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.

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.

Just Trailing Items

For something different today I thought I would post pictures of items that the sheep herders use while on the trail.

This is one example of a pack box carried by the donkeys. It would have a variety of items in it – tools, medicine, cooking utensils, and personal items

Some of the boxes would be used to carry food.

A water jug that belonged to the Dobson outfit.
A box from the Dobson outfit
Just a bell worn by one of the sheep. The bell helped the herder know where his sheep were. Each bell made a different sound and if he did not hear that sound he would go in search of the sheep.
The cooking pot – one of the most important items for the herders. The camp tender cooked all their meals in this pot. It could be buried with hot coals over and around it or just used on top of the fire. I have seen some great dishes being made with these pots.
A camp stool used by the Thude/Sanudo sheep raisers.
Hobbles – used to put twins together at birth so the strong one will force the weaker one to go to their mom for feeding. These are used in the fall and spring when the ewes give birth.
Not used on the trail but shears for shearing the sheep back in the day. Shearers who used these were very precise and could cut the fleece off in no time, however, they are not as fast as the electric shears used today.
One last picture on the trail. The bucket is carrying two puppies that will be the new trailing dogs in the next few months. This also shows the donkeys with their loads.

And that is just a few pictures for today. Next time – donkeys of the Arizona sheep industry!

Sheep and Trains Don’t Mix

An article from September 27, 1902 in the Williams News caught my attention this week. The article was entitled “Wreck on Canyon Railroad. Work Train Derailed by a Band of Sheep – One Man Killed.”  The information was obtained by the newspaper at the coroner’s investigation because of the death that occurred. So here are the facts of that dreadful day. 

The article began “A backing train, a cut on a curve with a heavy down grade, a large band of sheep and an excited herder resulted in a wrecked train, the loss of one life and a number of men being badly injured on the Canyon railroad, about four miles north of Williams, last Saturday afternoon (September 20th).”

The work train had been sidetracked to allow for another train to pass, the “No.33.” (Probably that train can be identified with further research.) A small train with one engine, two coal cars and a caboose but with a steep grade was all that was needed for this accident to occur. Conductor J. O. Dodge, brakeman E. S. McClure, engineer Lumsden, fireman Price and the 12 men who made up the stringer work crew were on the train. In an area hidden from view by those on the train were a band of Frank Everett’s sheep in the process of crossing the track.

The train was progressing through a deep cut and then a sharp curve when the brakeman sitting in the cupola of the caboose with the conductor saw in front of him no more than 300 yards away the sheep crossing the track. While the brakeman reached to apply the air in the caboose to slow the train, the grade and the curve made it impossible to stop the train from crashing into the sheep. The brakeman testified that the train was going about 20 miles an hour when they hit the sheep. He also testified that the man killed was in the door of the caboose and may have tried to jump and failed.

The caboose ran about 100 feet on the ties before it jumped the track and toppled down the embankment. The two coal cars and engine continued down the track. As soon as possible those men who could help, cut the engine loose and as fast as it could the engine headed to Williams to summons the doctor and help. Once in Williams another car was quickly attached to the engine and with Dr. Tyroler, Agent Hudson and others headed to where the wreck had occurred.

A horrendous site was met by these newcomers. Dr. Tyroler was much in need as every man, except one, had been injured, some worse than others. One man had died. The doctor saw to the best care of those injured in this emergency.  It was now time to remove the shattered pieces of the caboose off the deceased. The injured men and the deceased were loaded on the train and all headed back to Williams where Dr. Tyroler would be able to better attend many of the men’s injuries.  Some of the injuries were cuts, sprained ankles and bruises to arms and legs. One man had a compound fracture of his leg.  

One of the injured was sent to Los Angeles to be further treated. Some of the men were sent to wherever their homes were for recouping.

The six member jury that the coroner had empaneled stated, “We find that the said P.H. Swan, deceased, came to his death in a railroad wreck, on the Grand Canyon railroad, on this, the 20th day of September, A.D. 1902, and said cause was purely accidental and unavoidable; and we, the jury, exonerate all parties from any and all blame.”

I found no other mention of the sheep and how many were injured or killed in the train accident. Mr. Everett is not listed in the January issue of the Williams News as a member of the Arizona Wool Growers Association nor, is he listed in any comment for the rest of 1902 or the year of 1903. Further research will need to be undertaken to determine if this ended Mr. Everett from continuing as a sheep raiser in the state. It is likely he partnered with someone too.  Stay tuned for new information that may be uncovered.

Cowboys and Sheep

The Pleasant Valley War between the Grahams and Tewksbury, cattle and sheep, is well known in Arizona history. It is an understatement to say that there were some cowboys that just did not like sheep and that was any sheep no matter who owned those white woolly creatures. Of course, there were those like George Wilbur who I wrote about in my last blog that raised both sheep and cattle but let’s not muddy up our story.

Our story today is about, well, a sheep owner!  The Candelarias had brought sheep into Arizona from New Mexico settling in the areas around Concho on over to Springerville, the Round Valley area. There were many Candelarias but only one we are interested in in this story: Don Pedro.  Our story took place sometime between 1891 and 1912. A Texas cowboy family had moved into the area and one of them thought it was fun to shoot Don Pedro’s rams.  Don Pedro tried to convince the cowboy not to shoot the rams.  Well, that cowboy, whose name is not known, shot once to many times at Don Pedro’s rams. The next thing the cowboy knew was Don Pedro had shot the horse from under him. 

But this is not the end of the story by any means. Don Pedro was unable to seek legal justice and came up with a better idea to stop the cowboy.  A friend was asked to report to Don Pedro when the Texas cowboy and his family had their next family gathering. How long of a wait this was is anyone’s guess?

When the family gathering was reported, Don Pedro went to their ranch telling those with him he would be back in thirty minutes. Continuing to ride to the ranch house, Don Pedro asked to speak to the patriarch of the family.  Now, with little English spoken by Don Pedro and the patriarch speaking little Spanish, one would think that the conversation would be difficult for either to understand the other.  But Don Pedro had no trouble in getting the family patriarch to understand him. As the story goes, Don Pedro told him that every man, woman and child that was present at the ranch that day would be killed if he was not out in the thirty-minute time he told his men about. The patriarch did not believe Don Pedro and threatened to kill him. But Don Pedro’s plan was now revealed to the patriarch and his family as he was directed to look out the window and see Native Americans had surrounded the ranch house while Don Pedro had been inside.

Moral of the story: do not mess with Don Pedro! He would not be intimidated by Texas cowboys nor would he allow his livelihood (i.e. killing of his rams) taken from him.

Wool Growers’ Happenings: Summer 1920

Northern Arizona’s newspapers had a fair number of references to sheep men during the months of June, July, and August 1920. References were found in the Holbrook (Arizona) News and the Coconino Sun (Flagstaff). Both newspapers were consulted, for many times they both have the same story, but the Coconino Sun (Flagstaff) would have more information than the other newspaper. For instance, the Holbrook (Arizona) News gave a brief overview of the happenings at the July joint conference of the Cattle Growers’ Association and the Wool Growers’ Association, but the Flagstaff newspaper had covered the meeting in greater detail. Of course, the meeting was held in Flagstaff.

The Coconino Sun (Flagstaff) in one article said that wool prices for the summer were down and gave the price at $0.44 per pound. I searched agricultural statistics for 1920 and found the following information. Wool prices were down from January prices of $0.50 per pound to April prices at $0.44 per pound or a 12% decrease.  A further drop occurred in July with a 57% drop to $0.28 per pound. The October price for wool continued the decrease, but at a much smaller decline to $0.26 per pound or just 7%.   

Prices had decreased substantially during the middle part of 1920 which forced the Navajo people back to making their own blankets.  The August 20 Holbrook (Arizona) News reported that until recently the Navajos had enjoyed high enough prices for their wool that they could allow blankets to be made by eastern manufacturers.  The paper stated, “But now the bottom has dropped out of the wool market and the wool of the Navajos is moving slowly, if at all, at ten cents a pound.”  One can assume from this statement, that Navajo wool sold at a lower rate than wool from the other sheep found within the state.

Navajo Weaver

A trader at Tuba City, John Kerley, had bought about 150,000 pounds of wool from the Navajo and he was not anticipating making a profit, but was expecting to lose about $10,000. That is about $128,197.00 in today’s money!

It is interesting how the Holbrook (Arizona) News listed information about sheepmen.  They were listed as prominent “sheepmen” or just “sheepmen” with such information that they were in Holbrook for a day or a couple of days conducting business.  Holbrook would have been the largest community in the area being on the railroad and had stores (H.H. Scorse, for example, written about earlier) to buy supplies for their herders and themselves.  Several of the men had other information that I have included. This information was from several different weeks of the newspaper.

From Heber: George Wilbur (he had come up from Phoenix with his family and they would be guests until they went to their home in Heber), John Nelson and E. B. Newman (Newman was taking a band of sheep to the Kansas City Market)

From Silver Creek: George C. Morse (came into town, the article stated, to check out the political scene as elections were just months away), Percy Morse (brother to George) came to town with his wife. Another article found under the heading “Holbrook News Notes” commented that George was a woolgrower of Navajo County and was serving on jury duty.  Since he was a freeholder in both Navajo and Apache counties, he could conceivably serve on jury duty in both counties. He told the newspaper, “feed and water are plentiful in the mountains and the sheep are doing fine.”  At least for July 9th period, we have a clue as to the overall health of the range and in turn the sheep.

From St. Johns: W.A. Saunders (just stated he was a woolgrower and would be in town a couple of days).

H.H. Scorse (written about previously), John Nelson, and E. B. Newman were also listed in the Coconino Sun for July 1920 as having attended the joint meeting of the Arizona Wool Growers’ Association and Cattle Growers’ Association.  I will have more information about the joint meeting in a future blog as a few facts need to be verified.

The Coconino Sun (Flagstaff) for July 30 reported the death of a 25-year old sheepherder that worked for Colin Campbell.  The herder, Antonio Valencio, was struct by lightning while watching a flock of sheep 23 miles southwest of Seligman.  Just goes to show that sheep herding can be a dangerous occupation.

A week later the paper reported that George L. Pratt was in Flagstaff from his ranch southwest of Winslow. He had shipped several carloads of lambs to the Kansas City market.  This is the second mention of shipment of lambs. 

This gives us a glimpse into some of the wool growers and the health of the sheep industry during the summer of 1920.

Sheep at the Verde River

The Joe Manterola Sheep Company gave me the two pictures of his sheep crossing a flooded Verde River in the early 2000s; I think I was told 2005. The other picture is his sheep crossing the river when it was not at flood stage. This picture was given to me by George Groseta. Quite the contrast!

The last picture has been my observations of the sheep crossing the river as you can view in previous posts and in media. It was dangerous for both sheep, donkeys, guard dogs and herding dogs plus the herders to cross the river at flood stage. Notice that the donkey’s ears are just above the sheep’s head in the first picture. Mr. Manterola told me that the sheep were going every which way and they were fighting to get the flock across the river where the trail was for the northward movement toward Flagstaff-Williams area. While I would like to see sheep, donkeys, dogs and herder crossing during flood stage, I would be so worried for any of the animals or men. Flood waters are nothing to joke about and can easily sweep all down the river away from protection or worse, death. This would have been the last crossing the outfit would make before arriving at their summer grazing destination.

Forest Fires July 1920 and a little sheep.

Fires were raging in Arizona the month of July, 1920, but from what was reported in the The Holbrook (Arizona) News and the Coconino Sun (Flagstaff) one wonders if we are repeating the same scenario again 100 years later. But upon further reading “Raging Forest Fires” the size of the fires was relatively small in comparison to the fires this summer where 100,000s of acres are burned with the loss of buildings, i.e., homes. The largest fire in 1920 consumed over 5,000 acres in comparison, but nevertheless they still thought the fires had burned to much forest and land. Any loss of forest land is devastating!

In the Coconino Sun (Flagstaff) July 16, there appeared an article entitled “Raging Forest Fires.”  Information included how many acres had been burned, the cause if known and how many men were fighting the fires in some cases.

Forest fires have been raging in several places in the Coconino National Forest during the last few days of the week of July 4 and into this week of July 12, burning over 5,000 acres of land. These fires were under complete control this past Tuesday night of July 11.

The fires in the Tusayan National Forest have been even more extensive. A fire in the Saginaw tract, northeast of Williams, had burned over more than 2,000 acres on Wednesday, July 14, and it was still raging along a 4-mile forest.

Three other larger fires in the Coconino forest were listed in the order in which they broke out:

Dead Man’s Flat had burned over 1,500 acres of uncut timber of the forest reserve. It took 40 men to put out the fire which was believed to have been set by sheepherder.

The Greenlaw Fire located southeast of Flagstaff near the road to the Cliff Dwellings has burned over 900 acres of which over half the forest had been cut.  Most of this forest land belonged to the A.L.&T. company. The cause of this fire was unknown. Even though the fire was smaller than Dead Man’s Flat it took 75 men to handle it.

The last fire in the Coconino forest is the Black Bill Park fire which has burned over 2,000 acres, all forest land and uncut timber land. One hundred men and three days were needed to get it under control. Unfortunately, the fire was started by Nestor Garcia, Campbell & Francis sheepherder, who was bringing a band of bucks through. Nestor threw away a burning cigarette stub catching the grass on fire. He fought the fire a few moments, then gave up and left it without reporting it. He was arrested and had a hearing before Justice of the Peace R. J. Kidd, who fined him $25 and gave him a 90-day suspended jail sentence.

Another fire was called Dry Lake, near Fred Garing’s ranch. It covered 300 acres, of partly uncut lumber, partly private land and the rest University and A.L. & T. land. It was reported as a very stubborn fire to fight and took 69 men to handle it.

This article appeared in the Coconino Sun (Flagstaff) for July 16th. It was not uncommon for the newspapers back in early Arizona times to include such topics of interest to the community at large. It is included here in its entirety:

Preventing Fires on Farm

Experience has shown that fire prevention should be universally practiced. The farmer, however, should give special attention to the elimination of fire hazards and the adoption of protective methods. This is true for several reasons. In the first place, his house, barn and outbuildings are usually constructed of combustible materials; being more or less isolated they are subject to lightning strokes; kerosene and gasoline are likely to be stored about the premises and used for light and power; he must fill his barn with hay, straw and feed which are subject to spontaneous combustion and last but not least, he is usually outside of the protection of a fire department. Too often a fire once started in a farm building results in a total loss, while the owner stands sadly by with his family and his neighbors, and wishes that he had taken some of those precautions which he had been considering.

Now you may wonder why a website devoted to the history of Arizona’s sheep industry would include information on forest fires. The forest reserves were home to the sheep in the summer and burning of the forest would not be beneficial to any sheep rancher. He would lose his grazing land maybe for a year or two until the grasses had sufficiently recovered to allow grazing once again. The fire could be in areas that where the trailing of the sheep occurred each spring and fall and thus there would not be sufficient feed for the animals while on the trails. Concern for his flock every summer in years of drought, thus making the forest more susceptible to fires, was never far was the sheep rancher’s mind. He could lose a band of sheep. There were reports of herders and the dogs, who helped keep the flocks together, had been killed by lightning. Obviously, forest fires are detrimental to the environment and thus affected domesticated livestock and forest animals. In this time-period, fires were just as deadly as they are today!

And that is the news from July 1920.

One Hundred Years Ago

Just out of curiosity I decided to look at the sheep industry one hundred years ago, June 1920.  There will be further articles I will write about, but I thought this was apropos for what is happening in the meat industry. It was astounding that what was happening in 1920 is still going on today. Looking at only the sheep industry the imports for July 1, 1919 to June 30, 1920 were as follows:

Wool 427,578,038 pounds

Mutton and lamb 16,358,299 pounds

Sheep (live) 199,549

(I will do a comparison of these numbers with July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020 statistics when they are available)

In looking further into the year, the July to Oct the imports were as follows:

Wool 44,435,248 pounds

Mutton and lamb 64,623,776 pounds

Sheep (live) 94,960

Lambs waiting for their mothers being sheared.

It did not get better for the sheep men in the next quarter of the year, 1920 as the above numbers revealed. Prices for wool averaged for the July 1, 1919 to June 30, 1920 about $0.48 per pound, with the highest price at $0.50 and the lowest at $0.44.  A drop of six cents can be a lot of money to a wool grower.  Using 100,000 pounds of wool for illustrative purposes:  100,000 pounds of wool at the 50 cents a pound price, $50,000 is made at the sale of the wool. But at $0.44 he loses $6,000. Some of the sheep men relied on the wool to pay their expenses for the year. Those expenses would include the herders pay and their room and board, grazing fees, other expenses for the outfit such as shearers and transportation of the wool to the purchaser and expenses for their own family, taxes, etc.  At about 6 pounds per sheep that 100,000 pounds means the sheep grower had more than 16,000 sheep which only a few sheep men had that many sheep. Most flocks averaged about between 5,000 and 7,500 sheep from what can be garnished from the wool growers’ records.  

It was also suggested by J. R. Howard, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, writing to the extension director of Arizona, “There is no reason to believe that the demoralized condition of the wool market is more than temporary, and we suggest that you immediately get this report to every county agent and county farm bureau and urge them to advise their members to avail themselves when necessary, of credit extended through the federal reserve bank agreement and to pool their wool and hold it until the market becomes stabilized.” Unfortunately, the price of wool dropped further in 1920, selling at $0.28 a pound in the third quarter and decreasing another two cents in the fourth quarter of 1920. Looking at the wool market today, sheep growers have no market for the wool and they must hold onto it, paying for storage and other costs. Some sheep owners could not sell their lambs for a decent price either this year. They could not afford to hold onto the lambs so had to take the reduced price.

How true it is that in an article written in February 1921, it stated, “It doesn’t require an expert to realize just how much the above free competitive imports (see list above of imports of wool, sheep, mutton and live animals) have discriminated against our farmers and stockmen, and their consequent losses thus occasioned.“  The article further stated that it was about time that the American farms and ranches products have priority so a living wage can be paid” and “we must so arrange our tariff schedules on such products and substitutes as will equalize our cost of production with that of foreign countries.”  It seems we do not learn from the past.  Tariffs were eliminated over one hundred years ago hurting the American farmer and rancher and it is still going on today.  Farmers and ranchers are not paid fair wages for their products. The consumer of these products are paying more; the additional price paid goes to middle men and not the farmer or rancher.