Sam Elliott Explained How Childhood in Sacramento Spawned His Love for the Outdoors

by Amy Myers

For anyone familiar with Sam Elliott’s work on-screen, it’s not a far stretch to imagine that the actor grew up loving the outdoors. In fact, spending time in nature was a huge part of his childhood in Sacramento.

Most recently known for his role as Beau Bennett in The Ranch, Elliott’s characters over the years all seem to embody the same sense of appreciation for the outdoors that the actor found early in life.

Sam Elliott’s Roots in California

Although most fans might imagine Sam Elliott growing up in a small Texan town, America’s classic cowboy learned to walk underneath the California sun.

Born in 1944, Elliott first lived, ironically enough, in Hollywood Park. This doesn’t make Elliott’s love for the outdoors is any less authentic. Just because he didn’t grow up slinging saddles doesn’t mean he didn’t learn his way around nature.

“I had an idyllic childhood,” Elliott told Sactown Magazine. The ’50s were a great time to grow up, particularly in Sacramento. I remember I had a bicycle and I divided my time between William Land Park and the Sacramento River and everything else in between.”

Sam Elliott also described his childhood as a “simpler,” more “carefree” time.

“I really got my first taste of the outdoors in Sacramento—this is a great place to live if you’re into nature,” the actor reported. “

The Impact of Elliott’s Father

However, his time in Sacramento came to an end, unfortunately, when his father had to transfer the family to Oregon for his job.

 “I didn’t want to move, but my father worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and we had to move up to Oregon for [his job]. It was tough. I had my whole life here,” Elliott recalled.

Sam Elliott also remembered the positives of his dad’s job, though, including the times he accompanied his father to go fishing.

“My dad, being in the Fish and Wildlife Service, spent all his time outdoors. And I got to go with him up to the Sierras, Placerville, Wentworth Springs and the Rubicon River. I went fishing for trout.”

The actor’s late father was in predatory and rodent control within the Fish and Wildlife Service. His job required him to protect the populations of whole ecosystems by controlling species that threatened overpopulation or overuse of resources.

In other words, as Elliott said, “Just what it sounds like, it was all about holding back the rodents, the coyotes and the lions, and all those predators. He was one of those guys that environmentalists scream about today.”

Once the father and son moved to Oregon and Elliott grew older, he expressed interest in acting. Unfortunately, this put a strain on the relationship with his dad. When Elliott’s father suddenly passed away from a heart attack, the aspiring actor was only 18 years old and full of unresolved feelings.

“He died thinking, ‘Man, this kid is going to go down the wrong path,'” Elliott told Toronto Star. “And I think on some levels that was either hard on me or made me more focused in my resolve to have a career, you know what I mean?”