Saturday, January 24, 2009

2009 Sheepherder's Party

The Sheepherder's Party was recently held at the Border Inn, located out on the Utah/Nevada stateline. This area, generally called the West Desert, has been a big winter sheepherding area for over a century. This party is put on to encourage sheepherders, sheep owners, and others involved in the sheep industry to celebrate their heritage and to take a break from the mundane routines of winter.

Denys Koyle, owner of the Border Inn, organized the event, which went from Friday evening to the wee hours of Saturday night. Friday night was a dinner and sheepherder's stories; Saturday was a pancake breakfast, presentation by Sourdough Slim, a dinner, and the sheepherder's ball, with lots of good music to kick up your heels to. In addition, the Great Basin National Heritage Route conducted oral histories, Great Basin National Park opened the new visitor center with recently installed exhibits, and some folks took a water tour to learn more about Snake Valley.

Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons opened the program Friday evening with remarks.

Some of the actual sheepherders came. There aren't so many of them anymore as transportation has improved. Nevertheless, they still do a lot of the sheepherding the old-fashioned way, living in small sheep camps, riding horses to move the sheep, and having only their border collies and sheep dogs for company most of the time. At one point most of the sheepherders were Basque, but today they are all from Peru.

Sourdough Slim showed off his excellent musical abilities and sense of humor.

The program included those of all ages, including young Melanie singing a pretty song in her pink cowgirl hat.

This gentleman showed off a quilt his made. He explained that he wore the elbows out of his wool shirts, and they would mysteriously disappear from the closet. He wanted his wife just to cut the sleeves off to make short-sleeved summer shirts, but she used them to make this beautiful quilt--her 100th quilt!

The emcee was the garrulous and hilarious Hank Vogler. His son got up to take his turn at filling the room with hot air.

No program is complete without a little cowboy poetry. Here is the Sheepherder's Lament by Jack Ingram, about the difficulties of getting a wife while herding sheep:

And then came something new for me: cowboy yodeling. I really enjoyed it. If you want to hear more, Sourdough Slim will be performing at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada the end of January, or you can get CDs from his website.

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