Monday, February 5, 2018

2018 Sheepherders' Gathering

 Every January, the Border Inn on US Highway 50, straddling the border of Nevada and Utah, hosts the Sheepherders' Gathering. Sheepherders, sheep owners, and sheep aficionados gather from hundreds of miles to celebrate, you've guessed it, sheep. There's lots of good food, dancing, talks, catching up with old friends and making new ones.

One of my favorite parts is the open mike night, when folks take turns sharing their sheep stories. Hank Vogler was the entertaining emcee. Denys Koyle started off the evening by announcing that although she has now retired from the Border Inn and will be living in Salt Lake, she is keeping the third weekend of January open and will be back for the Sheepherders' Gathering as long as she can get out of bed. Go, Denys! And thank you for getting this event started!

There was a good crowd and a couple video cameras taping it all.

Hank brought up the unusually warm weather we've been having this winter. "It's cold everywhere else [in the country], but warm here. Since they legalized marijuana in Nevada, there's been a real high over the state."

Mary Kaye, the first performer up, was ready with a bit of humor too.
Mary had a little lamb
but now the lamb is dead
and so she brings it up to school
between two pieces o'bread.

Then she sang "Are Your Dreams Big Enough?" If you haven't heard Mary Kaye's music, you should. She's got a beautiful, earthy voice and is a great storyteller. Check out her website for more.

Next up was John, who told about when he was 12 he was sent off for days on the mountain with a herd of sheep. When he wanted to let his mom know that it was time to pick him up (the next night, since he was far out there), he lit a cedar tree on fire.

Joe told us, "My dad had a bat habit of making me walk a lot." Eventually Joe saved enough money to buy his own horse. His mom asked his dad, "You're not going to put him on that horse, are you?" His dad said, "He's just a kid, we've got lots of them."

Then Joe shared some poems. He has a way with words and goes up to Elko for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Melanie has been performing at the Sheepherder's Gathering since she was a babe and is a natural on stage. She played two great ukulele songs.

Dave's been in the sheep business a very long time, and it was great to see him.

Desert Boy even got up on stage and told about his 4-H lamb kicking him in the eye. And how the other lamb followed him to school one day. He was so nervous about talking, but did a great job.

Next up was Clive Romney. We had seen him at the Fillmore Capitol Arts Festival, and the kids remembered his song. He told a story about the old days, when a dress wasn't thrown away when it was worn out, it was made into kids' shirts. And when they were worn out, they were made into a rug. Frugality could be the difference between life and death. He had the audience sing along with the chorus:
Use it up, Wear it out
Make it do or do without
Frugality is how we all survive

Dan got up and apparently wanted a change from sheep. So he told us his Alaska fishing story...

Next was Marlene telling of some Snake Valley sheep history. Her dad took her mom out on the desert to the sheep camp for their honeymoon, where he related that he was leasing the sheep, he didn't own them--much to his bride's surprise.

Lois recalled a very wintery winter, when her dad pulled up to a sheep camp in Burbank. He wondered why the sheepherder had such red lips. Then he came to realize that it was very windy, and the sheepherder had no chapstick, but he did find the wife's lipstick.

Kris and Kaye shared stories from the winter of 1948-49, a legendary winter. Their father, Newell Johnson, had 3,500 sheep on the desert. On January 15 he took his new pickup with one ton of cottonseed pellets for sheep plus supplies out towards them. But the highway was impassable for three days. When he finally got to he sheep, the feed was all covered up, and the sheep were starving. He did his best to get feed to them, but roads sometimes closed for a week at a time. He was the first sheepman from Delta to fly hay out to his sheep. By March 15, enough snow melted so that the sheep could forage on their own. (A movie was made about the flights to save the livestock, called Operation Haylift, and set near Ely, Nevada.)

Mary Kaye took the stage again. She related a story about a song based on an account from What Next, Doctor Peck?, a book I read many years ago while researching my Great Basin National Park: A Guide to the Park and Surrounding Area. I had fond memories of that book, and it was great to hear that it had also touched someone else.

We went back on Saturday for more of Mary Kaye's music (she's that good! if you check out her website, you'll see by all her awards that we're not the only ones that think that.). My husband and I also enjoyed the family-style Basque dinner (the beef was amazing!).

The Sheepherders' Celebration is such a neat event, and it's great that this slowly fading lifestyle is being remembered.

Here are links to past Sheepherders' Gatherings (unfortunately I got sick some years so missed some): 201420132012201120102009

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