Throughout high school Wayne was very active in FFA. At first his focus was on hogs, which won him many awards including top showmanship at the 1936 California State Fair. He then shifted his attention to sheep, which led to the beginning of many years in the sheep business. The last of the sheep were sold in 2006.
Wayne and his friend Dick Gray both received the FFA American Farmer Degree award in 1938. Wayne had the honor of addressing the FFA convention in Kansas City, Mo., by NBC radio on a national feed. Dick was his best man at his wedding.
Wayne became the "consummate stockman" and expert judge of sheep, hogs, beef and dairy cattle, horses, and even turkeys.
Maxine Myra Smith, three years his junior, caught his eye in high school. Four years later, on Oct. 4, 1942, they were married. Their first home was on a leased ranch northeast of Santa Rosa.
Wayne was drafted into service for World War II but while in line at the induction center in San Francisco, officials pulled him from the line and sent him home to serve the war effort raising lambs and wool.
By the end of 1943 Wayne and Maxine moved their growing operation to the Demming Ranch southeast of Cloverdale, Calif. They remained there for 20 years, raising their family.
Kathleen Diana (Kit) arrived on Aug. 16, 1944, followed by Calvin James (Cal) on April 22, 1947, and then Donovan Wayne (Don) on Nov. 15, 1954.
In 1962 Wayne acquired the lease for the historic McNab Ranch in Mendocino County, south of Ukiah, Calif. By this time, he had three ranches leased raising over 2,500 ewes and a few cows.
In 1966 things came together enough to allow the purchase of a ranch near Roseburg. Wayne moved the family there that summer. This was a very productive ranch that conservatively ran 1,200 ewes and 250 cows.
This property allowed him to trade up in 1976 into the present ranch south of Baker City. After 33 years of ranching in Baker County, Wayne and Maxine retired and split the ranch between Don and Cal.
Wayne had a very full and active life. He passed only 19 days short of his 93rd birthday, and he and Maxine would have celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on Oct. 4.
Wayne loved many hobbies, from running hounds on bobcat, bear, and cougars, calf roping, reining (bridal) horse competition; to perhaps his best in stock dog training and competition in trials. His prowess with dogs was known throughout the west. He was co-founder of the Redwood Empire Sheep Dog Association.
Wayne was also an avid hunter and fisherman, taking many pack trips into the Eagle Cap Wilderness for deer and elk.
He was preceded in death by his parents; his older sister, Edwina Elway and her husband, John; and his younger sister, Blanche Raglan.
Survivors include his wife, Maxine of Baker City; his brother-in-law, Charles Raglan of Penryn, Calif; his sister-in-law, Jeanie Smith of Santa Rosa; his daughter, Kit, and her husband, Glen, of Spokane Valley, Wash.; son Cal and his wife, Vickie Lou, and son Don and his wife, Vickie Gayle, all of Baker City; nine grandchildren and six great grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.
Those who wish to make a donation in memory of Wayne may do so to either the Wayne Foster Memorial Fund of the Oregon FFA Foundation, or the Baker Livestock Association Ranching Heritage Fund, through Tami's Pine Valley Funeral Home, P.O. Box 543, Halfway, OR, 97834.
Gaye Le Baron and Wayne Foster
Gaye Le Baron is a Santa Rosa girl. She made a career writing about the rich history of Santa Rosa and the surrounding areas that were rapidly growing and changing from agriculture to viticulture. She wrote several articles on the McNab Shepherd. Naturally Wayne Foster’s name is mentioned. In 1998, Andrew Neil Guthrie with Voice of America, Washington, D.C., wrote to Ms. K.C. Meadows, Editor of the Ukiah Daily Journal. He was on a mission to obtain a McNab Shepherd for display at a Scottish Tour Fair (he was thankfully unsuccessful and settled for a display board on the breed instead). Here is his letter twenty years ago when the only two McNab resource people were Alvina Butti and Donna Siegmund (click to enlarge):
Wayne Foster wrote a letter to Gaye LeBaron thanking her for her 1998 “Gaye LeBaron’s Notebook” article in the Press Democrat:
I just received a clipping of your McNab Shepherd Story. Don will be 44 years old in Nov. He too uses McNab type Shepherd on cattle and sheep here in Baker Co. OR. After spending 20 years in the Cloverdale area, we moved to the McNab Ranch. I had already used McNabs for many years at that time. The young bitch that Don is holding in front was top of the line dog. The other black bitch I called “Beebe” won many sheep dog trials and trophies & ribbons besides doing tough all-day ranch work. We were on the McNab Ranch when they had their 100th Anniversary. We were in S. R. 6/25/-27/98 to my 60th High School reunion. I got my first McNab Shepherd when I was 15 yrs. Old. I am 78 now and still raise and work McNabs. If anyone wants to know something about McNabs contact me.
Sincerely, Wayne L. Foster.”
I wish you were here to contact, Wayne Foster.
Wayne Foster’s McNab named “Beebe” was likely named after the Beebe family. Tradition is naming a dog after the breeder of your dog. The Beebe Family was very involved in sheepdog trials and their name is mentioned throughout the trial notices displayed on this website.