Sheep Often Taken For Grantedby
man who once owned a lot of sheep
and goats for many years said he still had not figured out why the Good Lord
created such exasperating creatures. |
Surely it was a botched-up plan of
some sort. He also stated anyone who owned sheep
was a "poor, misguided, ignorant pilgrim." Another time he said, "The dumb cluck
could get into more trouble than you could shake a stick at." However, after the
open ranges were fenced with net wire and owners learned a few tricks about the
the "woolies" often provided more profit than cattle
though few would admit it.
Since most sheep
look alike they are very hard to count. One old cowboy who was forced to tend
to a herd of sheep
along with his cattle
said, "My eyes would cross every time I tried to count sheep.
I didn't know how many I had in the beginning, never knew how many I had during
the season and didn't know how many were sold in the end. But the boss said we
made a profit."
There seems to be no explaining how one Mexican herder
could control 1,500 sheep,
day and night for months at a time out on the bald prairie, out in all kinds of
weather, changing locations every day with only his whistle, a yell, a carefully
thrown rock and a faithful sheep dog or two.
Owners treated herders as
family as they were devoted to their flocks and guarded them as jealously as Caesar
did his wife. Perhaps being with their flocks 24 hours a day allowed them to better
understand the nature of the breed.
recorded tales of sheep
and cattle wars
would fill a long shelf in a library. Both men and animals died in the battles
and ambushes. Thousands of animals were stampeded over cliffs and into rivers.
Only after wire fences arrived did the violence stop and even then the wires were
sometimes cut in revenge. When laws were finally passed making it a prison sentence
to cut the wire the ranges became safe again.
My favorite sheep
story took place after the railroads
arrived allowing livestock to be shipped to market by rail. Special facilities
were built to load herds onto rail cars. Dust clouds rose to the skies during
shipping season as crews worked around the clock to load the animals.
every sheep loading
facility featured a very important employee living nearby, usually a pet ram who
was raised on a bottle by a young boy. Most were named "Sancho" and called a Judas
Goat, the animal was used to lure the sheep and goats aboard the rail cars. When
ready to fill a car Sancho was turned into the pen to be loaded. He milled around
to get acquainted then led the herd into the car. When full, the doors were closed
and Sancho worked his way back to the door to be let out to load the next car.
The owner of this talented, hard-working animal was given a dollar, maybe, for
the service and the star of the show was given a "chaw of tobacco or a few tailor-made
cigarette butts" which he purely relished. Now just how cheap can wages get?
"It's All Trew"
16 , 2010 Column
On Sheep | Texas