Monday evening, Nov. 20, God and the Devil played rock-paper-scissors to determine who took in the feisty soul of Brenda Janice Beckley Daniel, formerly of Mountain Home; she was our beloved wife, mother, companion, wrangler, ramrod, and friend.
Brenda was born to Homer and Hazel Patterson Beckley at Eagle, Idaho, in May of 1945; Homer and Hazel were in their 40s, and Brenda was a welcome surprise. She was doted upon by her parents, Homer’s four brothers, and Hazel’s two sisters.
When Brenda was about five, Homer took over a Phillips 66 wholesale business in Mountain Home, and the family moved from Eagle. Homer and Hazel assured Brenda got a good upbringing and a good education.
As she got older she rode in the fuel delivery truck with her Dad; they roamed all over southwestern Idaho, and she got to see close up some of the wildlife that would fascinate her for life. Homer taught her to drive the delivery truck at an early age; later, when he was ill, she was driving the truck “solo” even though she was not yet fourteen – the legal driving age in Idaho at the time.
The Sheriff was so happy when she turned fourteen that he personally took her to the courthouse and issued her license; now he no longer needed to turn a blind eye to her underage driving.
As a teenager she drove belly-dump semis for local construction projects, and was a card-carrying teamster.
Brenda danced, did gymnastics, and excelled in school – but her true loves were horses, ranching, and rodeo. Her long list of physical excursions began early with falls from horses and collisions with fenceposts, but she cowgirled on.
Brenda’s parents valued education.
Homer had only finished eighth grade, but was a natural-born engineer and could multiply numbers three by three in his head. He was especially good with water, and could lay out an irrigation pattern and ditches by eye.
Hazel had been formally educated, and had completed her Pharmacist’s training and licensing through Idaho Technical Institute (now ISU) in Pocatello in the 1920s. They passed their love of learning to Brenda, and insisted she go to college after her graduation from Mountain Home High School in 1963. She attended the University of Idaho, and graduated in 1967 with a degree in English and a minor in Geology.
While at Moscow, Brenda met a young forestry major from Modesto name Ray Hamilton. They were married soon after graduation.
Ray accepted a commission into the U.S. Air Force, and they spent eight years in the USAF. One assignment was to Keesler AFB, Mississippi, where Ray trained foreign national pilots.
Brenda put her English degree to good use and accepted a position at a private Jesuit boys’ school, where she was the only female on the staff. She was respected and well-treated, and had many great stories about the students and their varied backgrounds, which included Jersey mafia families hiding out in Biloxi from turf wars back home.
She said she never felt safer than when the “bodyguards” were on duty to assure the kids weren’t targeted.
While home one summer in Mountain Home, Brenda and her Mom encountered a local social worker in the supermarket.
The worker asked if they knew anyone who might be interested in adopting a newborn baby boy. “Why, yes!” they replied – and Bruce Lane Hamilton came to live with Brenda, Ray, and the Beckleys.
Bruce traveled a lot between Mississippi and Idaho, and was well loved and fussed over by “Gammie and Poppa”.
Ultimately, Brenda and Ray grew apart, and they were divorced in 1975. Brenda moved home to Idaho and taught school in Mountain Home while working on a Masters’ degree at Boise State University.
During this time period, she became friends with the airbase veterinarian and his wife Kaye Adkins; Kaye and Brenda sponsored the girls’ gymnastics team. Kaye’s husband Terry had been assigned to Alaska prior to Mountain Home, and he was a “musher” – a dog sled racer.
In 1975 Kaye and Brenda pit-crewed Terry’s dogsled team on the Iditarod race – this was the time period before the modern race of unobtainium sleds and superdogs.
Kaye and Brenda hitchhiked by bushplane the entire 1037-mile length of the Iditarod in the dead of the Alaskan winter to be sure the team had the supplies and care it needed to finish the race.
While at Keesler AFB, Brenda had met a young Air Force officer, Dave Daniel, who also flew T-28s. In 1975 they began a correspondence, and in July 1976 they were married on the hillside behind his mother’s lakeside home near Vinita, Oklahoma.
Dave was assigned to the USAF Instructor Pilot Training School at Randolph AFB, Texas, and Brenda, Bruce, and Dave spent three happy years there enjoying all Texas has to offer.
In 1979 Brenda and Dave decided to leave the Air Force for the civilian world; she told Dave they could live anywhere he wanted and do anything he wanted, as long as it was in Idaho.
Dave was fortunate enough to land a position at the Idaho National Laboratory, and they purchased a small acreage near Rigby. Brenda was a happy rancher, populating the farm with horses, pigs, cows, dogs, cats, and chickens.
It was here by chance she took in an orphaned baby raccoon from a friend; despite her best rehabilitation efforts, Roobin Raccoon refused to leave, and lived many happy years in her barn, growing fat and sassy on a diet of Cheetos.
Soon after arriving back in Idaho, Brenda began to spend a great deal of time caring for her parents, now in their 70s. She lost both of them to old age in 1983.
Brenda served the community as a counselor, advisor, and board member for the Idaho Falls Opera Theatre – she contended she heard music in black and white, while everyone else heard color. She enjoyed the opera, but to the enjoyment of all, she never tried to sing.
Brenda had many cowboy and veterinary friends through the years, and enjoyed nothing so much as riding after cows for roundup, sorting, and branding.
Brenda and Dave moved to a new ranch east of Shelley in 2007. The property was perfect for Brenda’s riding needs; she could step out the back door, saddle the horse, and ride for hours in the mostly unfenced areas east of the new home.
She and her many riding friends had great adventures here, throughout Idaho, and in the Jackson Hole area of Wyoming. Her stories of blending herself and her horse into herds of bugling elk bulls during the fall rut were most entertaining.
Brenda inherited heart problems from her mother, and underwent many surgeries and procedures during her life (many of them experimental) in an effort to repair the defect. Ultimately, she received a mechanical heart valve, which served her well through the years.
Infant animals, such as puppies, kittens, and raccoons, found the “click” of the valve very reassuring and would sleep happily on her chest for hours.
Despite all the horse wrecks and injuries through the years, it was likely the heart defect which caused her death.
Brenda leaves behind to toil on this mortal plane: innumerable friends; her husband of 41 years, Dave; son Bruce and daughter-in-law Wanda; three grandchildren – Clay, David, and Emily; farm animals including three horses, eleven cats, one dog, and a bunch of chickens; literally hundreds of rescued puppies and kittens; and the woods full of rescued and rehabilitated baby raccoons.