By Jessie Higgins
LANGLOIS — World War II was looming the day Dick Hildebrand had an accident.
Hildebrand had a thing for hot rods as a young man. He drove his hot rod too fast and crashed. His injuries were bad, and he spent a summer in the hospital. If not for that wreck, he would have gone to war. Instead, Hildebrand went to work.
Like the previous generations of his family who have lived, worked, and died on the hills near Langlois, Hildebrand has spent his life as a rancher.
“I’m so proud of him,” said James Kalina, Hildebrand’s grandson. “He’s very modest about his accomplishments. He supported his wife and three children all by himself. He worked all the time.”
Hildebrand — now 83 — still cares for a herd of cows on his 120-acre farm. His daughter and grandson, Kalina, have taken over the family’s 1,100-acre ranch.
That ranch began as a 160-acre homestead claimed by Hildebrand’s great-grandparents in the 1880s. Five generations later, the family has outlasted almost all the original homestead families in the region, somehow still supporting themselves by running cattle and selectively logging. Thirty-year-old James Kalina works on the same where hills his great-great-great-grandfather once stood.