The Thude Family Part 2

Gunnar has now been in the livestock business for nearly 30 years. Carlos Sanudo was hired in 1957 to work in Gunnar’s sheep business. Carlos was 37 years old when he migrated to Arizona. Gunnar’s eldest daughter, Elma, married Carlos Sanudo in 1962.  In 1968, Elma bought a part of Gunnar’s sheep outfit.  She named it the Long Tom Sheep Co. as their sheep ran in Long Tom Canyon.  Previously to buying Gunnar’s sheep, she had many years of experience with the sheep.  She had followed her father’s sheep into the mountains every year as a young woman, starting in 1946, at the age of 20.  In the summer, the sheep were trailed to greener pastures in the Heber area of the White Mountains.  The trailing of the sheep took 30 long days, but she was always at the tail end of the flocks as the sheep would be moved on city roads in Chandler and Mesa to begin the Heber-Reno trail northward.  She would get the herders supplies and keep the books while living in a cabin with no telephone and only kerosene lighting. Her father believed that every child should learn to work and indeed, she worked.  Since she did not like riding a horse for hours on end which was required for taking care of cattle, she was willing to care for the sheep. At times, it was necessary for her to bottle feed the lambs, but she learned early on that even if she grew attached to the lamb, it was to be sold or eaten! 

Elma Thude Sanudo and Francis Line, film maker.

As the sheep were moved from the farm in Chandler, through the town to get to the Heber Reno trail, she delighted in telling complaining motorist and Department of Public Safety officers that livestock and that included sheep, had the right-of-way in Arizona. No matter how many obstacles got in her way, from DPS officers to motorist complaints, or angry people in subdivisions, nothing would keep her from her beloved sheep. Trucking of the sheep was not an option as it was too expensive. Her desire to remain as a shepherdess was dependent upon the hazards of trailing and being able to find winter feed, alfalfa, for the sheep.

In the 1960s Gunnar sold one of his ranches to John Wayne.

In 1977, Gunnar sold his Holbrook ranch and the Paradise Sheep Company to John Frandsen Thude, his nephew. With no sheep or cattle to care for, Gunnar was free to spend his summers in his native Denmark, away from the Arizona heat. He passed away in 1980 only having a short time to enjoy his retirement. He was known for always helping others, either lending money or giving them a helping hand on their ranch.

Elma continued to work the sheep until she sold out in 1999 to the Auza Sheep Company, Casa Grande, Arizona. Elma raised her five sons, Gerald (1947), Mike (1949), James (1950), John Gunnar (1953), and Dennis (1955), while tending her sheep. Raising sheep was a full-time job and she was saddened that none of her children continued in the business she loved. Elma passed away in 2002 and Carlos in 2006. What happened to Gunnar’s nephew still needs to be told and hopefully I can finish researching it soon.

Carlos and his pet sheep, Franco!

The Thude family spent nearly 70 years in the livestock business in Arizona and many of those years was in the sheep raising business. I have been privileged to known some of Gunnar’s and Elma’s children and hearing their stories of early life on the range in Arizona. The Thude Family – Gunnar and Elma – will be inducted into the Arizona Ranching and Farming Hall of Fame in March 2022. They should have been this March but circumstances beyond the control of the Hall of Fame, i.e., pandemic, has postponed most celebrations. More will be posted as it is learned about the family, herder stories are collected, and when the family is finally inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Gunnar and Eliseo, one of his herders.

One thought on “The Thude Family Part 2

  1. I love this. They are strong, hard working people. It’s amazing everythig they did. My father Tomás worked for them from 1970 to the end of 1979. He has told us some really great stories. ❤


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