As I began to write this blog, I thought, well, not much going on for the week of May 20 and 27th, 1921. But then a story of the sad shape of the industry emerged.
Range conditions were still poor as the drought had not broken across the state. A snowstorm the middle of the month, the Coconino Sun, Flagstaff, reported it to be “worth millions to the stockmen and ranchers of this section of the country and will do much toward relieving city water conditions. (This would be referring to Flagstaff). There was about a foot of it, all wet and juicy as any melon ever cut by the stockmen.” A week later another soaking rain was reported.
But range conditions varied across the state. While one article mentioned that cattle were starving north of the Grand Canyon, that statement would hold true for any sheep on the ranges here. In my previous blog, you may have seen, I talked about the “illegal” stockmen from Utah who were using the range to the detriment of the Arizonans. The Arizona stockmen had reported the range in “deplorable condition, having been stripped bare by the trespassers from Utah.” The newspaper reported that “two years ago, this range had plenty of feed, but once the stockmen from Utah found it, it had been rapidly turning to sand and dried sage brush.”
In consequence of the poor condition of range pastures during the latter part of 1920 and the first five months of 1921 in Arizona, cattle and sheep came through the winter with greater losses and in poorer condition than usual. The mortality of cattle was reported at 100 per thousand, compared with 25 per thousand last year and 61 per thousand, the ten-year average. The loss of sheep was reported at 115 per thousand, compared with 53 per thousand last year and 43 per thousand, the ten-year average. The mortality of lambs were particularly heavy, estimated at 100 per thousand. This compared with a loss of 50 per thousand during 1920 and 81 per thousand, the ten-year average.
The last week of May saw little improvement in ranges as the rainfall was only light to moderate with no appreciable amounts added to the rain gauge. The southern portion of Arizona was suffering the worst as the area had received no appreciable amount since the week of April 6th, almost two months ago. Stock water was low due to no run-off from the storms. Livestock had been dying because of lack of water and poor range feed. Only two areas within the state were said to be good: Near Flagstaff and Pinedale. Sheep were improving now that they had arrived on the summer ranges. Shearing that had taken place in the north showed that fleeces were not up to standard in quality or weight.
The Coconino Sun, Flagstaff reported little improvements in sales of wool. Freight rates from Phoenix to Boston were still exorbitant amounting to ten per cent of the present market value of the wool. Wool from San Francisco was half that cost to Boston. C. J. Babbitt said that it was unfair especially since wool is not a perishable commodity and needed no special care from the transportation companies. He cited the fact that cotton from Phoenix paid less than wool and believes that Arizona needed to fight the high transportation costs for wool.
A few sheep owners were mentioned: R. Tom Brown, E. H. Duffield, Harry Henderson and George F. Campbell. Brown had brought his bands from their southern winter grazing area to an area near Mormon Lake. Duffield, previously a trainmaster, from William, was visiting old friends in Flagstaff for part of the last week in May. Mr. Henderson, previous sheriff of Coconino County, had arrived from Wickenburg where he had wintered his sheep. His sheep would arrive soon and he had grazing for them near Bellemont and Grand Canyon. Harry, told the Coconino Sun, “the hills down near Wickenburg have commenced to hair out with grass in good shape but the desert country is still bare.” George F. Campbell had arrived the first part of the last week in May from his sheep ranches in the south. His sheep are on the road to their summer range east of Flagstaff. Harry Henderson has not been found in the newspapers before, but D. W. Henderson was listed as attending the Wool Growers’ Association annual meeting in July 1920. Are they the same person? R. Tom Brown and George F. Campbell were both attendees of the mentioned conference as both served on the Advisory board of the Coconino National Forest for the Wool Growers’ Association. Duffield was not listed as attending the meeting so it may give a starting date for his beginnings in raising woolies.