The Woolly West: ‘Sheepscapes’ tell the story of sheepherding in Colorado

The Woolly West: ‘Sheepscapes’ tell the story of sheepherding in Colorado

“Open Range Encounter,” a 30-by-60-inch oil on canvas by Robert Lougheed (1910-1982), shows tension between a range rider moving his cattle herd and a sheepherder and his dogs escorting a flock of sheep across the same landscape.
This is possibly a carving of a sheepherder with a stomach ailment. It may be a self-portrait, or it may be a portrait of another herder, whom the carver was trying to make sick using magic and a spell. It was found in the San Juan National Forest along the Groundhog Stock Driveway.
The first sheep brought into the American Southwest were Spanish churro sheep. This historical churro skull, with its distinctive four horns, is from the collection of the Saguache Museum in Saguache on the northern edge of the San Luis Valley.
Sheepherders endure wind, hail, rain, sleet and snow at high elevations when they are alone tending sheep. They must also be aware of dangers from lightning storms. This enclosure or shelter along the Horsethief Trail between Engineer Pass and Ouray may have provided a small amount of protection for herders caught in inclement weather.
From the Routt National Forest near Steamboat Springs to the White River National Forest east of Meeker, a Hispano herder from Taos, N.M., carved dozens of arborglyphs, including his signature house. This image is found on Ripple Creek Pass along the Flat Tops Scenic Byway. As a native Spanish speaker, he carved MN for NM because in Spanish the adjective goes before the noun. He also carved “repito,” which means “I am doing it again,” referring to his stylized houses.
These Spanish Christian Maltese crosses, in a style that is more than 500 years old, were carved by Merejil Valdez on the San Juan National Forest south of Pagosa Springs. Religious iconography, though found on arborglyphs in aspen groves, is rare.

The Woolly West: ‘Sheepscapes’ tell the story of sheepherding in Colorado

“Open Range Encounter,” a 30-by-60-inch oil on canvas by Robert Lougheed (1910-1982), shows tension between a range rider moving his cattle herd and a sheepherder and his dogs escorting a flock of sheep across the same landscape.
This is possibly a carving of a sheepherder with a stomach ailment. It may be a self-portrait, or it may be a portrait of another herder, whom the carver was trying to make sick using magic and a spell. It was found in the San Juan National Forest along the Groundhog Stock Driveway.
The first sheep brought into the American Southwest were Spanish churro sheep. This historical churro skull, with its distinctive four horns, is from the collection of the Saguache Museum in Saguache on the northern edge of the San Luis Valley.
Sheepherders endure wind, hail, rain, sleet and snow at high elevations when they are alone tending sheep. They must also be aware of dangers from lightning storms. This enclosure or shelter along the Horsethief Trail between Engineer Pass and Ouray may have provided a small amount of protection for herders caught in inclement weather.
From the Routt National Forest near Steamboat Springs to the White River National Forest east of Meeker, a Hispano herder from Taos, N.M., carved dozens of arborglyphs, including his signature house. This image is found on Ripple Creek Pass along the Flat Tops Scenic Byway. As a native Spanish speaker, he carved MN for NM because in Spanish the adjective goes before the noun. He also carved “repito,” which means “I am doing it again,” referring to his stylized houses.
These Spanish Christian Maltese crosses, in a style that is more than 500 years old, were carved by Merejil Valdez on the San Juan National Forest south of Pagosa Springs. Religious iconography, though found on arborglyphs in aspen groves, is rare.

The Woolly West: ‘Sheepscapes’ tell the story of sheepherding in Colorado

This classic photograph depicts the attitude of sheepmen and their herders in the West, particularly Basque and Greek herders, in defending their flocks’ grazing rights on the open range.

The Woolly West: ‘Sheepscapes’ tell the story of sheepherding in Colorado

The Denver & Rio Grande, Colorado’s mountain railroad, off-loads sheep that herders will trail into the high country. Sheepmen often wintered their woolies near Canyonlands in Utah and then moved them by rail into Colorado for summer grazing.

The Woolly West: ‘Sheepscapes’ tell the story of sheepherding in Colorado

On the Mattern Ranch north of Steamboat Springs, Bill and Beth Sagstetter photographed a variety of arborglyphs. The sheepherder artist who impressed them the most was Ben Vigil, who carved this handsome couple. This tree and his other carvings can no longer be found. Photo circa 1980.