The Region

Interview with Marcia Anderson

David Levy | Vice President

Published December 1, 1988  | December 1988 issue

At the end of December 1988, Marcia Anderson will complete her second and final two-year term on the Ninth Federal Reserve District's Helena branch board of directors. During the last year of her tenure, she served as chairperson.

According to Bob McNellis, Helena branch manager, Anderson was appointed to the five-member board "because of her varied background as a rancher and a business person...and she represents a fast-growing area of Montana."

Interviewing Anderson and touring her personal primary business enterprise, Bridger Canyon Stallion Station near Bozeman, leads to the conclusion she has been an ideal board member for the Federal Reserve. She's in a position to provide grass roots economic information to the bank leadership, and has a unique Montana perspective that's quite useful in understanding the western portion of the Ninth Federal Reserve District.

What follows is a brief interview with Anderson. A stereotypical bank chairperson she's not.

Region: Where should we start the story?

Anderson: I was raised in Northern California—not year-round, but summers, weekends and vacations. Northern California is rugged country, much more rugged than Montana. That's where I learned to ride horses when was very young and where my stepfather educated me to the outdoor world. He taught me to fish, hunt and mainly to just appreciate it. (Editor's note: her affection for horses is easily apparent; any horse within scratching distance automatically gets loving attention.)

Region: Then there's your "city side"?

Anderson: Yes, we lived in the Bay Area, and I went to girls' schools and then on to Stanford. Basically, I was a city girl with a real love for the outdoors.

I'm sure this is why I'm now in Montana. I keep telling my husband Buck he's very lucky he married me; so he could drive me off to Montana.

Region: What did you study at Stanford?

Anderson: Medicine. I ended up specializing in internal medicine and my specialties were dermatology and allergy. I practiced in San Francisco, 1950-60, before we moved to Montana. We came here (Montana) in '60 and I didn't practice for 10 years. Then I went in with a group of eight medical associates and practiced from '70 to '82.

Region: Tell me about your husband Buck.

Anderson: I was the doctor at a ski resort when I met Buck. He was a skier with a bad shoulder. This was in the Sierras in 1949 and it was pretty primitive in those days. When they needed a doctor, they'd run up a flag on the lodge's flagpole. I would look down and see if they needed a doctor and ski down. That's where I met Buck.

Region: And then you moved to Bozeman?

Anderson: No, at first we moved to a little house on the ranch out at Three Forks. It was a white clapboard, tiny, tiny house. Going backwards was awfully hard because we had a beautiful ranch-style house in California and three children at the time. We were spoiled, you know.

Region: Interesting that you chose ranching. Had you any experience along that line before coming to Montana?

Anderson: We had a tiny ranch in California. It was 1,200 acres in the Napa Valley, and we ran about 200 yearlings for about six months out of the year. It was a taste and it got in our blood.

At one point we took leaves of absence and started looking for ranches. It was fun—Oregon, Nevada, and on to New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado. What made it interesting was that ranching had become a popular tax dodge for movie stars, and land was over priced. Our real estate broker said we were going to have to try Nebraska, Montana, or North and South Dakota. That's what happened. We came out here and found something reasonably priced.

Region: The cow-calf business on your ranch is somewhat famous because you and your cowboys have one of the few remaining cattle drives in the United States?

Anderson: Our ranch consists of 2,500 mother cows and about 300 bulls. We have three ranches. By far the largest one is the summer ranch. It's used from June to the first of December. Then they move down to the winter range of 12,000 acres and stay there until ready to calve. Then they come back to the valley ranch where they calve and have to be fed.

Region: This is all done on horseback?

Anderson: Yes, it's a distance of about 55 miles and takes five days.

Region: Do you go every year?

Anderson: If the weather's nice. I don't do the whole five-day stretch; that's pretty strenuous. I love to ride parts of it, some are really pretty. But for 18 miles it's a bit boring.

Region: Any stories of high drama on the cattle drives?

Anderson: They're so popular that everyone wants to come on them...lots of out-of-state people. Sometimes we get too many cowboys stumbling over each other.

Region: I understand trout fishing in the mountain streams on your property is first-rate?

Anderson: Speaking of that, we were arranging a fishing date with Paul Volcker, and he said, "I think the first week in August would be perfect." And, of course, we realized he was retiring. He was so relaxed, looking for a job. He wanted to be a cowboy. We had more fun with him when he retired.

Region: One last question. You own a feed store, manage an impressive and successful quarter horse and thorough-bred breeding operation, are involved on the ranch, and serve as board chairperson of the Federal Reserve's branch in Helena. With your great love of horses, do you find time to just ride? And do you have a favorite horse?

Anderson: I always ride at the ranch, and it's to do something. I mean it's not just to ride, it's to move cattle and check fences, salt boxes or springs.

It's a big country. You can ride a long way. Let's put it this way, the cowboys each have seven horses in their string and they change horses every day, because they may ride 30 miles. You need a lot of horses.

Region: Thank you, Mrs. Anderson.