It was early morning when we came upon the sheep camp. The sheep were grazing and laying in the grass. The seven donkeys had been unloaded and free to move around the top of the hill overlooking Highway 260 in the area of the Verde Valley, Arizona. The dogs did not bark or even come up to me when I walked up the hill. Most of the herder dogs had seen me before so I was not surprised. I called out and identified myself. I was invited to come up to the camp. As I approached the dogs were hunkered under the shrubs and bushes to get out of the sun. Even this early in the morning, it was beginning to heat up. A cool breeze was blowing which helped.
A fire had been built some time earlier as it didn’t have many flames, just hot coals left. A Dutch oven was sitting among the coals. I asked if they were preparing breakfast. But, no they had had their breakfast earlier before they moved the sheep to this location. The camp tender was preparing their lunch. Oil was added to the Dutch oven and the lid was put on. While the oil in the pot was heating, he cut up carrots, onions, potatoes, and some other vegetables which I did not see. A few minutes later, the lid to the Dutch oven was removed and the vegetables were dumped into the pot. The lid was once again returned to the pot and it was left to simmer.
While I was watching the cook, a third herder joined the first two. I asked to take pictures of each of the herders, their camp, the sheep, and their activities. At first the three of them said no! Then as I started to walk away one said, yes, he wanted his picture taken and asked if he could have copies of my pictures I took that day. My Spanish is limited. Thank goodness for programs that will translate for you! I agreed as I knew I would see these herders again.
Jose, I believe was his name, proceeded to walk over to the burros and grabbed one of them. This is the picture he wanted me to take with his own camera and then allowed me to take pictures with my camera.
He then asked for me to take his picture with the sheep in the background. Once again, pictures were taken with his phone and my camera. In his broken English and my limited Spanish I learned that the three herders were brothers and from Huancayo, Peru. A smile came to his face when I told him I had been to their hometown.
We returned to the camp fire. I told him that I was with my husband, but he could not crawl under the barb wire fences as I did. He asked if my husband had pushed me under? I didn’t need a translation for these words and he graphically proceed to show me. All three of the herders had a good laugh about it. One of the pictures that I gave him was this one!
Stay tuned for the rest of the day’s activities.