COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD – CHANET STEVENSON – ROYAL CITY — It was kind of always a given that the Mianecki brothers would grow up to become farmers as Rick and Frank Jr. (Skeeter) already had a lifetime of experience in the business having worked alongside their parents since childhood.
As young boys, they rode around on the back of the pickup truck, changing water with their dad, Frank Sr.
“There was no sitting in the truck,” Rick said with a grin.
Frank always made sure to include Rick and Skeeter on whatever he was working on, teaching them new responsibilities as they went.
THE FAMILY THAT WORKS TOGETHER
Frank Sr. grew up on a family owned dairy in Wisconsin. Once out of high school, he joined the U.S. Air Force and was later stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. While living in Idaho, he met his wife, Chris, who was working as a waitress at the time. The two wed in 1962, and decided to move to Royal City where Frank began working for Chris’s brother who had a farm. Frank and Chris had three children; daughter Leilani, and sons Richard and Frank Jr.
Frank had always said that as soon as he had $5,000 in his pocket, he would purchase his own land. When that day finally came, he bought his first few acres, gave his notice to his brother-in-law and went to work on his own.
The Mianeckis grew mainly hay and corn. It was a family effort maintaining the workload, with Frank, Chris, Skeeter and Rick working side by side changing water, driving tractors and doing whatever it took to keep it all going.
“We would get up together. We would work all day together and half the night too,” said Rick.
A typical day for the Mianeckis consisted of waking up and changing water from 5-7 a.m. The kids would then be off at school and stay for sports practice afterward. When they got home they would do their homework, eat dinner and head to bed. At about 10 p.m., they would get up and bale hay until around 2 a.m. and then go back to bed. The routine was repeated daily.
Rick recalled listening to Paul Harvey on the AM radio while raking a whole circle of hay using a single-basket, ground-driven John Deere rake, a job which took a week to complete. The kids helped out by sitting on the back of the truck pulling piles apart from the rake as they went. As they got older, Frank handed them shovels and taught them how to dig, a lesson that came in handy during the springtime when they worked digging concrete ditches.
On days when the wind was blowing, the Mianeckis would spend all day and half the night shoveling and scraping the dirt down where the corrugates were to keep the water flowing. They also shoveled dirt out of the ditches while the water was still running.
The Mianeckis maintained about 1,000 acres, changing siphon tubes, hand lines and wheel lines every day. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s when Frank purchased their first circle. He hated it, however, as it had never worked properly from the first try. He was constantly having to fix it and couldn’t wait to get rid of it.
Farming had its trials and its triumphs for the Mianeckis. Some years saw better crop production better or prices than others. It was those times that felt almost as though they made up for the years when the turnout wasn’t as good, giving them the boost they needed to keep going, Rick explained.
In addition to farming, Frank also served as a Port Commissioner until 2015, helping to develop and expand the Port property and water system. He dedicated many hours to re-opening the rail line between Royal City and Othello, and also served as the Grand Marshal of the Royal City SummerFest Parade in 2012.
After high school, both Skeeter and Rick continued to work on the family farm while acquiring farmland of their own.
Skeeter attended Big Bend Community College and Spokane Community College. He took morning classes, worked on the farm in the afternoons, and then returned to the classroom in the evenings. He studied business mostly, but always knew he wanted to continue farming.
“It’s the only thing I ever wanted to do,” Skeeter said.
When he was about 18 years old, Skeeter began his own farming ventures with the help of his dad. “He was very instrumental in giving us the hand up.”
Frank made sure the boys had what they needed to get up and running, lending a helping hand and sharing equipment, which allowed them to get some money under their belts.
Rick attended Wenatchee Valley College, where he was recruited to play football for the Knights. He, too, continued to work on the farm, coming home every weekend to help out.
“I’ve always been interested in farming, ever since I was a little kid with my dad,” he said.
At age 19, Rick made his first land purchase, which consisted of about 67 acres, a shop and cattle corrals. Frank helped Rick too, putting some money down and going with him to the bank to work out a loan.
Over the years, the Mianeckis continued to work closely together. Frank semi-retired from the business about 10 years ago, but continued to assist Skeeter and Rick until his passing in April of 2017.
“We all helped each other out,” Rick said. “It’s been fun working with my dad and brother.”
Today, both Skeeter and Rick continue to farm on the Royal Slope. They operate around 3,000 acres between the two of them, growing timothy hay, spring triticale, wheat, beans, corn, fresh peas and occasional sweet corn, and do custom work for other farmers too.
The two are known and respected for treating their employees like part of the family with care and report that spans beyond the farm. Over the years, the Mianecki family has also earned a reputation for generosity and participating in community events and organizations.
Rick is married to his high school sweetheart Connie. The two wed in 1991 and have two children, Trevor and Meghan. Rick had hoped for his son to take over the farm someday. They had talked about it and it seemed that Trevor too would follow in his dad’s footsteps. Sadly though, Trevor passed away in September of 2017.
As for Skeeter, he is engaged to be married to his longtime sweetheart, Tammy. Chris still lives on the Royal Slope, and continues to volunteer in the community as she has done over the years.
December 14, 2017 at 5:00 am
Picture: Getty Images