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.

The River Crossing

Today we concluded the final stage of my husband and I following the sheep. While I have been on the trail many times I never regret the time I get to spend watching a part of the Arizona history that has taken place over the last one hundred years. The Auza’s have been part of this history since the mid 1910s with Frank Auza came to the United States as a young boy and went into the sheep business during the Spanish flu pandemic. I have written about the Auza’s history in an earlier blog so I will not repeat it here.

The Auza’s, other family members and friends begin to arrive at the park about noon.  An area on the grass under the trees was hastily made into a picnic area. Tables were set up, tablecloths graced the tables and food: fried chicken, cooked beans, a variety of salads, vegetables, potato chips, and dessert. Water and soft drinks were already chilling in coolers. The herders arrived with three donkeys and removed the boxes that they carried. Supplies for the next few days was unloaded from the owners’ trucks and piled on the ground. Eggs, potatoes, fruit, ramen noodles, etc., were then loaded in the boxes and fastened back on the donkeys once again.   Any supplies that could not be put in these boxes was carried down to the river by the men and would be loaded on the other donkeys. The herders were not gone long as they were the guest of honor at the picnic and went through first to be feed.  Then everyone else helped themselves. It was during this time that I gave Jose the pictures from Friday’s adventures and he seemed pleased that I remembered to make copies for him.  I promise that when I saw them the next time, I would have more pictures for them.

Supplies for the herders.
Family, friends and herders enjoy a picnic lunch. The herders are in the background next to the tree.

After eating, two of the herders left and headed back to the river along with some of the family members and friends. Jose stayed and grabbed chicken and other items that they could take with them on the trail. Tonight, the camp tender would not have to cook! The family worked together and picked up food that needed to be kept cold. Then the rest of us headed to the river. Margaret accompanied Carmen and me.

Other onlookers had started to gather at the designated time of 1 PM and were watching for the family to head to the river. Others had already gone down to where the sheep were. One family had two small children, one in a stroller!  The men headed to help the herders as two donkeys were not cooperative and did not want to stand still while the boxes were loaded on them. With the donkeys loaded, a herder set out with them to take them across the river.

Donkeys heading to the river.
Three generations of Auza’s

I am sure that anyone who was watching from above in a plane or flew a drone over the scene would think pandemonium had set in. But there is a process to move the sheep and the herders and those who have done this before knew what needed to be accomplished to get the sheep across the river. The family and friends began to move around the flank of the sheep.

Family and friends head to the river behind the donkeys.

The herders moved toward the water pushing the sheep that direction. Dust began to be kicked up by the hooves of the sheep. The sound of sheep bells and bleating were heard. Onlookers were everywhere. Joseph Auza held some onlookers back as herders, the family and dogs began to push the sheep more and more to the river. The path to the river now went through wet gullies. The sheep were wet from crossing these gullies. It was now time for the onlookers to cross these. Some of us helped each other. After one obstacle was crossed there was the second to cross; it was much wider. Everyone was in a hurry to get to the river’s edge to see the sheep crossing. I moved around to the right flank when I could not penetrate through the sheep or the onlookers to get my pictures on the left flank. Even as the official photographer for the Auza’s, I tried to be courteous and let others get to the front and take pictures. Being short usually means I can be in the front and others take their pictures over me!

Moving toward the river is a slow process in the beginning.
Sheep begin to kick up the dust.

Margaret, who had been near me as we started down to the river, was soon caught up in the action of the day and moved mostly where she could get a good glimpse of the crossing. Lila had known to flank to the right to be down river of the crossing. Herders and some of the young family members were in the water keeping the sheep moving. In about fifteen minutes the sheep were across the river. It was now just to get the last of the dogs to cross over with a little help from a herder. And this portion of the trailing was in the history books!

Why are you pushing us toward the water? I don’t want a bath!
Being at the right location to get that picture!
Herder, family and friends help move the sheep.
A Great Pyrenees helped across the river.

A Thumb Nail Sketch

Browsing through old territorial newspaper one can find short little tidbits of information about people and an industry that help paint a picture. It’s what I call a “thumb nail sketch”.  Searching keys words brings up other newsworthy articles about the topic being searched that may otherwise go unnoticed. There isn’t always a great deal of information found this way, but it may give the researcher new names to look for.  Those names or stories can be crossed referenced in other newspapers of the time. Other archives may be searched leading to a more complete record of the industry.

Take for instance obituaries. The information in an obituary can give us a little information such as where and when the person was born, arrival in the country and/or into Arizona, their age at death, and their occupation.  While that may not seem like a great deal of information what it does is add names to those who were participants in Arizona’s sheep industry which may not have been known before. It may add other areas of the state to the distribution of the sheep and how many sheep were in the state at a given time. From these obituaries there may be enough information to track them through Ancestry.com and learn more about the person.  Here are just four obituaries found in the Arizona Wool Growers’ Association files:

Tom Jones, born in Wales came to the United States in 1908 and shortly after arriving in New York City made his way to Mesa. In his obituary in the Arizona Republic, May 9, 1967, it states that he was a retired sheep rancher. He died at the age of 82. A footnote to the obituary that was attached to a paper in a file of the Arizona Wool Growers Association, it noted, “Tom shipped wool through the Arizona Wool Growers Ass’n (Association) in 1951 and 1952, and thus held membership in the association. He was an “expert herdmen.”

Frank Ybanez was a Buckeye sheep company foreman who passed away May 12, 1967 at the age of 65 years. He was from France and was about to retire and return to his native country where he had a sister and two brothers. Frank was an early arrival to the state coming in 1920. It was stated in his obituary that he worked in the sheep industry in Arizona for over 40 years.

Frank Pina, 75, was in the sheep shearing business with his brother between 1926 and 1946. He died in Mesa Sunday, February 4, 1969.   He was born in San Angelo, Texas in 1894 and arrived in the Mesa area in 1924.

In an obituary for Henry Albers from the Arizona Republic, Thursday, December 10, 1970 there is no mention of his involvement in the sheep industry. The obituary was attached on a piece of paper along with a typed footnote. It seems Mr. Albers had a small sheep outfit in 1907 when the then secretary of the Arizona Wool Growers Association arrived in Arizona. Albers range was between Government Hill and Sitgreaves Mountain, north west of Maine Station on the Santa Fe. It is believed that in 1908 he sold his outfit to Charlebois. 

Tomorrow, I will share what I learned about the sheep industry in the southern part of our state from two different stories.

A Six-legged Sheep? A Two-headed Sheep?

Today’s story isn’t about the sheep industry, but once in awhile a little tidbit of news is printed from times past that just needs to be retold. It also goes along with a picture sent to me by a sheep family of yesteryear, the Thudes.

If you had been around in 1881 and ventured to visit P.T. Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan and Hippodrome you just might have seen this six-legged sheep. Barnum was known for his museum of freaks and a six-legged sheep would have just fit in with his theme.  By 1881 Barnum had merged with James Bailey and James L. Hutchinson and the show was shortened to Barnum & Bailey’s.

But what about that six-legged sheep? Well, the sheep had two legs in front and four in the back. The sheep was a double-bodied beast, but simply had two fore feet. It only used two of its four back feet.  It was estimated to be about a year and a half old. It would come when called and its name was Jose.  It was very gentle.

The owner of the animal had hopes of selling the animal to Barnum for a whopping $500, a lot of money for 1881. It will take further research to determine if the man departed with his sheep and gained $500!

And just for those who are curious that $500 in 1881 would be worth $2,530.54 today!

And the two-headed sheep….

Poisonous Wool

An interesting newspaper story on poisonous wool was found in the Tucson “Arizona Weekly Citizen” for October 28, 1881. Death can occur when a shearer or a wool sorter carelessly handles wool from a diseased or dead sheep.

The story mentions wool sorters in England being subject to a peculiar disease when wool has been taken from sheep that had died from Anthrax, a malignant splenie fever that exists among sheep.

In the United States, another person’s death had also been attributed to wool. Mr. Naud, a prominent citizen of Los Angeles, had been sorting wool that had been placed in his care. Some of the clipped that he was sorting came from scabby sheep and “was, consequently, poisonous to a certain degree. After handling the wool he chanced to touch a small bleeding wound on his person and became inoculated with the poison from the wool. His blood became thoroughly impregnated with the poison, and after a long illness and great suffering from pyemia, he died.

“It is possible that the sheep in Arizona are not affected with disease to any extent, yet the greatest caution should be used to exclude the wool of sheep that have died or are suffering from any disease, from the better wool intended for the market.”

There were many dipping vats in Arizona to rid sheep of scabby in the early history of the industry. One of those dipping vats was at Cordes where many sheep were sheared each year. The sheep were run through the vats before leaving Cordes. I wrote about this topic in an earlier blog where scabby had been reduced if not eliminated in the years 1906 to 1916 because sheep owners were vigilant in this practice of dipping. The cost to dip a sheep ran between 2 1/2 to 3 cents. The picture of a dipping vat; it is the same one I used in the earlier blog.

Dipping Vat at Cordes. Date unknown. Unknown men.

There were other dipping vats within the state. One was at the Verde River Sheep Bridge and another on the west side of the San Francisco Peaks. There had to be other dipping stations within the state along the trails used by the sheep men as they drove their sheep northward each year.

One further comment and that is the story failed to mention whose wool Mr. Naud was handling; they may not have known or did not think it was necessary to mention the wool grower.

Two last comments – if anyone knows who any of the men were in the picture above, please send me a message and if anyone knows of other locations of dipping vats, I would appreciate that information as well.