Groceries for the Sheepherders
Do you ever dread walking into the grocery store? Walking up and down the aisles for nearly an hour trying to find the best deals and loading your cart to the top with all the essentials, plus some. Spending what seems like a ridiculous amount of money on something that is gone in only a week or two?
Now, multiply that by 15!
That is how many guys my mom and I shop for, on average, throughout the year every two weeks.
I walk into the grocery store, grab a cart or two or three, and head for the back area near the restrooms and freezers. The manager is kind enough to allow us an area to store our canned goods, such as vegetables (corn, hominy, tomatoes, tomato sauce, garbanzo beans, peas, and green beans), fruit, chili con carne, tuna, spam, vienna, and evaporated milk. We also keep rice, oil, lemon juice, pickles, garlic salt, salt, dish soap, bar soap, dish sponges, toilet paper, paper towel, aluminum foil, sugar, flour, macaroni, spaghetti, oatmeal, pancake mix, peanut butter, jam, mayonnaise, and ketchup back there. The store employees stack empty produce boxes here for our use, and I place an apple box in one cart and begin filling it with items from the list.
Once I've gotten everything from the back of the store, I throw 2 more boxes in my cart and head for the front. I start down the cleaning aisle if they need laundry detergent. From here, I go grab 2 cartons of eggs. I grab a box of gelatin near the end of the bakery aisle if they want it, make my way to the cereal aisle for instant coffee, chocolate mix, tang, and tortillas at the end. I wind around and down the noodle aisle where I pick up hot sauce, 2 fideo, 6 ramen, green split peas, lentils, and barley. I loop around to the bread aisle for 2 bread before making it to the produce where I gather 2- 10 pound bags of potatoes, 1 head of lettuce, a 2 pound sack of carrots, celery, cilantro, about 20 jalapeños, 1 cabbage, 14 yellow onions, 1 garlic, 8 apples, 8 oranges, 10-12 bananas, a 2 pound block of cheese, bologna, bacon, and chicken. In the midst of all my grocery shopping, I run into and chat with ladies from church, high school friends’ parents, and older men that think I must be really hungry! The boxes and piled up food often get funny looks, and I get many smiles and hellos.
I head for the check out line, where they all know my mom and me, and we know them. I load the checkout counter as full as I can without things falling off the side, and go to the front of the counter where the clerk is placing my items unbagged for me to fill in the boxes. I charge the amount to the ranch account, which many of the ladies have memorized the number, and the new folks I show how to do a store charge. I spend far too much time here. I push my cart of food to the back of the store again where one of us will grab it in the morning to go out to a camp. I put the chicken, bacon, and bologna in our corner of the freezer for the night, the manager also reserves a spot there for us. If the guys request extra goodies such as soda, donuts, or beer, I go grab that too.
There are two men at a camp, and each camp gets an order every two weeks. In the summer, there are 8 camps that we shop for, and in the winter there are 5 camps plus the two guys at the ranch. Lambing season looks a little different with 3-4 men with each of the 5 lambing herds and two other guys at two separate camps. A lot more extra food is ordered during this time. In the spring, fall, and winter we are able to take the food right to the camp along with hay and grain for the horses, dog food, wood, and drinking water for the guys, along with corn for the sheep in the winter. In the summer, when we take orders we also take chainsaw gas and oil, grain, dog food, and salt for the sheep. For this exchange, the guys meet us in a certain location at a set time that we set up at our prior meeting two weeks before. They bring their string of 5-8 pack horses that we load all the supplies on.
Along with the groceries we purchase, the men are provided with an unlimited amount of lamb/mutton in the herd that they are able to butcher and eat whenever they want. We provide them with plenty of lunch, soda, and beer during shearing, docking, and fall works. I am known to always have twisted tea, beer, or schnapps in my pickup or saddle bags that I enjoy sharing with the guys whenever I see them, which is quite often! The guys always love when my mom and I make pack trips to them in the summer because my mom cooks the best meals for the guys when we stay with them. It is funny to see how thin the guys are when they first come to work from Peru compared to when their contract is up after the 1& ½ - 3 years here working, they all gain weight while they’re here! Needless to say, I think these guys are well fed, and I sure enjoy eating what they cook.