The phone rang at 7:00 am this morning – it was Tina in Sanpete County calling to tell me that her husband Wade would be moving sheep would on the highway in a couple of hours. Get directions, grab the gear, gas and go. That’s 90 minutes to make 100 miles
Tina told me where they cross the highway, so I parked there and waited in the rain. Suddenly, in the rear view mirror, I saw a vehicle behind me. By the time I’d introduced myself to Dean, the front flagger, I was enveloped in sheep.
That would be 1200 sheep, more or less. Didn’t get a count on the dogs of two distinct kinds: several sheep-sized and -colored herding dogs that roamed with the band, and a few smaller B&W terrier-terrors that stuck by the horses. I walked/trotted/ran down the highway in the middle of the band for about 2 miles, hitching a couple of rides on passing tailgates to get ahead of the flock again.
The sheep moved a lot faster than I expected. They’d run by, stopping to grab a mouthful of food, then take off again. They covered more than 2 miles in about 45 minutes. And I thought it would be much louder. Their hooves didn’t make much noise on the pavement even at a full run, and they didn’t vocalize much either. A few bells around their necks clanging, mostly the sound of chewing and the cars passing by. The sheep did not care for the sound of the shutter.
The cars and trucks could wade through the flood of sheep, but very slowly. One woman rolled down her window to tell me she too used to help herd sheep. Nobody got impatient. And then it was over. The guys drove them to a powerline cut heading west toward Fountain Green. Dean drove around to meet Willie and Victor, the horsemen, while Wade went to get burgers for the cowboys. Cars were whizzing by again at 65 mph. The folks at the forest service could think of only two families still moving sheep on foot. I’m glad I got to see it.
The aspens are brilliant – could see that even with the mountain-hugging clouds trying to cover them up. It’s hunting time – lots of ATVs and RVs heading up to Fairview Canyon, but I still might go back next week. I bought an orange safety vest at Cabela’s on the way home, just in case.