Memoirs of a Sheep Herder by Jay Irvin Hadley.



Memoirs of an American sheep herder.

Kathy and I loved sheep herding for the most part, one reason. We spent our summers in the forest living in a natural world among plants and animals. We have often talked about writing down our stories about sheep herding

Kathy and I loved sheep herding for the most part, one reason. We spent our summers in the forest living in a natural world among plants and animals. We have often talked about writing down our stories about sheep herding. Kathy aka Kathryn Hadley PHd has not the time. She mentioned to me the other day, "Allot of lambing knowledge will be lost with me when I die". Kathy now teaches Physics at Oregon State University. www.khadley.com.

So here I am thinking about writing something on sheep herding and a memory comes to mind of the time a horse in a pack string fell off the narrow mountain train and down the side hill several thousand yards to its death. We never tied our horses together very hard they were tied to break away if one fell it would not take all with it. This place on the forest was a particularly bad trail that had a rock that the horses had to go by and they walked on this sloped rock next to a drop off. We had a mare with a pony that year his name was Pony Kings.

Poney Kings

He followed his mom every where so he was never haltered or tied. I looked back and saw him slip on the rock. His feet scampered so fast he was back up and down the trail very swiftly. It sort of shook me up. We went by that rock 2 years so I don't know if it was that year or probably the next the horse fell to its death scattering toilet paper rolls and rolling all down the hill side. It was quite a site. We had to carefully climb down the hillside and pick it all up with the dead horse laying down there. In fact one of the mountains in my pictures was named Dead Horse Peak.

One time we had a bear split off about 18 head of sheep. It herded them off from the bunch or followed them around for a week. Kathy went out looking for them and saw some sign of them and ended up over near Dead horse Peak. She had to spend the night out there. She said she had 1 can of something to eat but no can opener. She had lost her pocket knife. She opened the can with a horse shoe nail. She had a handle little over under shot gun that had a shot gun and a 22 cal in one gun. She shot a sage grouse and having lost her knife she cleaned it with a native american artifact she had found and put in her pocket.

We never did see the bears. They knew when we were coming and would hide.

" Dead Horse Peak ". It was some very steep and rugged mountains. Bike Egbert was the camp tender. He was there when the horse fell, helping us through that rough place. He went back and told the forest ranger Dusty Hinks, what had happened. Dusty came up and looked it over and said they might could dynamite that rock out. That was our last year at Egbert's if I remember right I never went back.

I heard later Dick Egbert lost that sheep allotment because of it being grizzly bear habitat or something. He had trouble with bears. I never saw a Griz but one time I left a sleeping bag rolled up where I had had a TP camp and wether I went back to get it a bear had rolled it around and around all over the place pulling stuffing out of it and stuffing was everywhere. The bears liked to kill sheep in the hottest part of the day when they were laying in a bunch in the shade. We would go to our tent for lunch and to rest. It was never comfortable laying on the ground our there with the sheep. The ants would craw on us. The flies would annoy.

When I herded for Krebs ranches I had a friend named Carlos that herded near us. We got to be friends but I could not speak much Spanish and he spoke no English in spite of working in America for many years. He told me he saved all his money and sent it back to his brother in Mexico who would built houses with it. He had 4 or 5 houses he built with Carlos herding wages. $650.00 a month at the time. Carlos told me his money was worth 3 times in Mexico as it was here in the us. Carlos would go to Mexico ounce a year or so and was a rich man. then he would return nearly broke and work another year.

Now I read where they are trying to make ranchers pay an hourly minimum wage for these herders. They can triple that wage in there own country.

During the time when we were herding Western Range Ass. started importing herders from a small town in Peru they had found. So many herders were and still are Peruvians.

So there was a law that if there was an American Sheep Herder that wanted a job Western Range Association was suppose to send them out before the import herders. Western range required I give them a reference that would say I had herded sheep. These sheep outfits would lay me off in the winter and keep the contract herders they were required to keep them steady the 3 years. So I would often look for another job in the winter. One winter I threatened to sue wester Range Association who had been ignoring my requests for a herding job. I told them, Send me out to your worst referral I font care just send me out". It turns out that was Bill Phillips in Blackfoot Idaho. He had sent back 3 contract herders. One rolled his water truck. One wouldn't keep his shoe laces tied. True story. He saw me tie big double knots in my boot laces and told me that his migrant herder wouldn't keep his shoes tied. Bill weighted 300 to 500 lbs and a real character. He cheated me out of money every chance he got. Like the time I had a dead batter on my pickup, pulled into the shop where there was a battery charger there and an electricol outlet. I plugged in the charger and it wouldnt work. Bill said that plug was 220 v and it killed it. Most 220 volt outlets wont take a 120 power cord. This one did and it was not evident that it was not 110. He Ill charged you $500.00 for that charger. I had a wall tent of my own I had stored in his barn. He told me, "Ill just take that wall tent of yours for that charger."

Well in the years I herded sheep their were not many American sheep herders. I was told before the 50's there were quite a few but men learned after that they could get better and easier paying jobs than punching cows or sheep in the private sector. So a company name Western Range association was importing sheep herders from Mexico and they sheep men would contract them to herd sheep for 3 years. The criteria for getting a sheep herding job was you had to have previous 1 year I think experience herding sheep. So most of these herders had taken care of a few sheep there family had in Mexico The main reason they wanted the job was the pay was much better than in Mexico. When Kathy and I got hired at Fred Hungers sheep company near Montpelier, Idaho that firs year we showed up with no experience. We had been camping up in Star Valley Wyoming, it had rained for 4 days and we through our tent and gear in the back of the pickup and headed to Montpelier. A friend of mine in Afton Wyoming told me he had worked for them in lambing time. So we showed up with this truck loaded down with wet camping gear.

It turned out there old sheep herder Kenny Vandarlin had taken sick and the Fred Hunzeker and Sons were taking turns herding the sheep them selves. They were desperate for a herder so they put us out with a flock of about 800 Ewes on there range near Montpelier, Idaho up Bear Hollow. I have pictures in the sheep herder gallery.