The alarm goes off before the sun comes up. My mom is the first to climb down out of the camp bed to start the coffee and warm up our steak and potatoes from supper last night. When I finally roll out of bed, I head straight out into the fresh mountain morning air to catch and saddle our horses. It doesn't take us long to clean up camp, load up, and drive a little ways down the pine tree bordered road to the first herd. The little bunch of purebreds, the ewes that I lamb through the sheds in March and April, are near the 300-ft spring campground where we can drive up to them. They are accompanied by two guard dog pups we raised this winter, sheepherder, Bobby on his favorite red roan, Chispe, and a few of his Border Collie dogs. We walk through the sagebrush to meet the herd where I count them. 586 ewes and lambs run between mom and I. The lambs are growing nice and big on this beautiful green feed and plentiful flowers! We chat with Bobby about how everything is going, and he tells us of the mama bear with two cubs he encountered. We continue on our way, driving down the forest road a bit further to where it's closer to ride over to the next herd.
We unload and begin riding down the mountain to the sound of blatting sheep. Although on our forest allotment, these are not our sheep we hear. It is a neighbor's herd trailing through on their way to their own allotment much further north. Six herds have trailed through this same area, and yet the grass is still as abundant as if nothing has been here. One of the beauties of sheep. We make it to the creek bottom, West Fork of the Hamsfork, and climb up the steep face of the other side. The sounds of the trailing herd echo through the canyon, and we stop at the top of the mountain to take it all in for a minute.
We continue over the top and into the next drainage. We spot a herder sitting on the ridgeline to the north of us with his pinto gelding and dogs, and the sheep quietly bedded down below him. He doesn't notice us while in the opening of the hill, so my mom lets out a whoop to let him know we are here. We are greeted by the guard dogs as we approach their herd, and wake Lucio who is taking a morning rest along with the sheep. My mom counts them this time, 1,777 ewes and lambs. Our herds are small this year compared to normal due to the horrendous winter/spring we barely lived through. We watch the herd spread out to graze after being counted, and visit with Carlos and Lucio for a bit. No predator or poisonous plant problems yet, so we are content when heading back to the pickup at 8:40 am.
We make it down to the town of Cokeville where we pull into the Flying J for a piece of pizza and a drink. My uncle had mentioned hauling some old cull ewes out, so I call him and get the ok on doing that. I call the guy we haul these ewes to every year and let him know I'm coming. Mom calls Nic and asks him to bring the pickup and double deck trailer, along with an extra guy to help load. In the mean time, we have a blow out on one of the trailer tires. Mom and I are both practically equivalent to a professional Nascar pit crew when it comes to changing tires as many flats as we get! We simply pull the good trailer tire up on a block of wood to where the flat one is off the ground, use the portable impact wrench to take the lug nuts on and off, load the flat in the back of the pickup, and continue on our way.
The old ewes are in a pasture near a permanent sheep corral we have. Mom, our dogs, and I gather them into the corral. We mouth and bag the ones that aren't already marked to sell, which means looking at their teeth to determine age and checking their milk bag to make sure there aren't lumps or hard spots. We mark the good young ewes which I use the cutting gate to sort into a pen as we load the rest on both levels of the trailer. I head south for Utah with the old girls that have served us well in their years here on the ranch. Nic heads north with the ewes that will stick around with us a little longer and adds them to the tail end bunch that was just recently hauled up to the forest.
I pull into Goring's ranch about 5:30 pm. We get the 90 ewes unloaded, and I help him and his hired hand run them through the corral to sort three different ways based on how good of shape they're in, and we weigh each group. I'm out of there in about an hour and meet up with my boyfriend and a friend for dinner in Evanston. I finally make it home about 10:30 thinking of the multiple different tasks we've accomplished today and the many miles I put on starting with the dirt roads in the forest to the city lined interstate of Utah.