A Few Tidbits of Sheep History – Week of May 6th, 1921

There was not a great deal of news for the sheep industry for this past week one hundred years ago if only one newspaper is cited. So, using three different newspapers of northern Arizona and some news from the week before from each of these – The Coconino Sun, Holbrook Tribune and Kingman Miner, the following tidbits were found.

The Coconino Sun reported for the week of May 6th that the sheepmen were doing well in Navajo County. The newspaper had been told by local sheepmen that the conditions of the range and the sheep were excellent.  The sheepmen had reported very few loses in comparison to other areas of the state. The Candelaria’s had boasted that this had been the best season for them. A little later in the Coconino Sun, the newspaper picked up a story that was first reported in the Holbrook Tribune. From earlier reports the range was in fair condition over in Navajo County and two tidbits in the paper confirmed that the sheepmen were hopeful that conditions would remain throughout the summer.  The first report concerned Fred Purcell who had unloaded about 4,000 sheep in Holbrook that he had on the southern range in the Salt River Valley. Due to weather conditions, these sheep would have normally been trailed in 1921 and not put on railroad cars. Purcell had a summer range near Heber. From the Concho area in the county, Juan Candelaria and Sons had shipped wool from the Holbrook station back east. The numbers for his shipment, however, had to be in error as the newspaper stated that Candelaria had shipped 450 sacks of wool, amounting to 11,000 pounds. One sack of wool would have only been 24 pounds and most wool sacks were a minimum of 400 pounds.  This was not reported in any other newspaper and I have not found the Holbrook Tribune to verify the story.  So, a correction will be made if I do find that there is an error.

Continuing with other tidbits of sheep business happenings, there was sad news. In the May 6th edition of the Coconino Sun, the death of Harvey Hudspeth, a well-known sheepman in the Williams area was reported. In an earlier article in the Holbrook News, April 15, a reprint of an article from the Kingman Miner, it reported that Hudspeth was in the process of shearing 15,000 sheep along with The Grand Canyon Sheep Company (20,000 sheep), Cole Campbell (18,000), and the Aubrey Investment Company, (6,000). Mr. Hudspeth had been in Nelson to ship his wool to eastern markets. His death occurred when as he was crossing the tracks, his automobile was struck by the No. 9 train at Nelson.  It can only be surmised that Mr. Hudspeth had not seen the train as he had lost the sight of one of his eyes a few years ago and most likely, he just never saw the train coming.

Mr. Hudspeth, second man from the left. Photograph courtesy of the Williams Historic Photo Project.

Many of the wool raisers were shearing in the northern portion of Arizona where the winter had been mild. Feed was not in abundance on the normal winter grazing areas and the sheep men were looking for greener pastures for their flocks. Recent rains in April held promise that the grasses would be good for the flocks the summer of 1921.

Another sheep man also passed during the spring of 1921 – H. H. Scorse, age 71. He died from injuries he sustained in a hotel fire at Mesa. Mr. Scorse was originally from Chedder, England and came to the United States at an early age. He was well-known in the Holbrook area having a mercantile store and his ranch was south of town. He raised a family here. He was known for many things but one that stood out was his contribution to the Smithsonian Institute of Native American pottery. And the last tidbit of sheep happenings was not Arizonan news, but it does say something about the industry.  It had been reported by the “United States public health service has just bought 2,500 sheepskin coats for the tuberculous patients in its hospitals, so that they may be able to sit out in the air and the sun this winter. It’s the fresh air that counts”.  Just goes to show, how sheep had an impact in our country.

This Week in April 1921

This week in 1921 was a slow week in the wool industry across the country, or was it? The wool trade was active but not lucrative for the wool growers. Tariff legislation was still in the debate stages in congress and it was thought that it would not help the situation for wool growers of the west. A great deal of wool was being held in warehouses in the east and buyers of wool were not eager for the new clip that was accumulating in the west. The buyers were only willing to advance five to ten cents a pound to the wool growers; a much lower amount than they had advanced last year. This money was used to pay outstanding debt that the wool growers had accumulated and would be used to fund their expenses for the coming year.  

What a difference just a few months could make in the industry when it looked as if at the end of January, the wool growers were going to receive between 30 and 35 cents a pound for their wool. The Boston wool brokers, Salter Bros., had written to M. I. Powers and the Babbitt Brothers that they saw a considerable improvement in the wool market for the next several months and had told their buyers to pay as much as 35 cents a pound in order to get ready for the new clip that would be coming in the next few months from the western wool growers. I wrote about this in an earlier blog.

The tariff legislation was asked for by the National Wool Growers’ Association at their annual meeting in Salt Lake City. The association asked for: 1. An import duty be placed on foreign mutton and lamb., 2. Import meats be branded as such., 3. A petition be filed with the interstate commerce commission calling for a reduction in livestock and wool freight rates.  There were other items that the association also wanted but those three can be easily dealt with here.

In reading the newspapers for the first few months of 1921, railroad rates were reduced at least for Arizona. The Corporation Commission of Arizona agreed with the Wool Growers that a reduction in rate was needed to ship sheep north instead of trailing them in the spring after shearing as was the normal practice of sheep owners. Feed along the trails was inadequate to allow for survival of many of the sheep already in poor condition from the poor winter range conditions in the deserts where the sheep graze while lambing and being sheared.  The reduced rates would be allowed for a specific time period, time enough for all the sheep to be moved northward.

Another outcome of the weak wool market and drought conditions was seen in the wages that was agreed upon by both the sheep owners and the cattle men who were in a similar situation with no market for the cattle. Separately both organizations had agreed to pay $45 a month for help.  ($45 in 1921 would be equivalent to $604.19 in today’s dollars; not a great deal of money.  What is not discussed is the fact that both the cowboy and herder received room and board; makes a big difference when that is factored in.)

And that is this week in 1921.

“Mutton Cured and Smoked at Home as Good as Pork”

In 1921, the sheep industry was in dire situation as I wrote about in my last blog. The cattle industry wasn’t doing well either. However, an article appeared that was supposed to encourage the consumption of more mutton. In the Coconino Sun, Flagstaff for February 25th, an article gave a recipe for cured and smoked mutton! The article stated that the United States Department of Agriculture believed, if farmers cured and smoked mutton it could be as delicious as pork. In 1921, the government agency stated that only 3.9 percent of the meat used in the United States was lamb or mutton. The newspaper stated, “This is partly due to the fact that there is a popular impression among farmers that after a sheep is slaughtered, the only domestic use of the flesh is eating it while it is fresh. As a consequence, the farmer’s family grows very tired of mutton before the carcass is consumed.”

The Bureau of Animal Industry within the US Department of Agriculture had done some experimental work in the curing and smoking of mutton. The directions for home curing mutton was as follows:

“The first essential in curing is to be sure that the mutton is thoroughly cooled. The meat should never be frozen, either prior to or during the period of curing.  The time to begin curing is when the meat is cooled and still fresh; the proper time is from 24 to 36 hours after killing. Because of the high shrinkage incident to curing, only large pieces, such as the legs and shoulders, are suitable for treatment.

“Mutton may be cured by using any good brine formula, but dry-cured meat is better for future use than brine-cured and requires less work. However, danger from rats and other vermin is less in the case of brine-cured meat. Both methods of curing are very successful if care is taken to see that each operation is executed properly.

“Following is the method of dry-curing mutton: For each 100 pounds of meat use 7 pounds salt, 3 pounds sugar or syrup, 2 ounces red pepper and 2 ounces black pepper.

“Mix all ingredients thoroughly, then rub the mixture well over the meat and pack it away in a box or on a table. Allow one and one-half days cure for each pound of meat the pieces average. After the meat is cured hang it in the smokehouse.”

And, that is how it was done in 1921! I think I will just buy mine fresh from Rovey Dairy in the Phoenix metropolitan area. And if you don’t live in the Phoenix area, there are farmer markets in Cochise County that carry lamb and beef from Dennis Moroney. Fry’s food also carries US lamb but won’t be as fresh as from Rovey Dairy or 47 Ranch (Dennis Moroney). So eat that lamb. It has lots of protein.

Sheepmen in Dire Situation

Earlier I had written in this blog about the beginnings of 1921 wool prices and range conditions.  My last blog was the “spoof” method of counting sheep.  But there really wasn’t any good reason to poke fun at the sheep industry. While the first part of 1921 saw the much-needed rains beginning to fall which would be a benefit for livestock, i.e., sheep, research continuing for the first half of 1921, showed that different parts of the state were suffering more from the drought than other parts.

Take for example William Pitts stating in late January that where he oversaw Howard Sheep Company bands near Congress Junction, that the recent rains had made good feed and that the area had greatly improved over the last ten days.  (Congress Junction is northeast of Phoenix toward Wickenburg)

Then there is the statement from Lewis Benedict who had arrived from Phoenix stating that range conditions in the south were serious and he feared for the loss of sheep if the rains did not come soon to provide feed for the animals. George Morse reported on February 18th that the sheep men were feeding corn to their flocks as the range was providing no feed.  The little rain that has fallen has not produced the necessary grasses needed to feed all the herds.  With lambing in progress, it was necessary to feed the corn to keep ewe and lamb healthy.

On the eastern slopes of the San Francisco peaks, Harlow Yaeger and Charlie Woolfolk, both having sheep near or in Canyon Diablo said that though they had not seen rain since last spring, their winter range had splendid feed. The report in the section of the Coconino Sun, Flagstaff, January 28, 1921, “Livestock and Ranges in Arizona”, stated that the feed was dry on that side of the mountain but still good for grazing.

The beginning of March saw once again the rains returning but once again they were only favorable to some parts of the state. The slow soaking rain began on a Saturday and continued until Monday helping the ranges in the southern portion of Cochise County but only a small amount of measurable precipitation fell on the northern portion of the county. In Arizona, the northeastern plateau region has seen little measurable rainfall resulting in necessary feeding of livestock. Animals are grazing close to water holes that are slowly drying up. The warmer temperatures had decreased snowpack on the mountains but there is little runoff and thus water holes are not being replenished.

Some sheep men had received appreciable amounts of rain or were in ranges that their sheep were not affected. The Coconino Sun for March 18, reported, Colin Campbell, whose range was near Ash Fork, “came in Tuesday morning to work off some of his happiness over the copious rain that had just fallen in his section of the country.”  Jack LeBarron and others had their winter range in the Prescott National Forest and reported to the newspaper, “conditions were pretty bad with most of the sheepmen, however for himself, John Hennessy, Harry Gray and a few others who wintered high up in the forest did not come out as badly as those who wintered on the desert, where there was neither grass nor water. The growers wintering in the forest were not forced to buy feed, though it was a tight squeeze. Conditions were improved by the recent rain and indications are that the sheep will come back from the Prescott forest in fairly good shape.”

But that would not be the story for most of the sheep men. By late March it was reported that the sheepmen had not seen such drought conditions in twenty years. The article stated, “Central and southern Arizona are undergoing the worst drought in twenty years. No rain has fallen in these sections since October. The desert areas around Phoenix that are usually covered with grass and weeds during the winter and spring months are as dry as a brick yard. Losses in livestock are becoming serious, and unless there is relief soon the death rate will be the highest in years. Sheep are all very thin and the lamb crop may not, according to reports from the ranges, exceed twenty per cent, less even than the ewe losses at the present time. Most of the flocks are being held back in the foot- hills where there is coarse herbage of a kind that sheep will eat under stress of starvation. Corn and cotton seed cake were hauled out in some cases to the herds, but not much relief was thus offered, the sheep being too far out in the hills to be fed regularly in this manner. Approximately 100,000 head have been taken into the Salt River valley pastures, where hay, ensilage and other kinds of roughage are being fed during the lambing season. This means of relief, however, hasn’t been entirely satisfactory for the reason that the ewes do not seem to give milk enough to support the lambs, most of them dying in four or five days.”

The article continued stating that the poor range conditions had delayed and disorganized the shearing for the season too. The ewes were too weak after delivering their young to move to the shearing sheds that area usually set up in specific locations and that the price for the shearer was more than the sheep men could afford to pay. Some of the sheep were going to be sheared at small portable shearing stations near where the flock was located. Any shearing that was undertaken was being done by non-union local shearers who demanded less money and would not need boarding during the shearing season. Some of the sheep men were even considering shearing their flocks once they moved them back to summer grazing. But that was another problem in and of itself. With weak animals, to trail them over the rugged land with no prospect of food would further reduce their flocks. To take the animals by train was an option, but a costly one. Freight rates were high, but there were negotiations underway at the time to have reduced rates for the spring shipping season to help the sheep men in their most dire needed time.

With the poor economic conditions for the sheep men, it was no wonder that the men of the National Wool Growers’ Association were asking for federal aid for the industry. Stay tuned for that story next.

Counting Sheep Nonsense

Once in a while it is fun to just include nonsense about the sheep industry. In The Coconino Sun, Flagstaff, March 11, 1921, “Under Cheerful Chirps (by “Del”) even states that “mostly nonsense,(that is the tidbits within this section of the newspaper) except in those rare intervals when a real idea comes along and is grabbed off”, the following appeared:   “Paul S. Coffin, out on Harlow Yaeger’s sheep ranch a few months ago, was asked by the latter to estimate how many sheep there were in a certain band. Paul looked carefully at the sheep, then replied: ‘Just 622.’  He had the number exactly right. Counting sheep in a band is very difficult and is to some extent quess work, so Harlow was surprised. ‘How did you find out?’ he asked. ‘Why, that was easy,’ said Paul. ‘I counted their feet and divided by four!’”

Earlier that year, in the same section of the paper, there was another similar tidbit, but this time the person said 500 sheep by counting the legs and dividing by 4. It must have been fun in the early part of 1921 to poke fun at the sheep industry. Of course, there wasn’t much else to say about it as it was going through some tough times just as was the cattle industry. Stay tuned for the rest of that story later in the week.

But back to counting the legs of sheep and dividing by four. My husband and I have watched on a few occasions the herders and shearers counting sheep. This particular time we were visiting Joe Manterola and his sheep outfit up near Williams, Arizona. The herders counted sheep for the shearers after they had tagged the sheep. Tagging removes the wool around the ewes eyes and from their bellies for when they give birth, their young can easily milk. Counting the sheep is necessary so the shearers know how many sheep they have tagged for their pay. I can assure you that this counting was not done by counting the legs and dividing by four as Mr. Coffin stated he did. There is definitely too much running, jumping and running in pairs by the sheep as they passed the counter to count legs! I had a difficult time just counting the sheep!

Here are some pictures and a video to show the activity.

Sheep are gathered together.
The herders begin to count.
The actual counting process.

Notice of Establishment of Sheep Trail

In researching documents at the Sharlot Hall Museum Library and Archives Research Center I found the document with the same name as my title. It was drawn up by Young & Wilkins in Dewey, Arizona on April 6, 1916. Whether Young or Wilkins were sheep men has not been ascertained. The 1916 Book of Brands do not list either of them as sheep men but did list a Wilkins, a goat herder in Globe; not close to this area. Further research of other brand books will hopefully help to resolve the occupation of these two men if they were in the livestock business and to which animal that they raised.

The document began with the phrase – “all Sheep and Goat men, and any others who are interested.” The were notified that the undersigned (Young & Wilkins) have under lease sections 1, 12, 13, 24, 25, and 36 in Township 14 North, Range 1 East, as well as other sections in Township 14 and 15.

The men were notifying that they had established a sheep trail for the use of transient bands of sheep and goats, three-quarters of a mile in width. The trail would run in a northerly direction through the mentioned sections. The trail was marked by posts set in the ground.

Young and Wilkins wanted sheep and goats to be driving this marked route and not to trespass upon lands outside of the trail. If necessary to obtain access to this trail, the sheep may pass on lands otherwise declared not for their usage.

Was the document drawn up as sheep and goats were not following any prescribed trail and thus Young and Wilkins were tired of the flocks invading their areas that they used for grazing of their own livestock? In 1916, many sheep men were in business after suffering earlier losses due to decline in the market from lifting of American tariffs on imports of sheep products – lamb and wool, and economic downturns. The Arizona Republic newspaper, Phoenix, reported in 1916 that there were nearly two million sheep in the state and they were valued at $10,000,000. Arizona never had two million sheep even including those flocks belonging to the Native American, i.e., Navajo and Hopi. The 1910 agricultural census for Arizona states we had 1,226,000 million sheep and that decreased in 1920 to 882,000 sheep. The value of the wool fluctuated across the year with the low price of $0.24 to the high price of $0.28. To equate that to 2021 dollars that would be $5.79 and $6.76 cents, a very good price!

While the document is interesting, it does make one wonder what occupation were Young and Wilkins involved in to need to write such a document? Stay tuned as research continues on the “Notice of Establishment of Sheep Trail.”

Wool

Just a short post today. The past week was spent getting my taxes done; not a fun job. But now it is back to sheep and their wool!

My last post showed two videos of the shearing process. Beto was the main shearer in the videos. In just a couple of hours he had told me that he had sheared 150 sheep! So wonder he had the brace on, but then the floor of the shearing shed does get slippery with the lanolin. The wool is collected after each sheep is sheared and tossed on a platform next to the shearing shed. On this raised platform is a machine that will compact the wool into bags. Each bag weighs between 400 and 500 pounds! A sheep that has a black face will have wool that is black underneath and this wool is separated in the shearing shed. Most of these sheep are pulled aside and will be sheared at one time. Sometimes one will get through but the men running the sheep through the chute try to keep them separated. But sheep will be sheep and get away.

Here is the machine that will compact the wool.

Before the wool is put into the compacting machine, a bag is added and clamped into place, the sides raised and wool is slowly added. The above video shows what is happening with getting the bag in the machine before adding the wool. The machine does all the hard work that use to belong to the sheep ranchers children. In the past before the machine, the children would be put in the bag and the it was their job to stomp the wool down so more wool could be added. That must have been a fun but dirty job with the wool flying all around them and the dirt and lanolin that would be on the fleece!

The bag is continuously changed as it can not hold anymore. The bag may sit on the platform until the space is needed for the next full bag. It is then pushed onto the ground as was seen in the above video.

The four to five hundred pound wool bags.

The bags are then rolled by two men to a trailer.

How would you like to roll and push that wool bag weighing four to five hundred pounds up that ramp?

My next post will present information about what happens to the sheared sheep! Hope you enjoy.

The Shearers

Imagine having to spend most of your workday bent over a ewe or ram holding the animal between your legs or putting pressure with one foot on her stomach so you can spend three minutes shearing her.  It is backbreaking work but the men that I met this morning had been doing the work for many years as they traveled the west going from one rancher’s flock to another to shear the wool, a renewable product!  Shearing takes place mostly in February in Arizona, although it can be earlier or later depending on the schedule of the shearers. There are no shearing outfits in Arizona. However, that does not mean there are no shearers; these men and maybe women, shear small flocks near them.  They are willing to shear these small flocks as they may have sheep of their own and need to stay near their homes.  The shearers today came from California. They had already sheared sheep this week so their tents had been set up in the field as they had planned to shear in the same location for a few days.  They will move their operation at least once before they will move onto another state and begin the process all over again. 

When they arrive, the rancher and family along with his herders will have the fences set up to drive the sheep through a maze into the shearing pen. Some of the sheep are brought into the pens the night before to be the first to begin getting their wool cut.  More sheep will be brought in by the herders throughout the day. The shearers will set up their electric shearers and about 9 a.m. will begin the process that lasts for about three hours with only short breaks to stand up tall stretching their backs, move the wool from the sheep they had just sheared and then, it is back to grabbing the next ewe or ram to shear. Rams are sheared but there was none this day while I was watching. Some of this was shown in pictures on yesterday’s post.

Sometimes a small sheep herder in the area will bring their sheep to be sheared as it is too expensive of an operation for them to have the shearers come to them. 

There is some redundancy in the two videos. The last shows the line of the sheep as they wait for shearing and what happens as the shearers grab one of them. Both videos shows the activity that goes on within the shearing pen – the shearing, the grabbing of the wool and getting it out of the way for the next shearing job, and the men as they continuously work. Notice that the floor is a piece of plywood that can get slippery from the lanolin found in the wool.

Tomorrow we will look at what happens to all that wool that has been sheared. Each sheep gives 10 to 12 pounds of wool.

Arizona Sheep Shearing

The Auza sheep are being sheared this week and it will continue into the next few days. Over the weekend, I traveled to Casa Grande to catch up with the Auza family and the crew who would be shearing for them. I also needed my “fix” on seeing sheep as it had been since last May that I had been able to spend any time with the sheep, the herders and the Auza family. I will be posting the activities of Saturday over the next few days as there are lots of pictures and a few videos that capture the activity that occurs during the sheep shearing. I read on a Facebook page that sheep shearing is actually “spa day” for the sheep! In a way, I guess that is true as they get to shed their long wool coat for the hotter temperatures of the next few months before they are moved to greener pastures and cooler temperatures in the northern part of the state. By then they will have grown some of the wool back on.

The first two videos are as the sheep being brought to the shearing station which for a few days is located where a majority of the ewes having been grazing and caring for their young.

After the ewes and their babies are corralled, the workers begin to corral them into a tighter funnel.

The sheep are now moved into a narrow chute to begin the separation of moms from their babies.
The worker watches for the babies to move them into another pen separate from the line for their moms. He moves the gate to separate the ewes from their lamb.
Just a sheep wondering what the hold up is!.

The video tells you everything. The babies want their mommas!

Tomorrow I will post a video on the shearing from a man who has been in the business some twenty years.