June Sloan

June Sloan

June Sloan was born in Shasta, California, on Oct. 15,1932. Her parents, Opal and Frank Hohnecker, left Iowa as a young couple with their 4-year-old son, Ellsworth, and headed to Shasta where Frank found work on a ranch. June was a country girl from the beginning. She learned, alongside her father, to train horses and to teach others how to ride at the riding stable her parents built. Her brother, Ellsworth, also learned to ride, despite having cerebral palsy due to birth trauma. Ellsworth and June played a vital role in the family business throughout their adolescence. Once the stables moved from Shasta to Chico and from Chico to the Grey Eagle Lodge, they helped ride their string of horses each year from La Porte to the Grey Eagle Lodge Stables on the back trails.

Eventually June and her family bought a ranch in the North Arm of Indian Valley in Plumas County. Together they created a self-sustaining farm on their property. June and Opal planted a large vegetable garden each year. Frank dug out the hillside and created a root cellar where they stored the food they cured and canned for the winter. They had a small herd of milk cows which June and Opal milked every day. They raised pigs, sheep, cattle and chickens. People all around Indian Valley bought or bartered for their produce, milk, cream and eggs. Frank was a blacksmith and it was a common sight to see folks riding along the North Arm road to take their horses to be shod by June’s father.

June was tall and strong like her father. She learned to use a chain saw and she cut firewood for as long as she could pack a saw. She married Chuck Sloan when she was 22-years-old and they continued to be a part of what made the farm productive. June was a founding member of the Indian Valley Riding and Roping Club. She became its treasurer and went on to become the president of the club. Many attribute the renown of the Taylorsville Silver Buckle Rodeo- to June’s dedication, knowledge about and commitment to the Indian Valley Riding and Roping Club for well over 50 years. She knew horses, cattle, cowgirls, cowboys and how to put them all in one place and have it come out okay.

But June and her family did more than raise vegetables and cattle, they helped raise a good-many children from Indian Valley as well. Opal, Frank, Chuck and June all drove the school bus at one time or another. June drove the longest. For 50 years she transported children from the most remote regions of the valley to the schools. The children and the parents trusted June and her family. When times were hard and help was needed, they turned to June and she always made them feel welcome, special and important. She became the second mother and later grandmother and great grandmother to quite a few children. June and her husband, Chuck, did not have children of their own, but they were loving parents to many.

June’s home was a child’s paradise: lambs in a box by the wood stove bleating in the morning to be given their bottles, a chicken coop in which the eggs rolled down a ramp and into a slot made just the right size for a tiny hand to reach in and discover the warm egg, and cats who sat in a ring around the milk cow in the stanchion and opened their mouths for June to squirt a stream of warm milk their way. She gave each child the same sense her parents had given her, that she was capable and a necessary part the helping the farm to function.

June will be remembered for many things, but above all else she will be remembered for the steadfast and nonjudgmental way she loved. Many will recall her laugh as she watched the Playdays she helped organize for the children of Indian Valley at the rodeo grounds. She encouraged every child. In some way they were all her children. She did not reminisce much as she grew older. She preferred to talk about her “grandchildren” and suffer through their difficulties with them or delight in their happiness. June remained that trail rider who kept an eye on what lay ahead and found it beautiful and pretty exciting.

June cared for her mother until Opal died at age 91. Opal died at the ranch. June was the last of her family, but she did not die alone. She was able to do as her mother had done and look out the window at their land on her last day alive. This was possible because one of those children June and her family loved, and his wife, stayed with her, cared for her and loved her as she had done for so many others.

There will be a celebration of June’s life, when possible, in Taylorsville. If you wish to contribute to June’s legacy, please send your donation to The Indian Valley Riding and Roping Club, which sponsors many events for young people.