A Sheep Drive

I love road trips. Short ones, long ones, new destinations or the same ol’, same ol’. For me, part of the beauty is the opportunity to just sit for a while and do nothing. But a lot of the joy comes from the notion that the same person never passes by the same place. We’ve grown and changed and are thinking differently since the last time we came through. Or, we travel by somewhere for another reason than we did before. And places change, too, or are presented differently with varying weather, seasons, and sky. These factors make every location, every mile, new and unique and an experience waiting to happen.

On my trail from home to my hometown, I pass through the picturesque town of Meeker, Colorado, population 2,500, home of the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials. On two different occasions now, as I’ve driven through, there has been a sheep drive going on. The ranchers are moving their sheep to winter pasture.

I don’t know what it is, why seeing a bunch of woolies trotting down the highway moves me so. But it does. Both times that it has happened it’s been the highlight of my trip, a real treat.

And so, just in case you’ve never come across anything like this while traveling, I’ll share it with you.

We were just north of Meeker when I came upon a vehicle on the side of the road. On the back of the truck was a large sign:  LIVESTOCK ON ROAD. My immediate thought, though I grew up with a ranch and a farm and livestock, was: When you think about it, livestock is a really weird term. Why don’t we just call it stock? I mean, it’s not like it needs to be distinguished from deadstock.

Just past the truck was a cowboy (cowboy? another strange term as there were neither cows nor boys in the vicinity) on horseback. He was bringing up the rear, watching for any stragglers that managed to get past the dogs.

And then, there they were, the first of about five hundred sheep I’d see over the next two or so miles. I was grateful for the LIVESTOCK ON ROAD warning sign because, in November, oatmeal-colored sheep blend right in with the gray-brown high desert landscape.

Sheep Drive 2As I inched my way along, I realized I was a part of the machine. I was helping to move the sheep on down the road to their winter pasture.

It wasn’t long before I saw the first of many, about 20, Great Pyrenees dogs. They all looked the same–same size, same short white coat, clean, calm, focused, talented–and were just magnificent.

Sheep Drive 3

The dogs were evenly spaced throughout the herd and taking on different tasks. Some trotted along behind a group, just keeping the throng moving. I saw some on the other side of the fence lining the highway, chasing back any hostages who tried to escape. Occasionally there were tufts of green grass, each with a pile of sheep grabbing bites while they could. A dog would be there, executing small charges and pounces, to get them moving again. And, as in the photo above, some dogs hung out on the road, moving sheep along, but also, it seemed, managing traffic simultaneously.

As I neared the end of the herd of sheep, or, actually, it was the beginning as it was those who were leading the way, there were fewer dogs and the sheep thickened, like food along the hot sides of a pan. Their wooly backs, so close together now, made it seem as if they were one, one giant undulating organism of oatmeal.

I passed the last of the sheep, one more cowboy on horseback, and another vehicle that was part of the operation.

Wow! I thought. 500 sheep being moved to winter pasture by 20 dogs and just two cowboys. Pretty impressive!

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. farfetchedfriends
    Nov 30, 2013 @ 09:45:23

    I would do the same with words. 🙂

    Reply

  2. theyoushow2000
    Dec 27, 2013 @ 01:31:25

    I love road trips also. Smiles, however , a road like that with all those hundreds of sheep on it— a bit too much for me. I like seeing wildlife or animals in more natural settings.

    Reply

  3. theclocktowersunset
    Jan 08, 2014 @ 20:49:45

    Like for instance this is one…….?????????????????????????????????

    Reply

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