David “Clancy” McClure was killed Tuesday, August 10, after riding his Indian motorcycle off the road in New Castle, Wyoming. He was 58. After losing the family ranch on Tomales Point in 1967, Clancy wandered the globe for decades before finding a new home in Edgerton, Wyoming. He was a cowboy biker who could compel an audience with a tale told in multiple dialects. He was a big game hunter who guided fellow travelers across the treacherous plains of Zimbabwe. And though a passionate orator and fierce hunter, Clancy was a gentle giant.
“He had the kindest, biggest heart you have ever seen in your life,” said his wife Linda. “He would give you the shirt off his back.”
Clancy always carried a deep love for Point Reyes, as well as grief and resentment toward the government for taking that life from him. Five years ago, he returned to Point Reyes for the first time since his family lost the property. It was an emotional day, but Clancy calmed down, sitting on the old water tower overlooking Hog Island. “He looked around and said, ‘How lucky was I that I got to live here,’” said his niece Denise.
Clancy was born on January 12, 1952 to David and Betty McClure. David was a rancher who worked the Point Reyes land with his brother, Johnny. David was in his 40s and still a bachelor when he met Betty. Betty was a waitress at Tombahia in Inverness, now the Tomales Bay Resort, and already had a teenaged son named Jim. After David Jr. was born, the aunts all agreed that the boy’s curly blond locks reminded them of Clancy the Barber, a character from a movie they were fond of. The endearment stuck.
Ranch life suited Clancy. It was the only beef cattle ranch on Point Reyes, and his father sold gourmet meat to restaurants in San Francisco. “It was a great life,” said Clancy’s niece Deborah. “We basically had paradise to ourselves. It was responsible stewardship. We grew everything, and the land provided everything for us.”
Clancy and his brother Dennis had thousands of acres to roam. A part of their chores was to hunt quail and duck. “We were taught the expeditious use of firearms, and Mom was a fantastic cook, so she taught us how to cook,” Dennis said. “We were totally isolated out there, but there’s really no better place to be as a kid.”
The ranch dog, a Chesapeake retriever named Cindy, was terrified of guns. She would wait by the house until she heard gunfire, which would signal her to run the quarter-mile distance to the pond, retrieve the shot ducks from the water, and then retreat to the safety of the house.
The children’s’ favorite pastime was to play with Sailcat, a mummified feral cat. We found it in the barn one day, sandwiched between some hay bales, and it was flat as a pancake,” Dennis said. “I’m not absolutely certain how it met its demise, but we played with Sailcat for years. It’d pop up when you least expected,” he said, chuckling at the morbid entertainment.
David and Betty were not religious, and the family didn’t go to church. “Our religion was nature. That’s where we connected, not in some building,” Deborah said. “When you live the way that we lived, you felt connected all the time.”
Clancy fully expected to take over the ranch when he grew up. He liked hanging out with the adults, and took in every aspect of the cattle ranch business. “He was different from the rest of us kids,” Deborah said. “He went out a lot with his dad, and he really paid attention to the workings of the ranch. He was a cowboy.”
This changed when the Point Reyes National Seashore was formed in 1962, and it was clear that the ranch would eventually be lost. David was struggling to make ends meet, and finally sold the ranch to a group of investors, who then sold it to the Seashore at a profit. “[Clancy] always felt that the Kennedys stole his birthright,” Linda said. “They were good stewards of the land, but J.F.K. flew over the top and said, ‘That would be a good place for a park.’ His father was so concerned about how angry he was that he bought him a pickup and horseshoeing tools to keep him off the ranch and keep him from doing the sniper thing when they came to bulldoze the house.”
Clancy moved with his family to Placerville, and he soon dropped out of high school to become a farrier, making and fitting horseshoes. He was 16 and had a talent for the work. Clancy was taken under the wing of Johnny Gunn, a celebrated farrier who taught him the art of fitting shoes on Tennessee Walkers—a horse breed known for their unique style of walking at a high clip. Clancy moved to Tennessee for two years to further his knowledge.
Making horseshoes lost its appeal after several years, so Clancy took a job working for his half brother Jim’s company American Diesel Parts Corp. Jim bought scrapped WWII ships from salvage yards in Richmond, rebuilt the engines, and sold them to foreign governments in developing countries like Peru, Indonesia, Ecuador and the Philippines. “Everything was through agents that took care of all the payoffs. Those countries were corrupt like you wouldn’t believe,” Dennis said.
After two years, Clancy left San Rafael to do odd ranch jobs around Marin and operated heavy equipment for Tam Sewers. He lived on one of the Dolcini ranches in Chileno Valley before moving to Novato, where he met his wife Anne Moore. Anne came from an affluent family, but was cut off from the money because of her substance abuse problems. Clancy helped her get sober, and helped repair her relationship with her family. Once she was clean, Anne had a trust fund that allowed them to travel the world and buy a house in Cody, Wyoming. They married in 1980.
Clancy started making frequent trips to Africa on hunting expeditions. He was taken by the incredible landscapes, culture and wildlife of the Zimbabwe bush. “He loved to hunt, and this was the epitome of hunting,” Dennis said. He spent months at a time in southern Africa, learning the ropes from old Afrikaners and guides. He started guiding hunters, but had to return to Wyoming when his relationship with Anne started to deteriorate. They divorced in 1990. “When they split up he got nothing. She kept the house in Cody and even most of his good African mounts,” Dennis said.
Clancy stayed in Wyoming, operating heavy equipment for oil well reclamation, and returning abandoned well sites to their natural topography. He also took jobs putting in new railroad lines for Burlington North and installing gas pipelines.
Wyoming was celebrating its centennial in 1990 with a 30-day wagon train recreation that progressed from Casper to Cody. There was a dance in Thermopolis, and Clancy gave a ride to an ardent Sheriff’s deputy named Linda. They began chatting, and became companions on the long wagon train.
After three years of dating, Clancy married Linda in 1993. They lived in Edgerton together for nearly 20 years. They raised horses, rode motorcycles and went hunting. “We took up bow hunting early last winter. It became a passion because he’d shot everything in the world with guns,” Linda said.
They stopped raising horses six years ago, when Poco, a horse Clancy had ridden for 30 years, walked out into the sun, laid down and died. Clancy took a job at the North Antelope Rochelle mine, the largest surface coalmine in the world. He drove a two-story D11 Caterpillar, a job he had desired for years.
For possibly the first time since leaving Point Reyes, Clancy was a satisfied man. He was in love with a woman who was every bit as tough as he was. He had a beautiful home adorned with trophies from numerous hunting expeditions with his wife, brother, nephew and friends. He loved telling stories and jokes with friends and family—his favorite being the one about the British soldier and his deaf brother.
No one knows what caused his fatal motorcycle accident last August. “We never, ever left each other without saying ‘See ya, love ya, bye, be careful,’” Linda said. “I know that he was careful.”
Clancy is survived by his wife Linda; stepsons Michael Maglaughlin and Kelly Banks; three step grandchildren, Johnathan Banks, Armond Maglaughlin and Katherine Maglaughlin; brothers Dennis McClure and Kenneth Eckstein; nephew David McClure; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews, and countless friends. At Clancy’s request there were no services. His wife Linda is planning a memorial in the summer of 2011.