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A Sheep Camp Story

I had heard about an ocotillo fence that was part of an old sheep herders camp. The camp was located close to Constellation Road, near Wickenburg, Arizona. After a fifteen mile ride on my ATV, which involved much searching, I found the location. The remains of an ocotillo fence were there.

There was an old man at the camp. We sat around and talked. He related the following story to me.

His granddaddy, Reed, started the camp we were in and he was the one who planted the ocotillo fence. One spring just weeks before the lambing season he hired a young man named Mac, who was a sprinter for Yale University, to be a sheep herder. Reed warned him not to lose any of the sheep.

The sheep and Mac soon disappeared into the scrub and nothing more was thought of him until supper time came and there was no sign of Mac or the sheep. Reed commenced to worry about the sheep and about 7 o’clock was about to start out to look for them when Mac at last came driving them through the brush into the corral. After shutting them in, he came to the grub tent, streaked with dust and perspiration and from all appearances plumb tuckered out.

Before Reed could say anything, Mac burst out.  “Boss,” he said, “I’m through. They thought back east that I was a foot racer, but I’m not. Almost any sheep herder that can herd that band for a week and not loose those lambs can beat all of the world’s records for running. I didn’t lose any today and I ran every one of those damn lambs back into the band every time they tried to get away, but one day is enough for me. I’m all in but they are all there. Go and count them up and give me my time. I’m done.”

Reed, knowing that there no lambs in the band and that none of the ewes should have lambed yet, went to the corral to investigate. Off in one corner, huddled up by themselves, he counted 38 jackrabbits and 17 cottontails.

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