All Things True – A Family History Page 1 of 8
Like any of us, the Johnny True we know today is the sum of all past actions, circumstances and events in his life. A rundown of his accomplishments both personally and professionally may leave the reader with a sense of knowing him – who he is, what he is about. But there is always more to a man than what may be listed on a sheet of paper; there is also his heritage and where he comes from. And yet, there is still more to him than that. A background and family history does not define him as an individual any more than his accomplishments may; it is yet just another brick in the wall, helping to pull together the structure of a man.
John Ira True was born with his name and will die with it too, but, for 53 years of his life he was referred to by another. John was born on October 5, 1946, in the Oregon State Mental Hospital in Salem, Oregon to his troubled young mother, just 19 years of age. Two days after his birth, John came to live at Albertina Kerr Adoption Center in Portland. At the age of six, and after living with a foster family for four years, John Ira True became John Rodger Hendrickson, at the signing of adoption papers. It would be 40 more years before he would come to meet his biological family and, soon thereafter, find a distinct change in himself.
John comes from cowboy stock; there are no two ways around it. Those who came to know John in his business heyday and sporting times see a man reborn, someone who they may have never known existed in him before; as even he may not have known himself. But make no mistake, inbred into his genes are horses, manual labor and sidearms. In discovering his family – and even himself – John has simply returned to his roots.
The True family migrated to Oregon from South Dakota in 1924. Poor farmers with little money, they pushed west as many did at the time to find promises of a new life on the rich abundant soil of the Pacific Northwest.
With their two faithful German Shepards, four strong farming horses and six children, Abraham Frederick True and his young wife, Artha Jane Kidd, twelve years his junior, set down roots in Ontario, Oregon, east of the Blues Mountains. The previous ten years had found them hopping from Kansas to Missouri to the Dakotas, farming each land along the way, in search of a place that they might someday call home.
“Home” was not merely a house in the eyes of Abraham and Artha; it had become an intangible entity to them as they jumped from state to state. They hoped to find a place to settle their family for life, a place that offered an answer to the question, “Where are you from?”
Each state brought more children to the True family and, in turn, more expenses, oftentimes forcing the clan down the road to the next farm available for rent and toil. Oregon brought them their next house, place of employment and, finally, gave the True family a real, honest-to-God home.
Living on a rented farm and working the land of another supported the family, but just barely. While food was never scarce, money certainly was and the life they lived was a tough one of fierce expectations of long days toiling the earth, seeding the ground and caring for the animals. No one was exempt from taking part in running the farm, no matter their age.
One child, Ira Leroy True, seemed to believe otherwise. Born the second of four boys, and the third child in line of the total, Ira had worked his hand on a bevy of rented farms his entire 17 years before he began to question the authority of his father. Soon he allowed his eyes to wander down the empty road to anywhere for the first time in his life – but certainly not the last. Where the other True children had accepted their life responsibilities without question, Ira had a rebellious and impetuous spirit, restless to be out in the great wide emptiness of a cowboy’s trail.