F our feet of snow fell on the Sierra Nevada as I traveled east, in front of the storm, to visit with sheep rancher Pete
Paris and his wife Rama. But I did not escape the weather. In the 36 hours I was there, an inch and a half of rain

was recorded on the northeastern Nevada ranch while snow blanketed the surrounding high country.

    Early in the morning, Pete loaded the truck with supplies for two of his sheep camps. We drove up the western flanks of the Ruby Mountains to check the flocks and visit with the herders. After a night of slushy snowfall, the roads were muddy and slick. Within an hour we could see a thousand ewes crest a hill and wander toward camp. Their wool was wet and dark, the color of the brush, and wet without Pete pointing them out I would not have noticed them.

    A shepherd was silhouetted behind them. Leading his horse, he softly encouraged his dog to bring the sheep to the salt the camp tender had brought with his week's groceries and Pete's Basque bread.

    A week to a Basque is six days. "If you come with the groceries on Tuesday, then the next week's groceries are due on Monday," Pete said. "That's the way it is."

    Pete Paris honors that even though few herders are Basque today. They come from Peru, Chile, China and Mexico. They work on three-year contracts and return home with more money than they could earn in a lifetime without herding the American sheep.

    The Peruvian herder‚s lunch was cooking in his small sheep wagon. Today was mutton stew with potatoes and vegetables. Much like many other days. The wagon is uninsulated, neat and sparse, with a sleeping bag on a wood bunk, clothes and personal gear hidden inside a hard bench opposite two stovesųone propane for easy cooking, the other wood to keep the herder warm and dry.

    The second camp was farther north. The herder picked fresh supplies and packed them in his wagon. Sheep were grazing steep canyon walls close by, because this was the day for the flock to move to new range.

    Higher in the canyon, Pete collected a generator that pumped water used by wild and domestic animals. He unplugged the water tank so that it would empty before it could freeze. „During the summer,š Pete said, „it‚s the only guaranteed water up here.š

    The herder saddled his horse, put on an extra poncho, and he and his dog rode out to move the sheep. Pete moved the wagon down the canyon and up another. He smiled. Even with snow falling the range looked healthy. „We never take too much feed,š he said, „and sheep tread lightly.š

    People who are considered „goodš in lots of ways are trying hard to save endangered species, protect habitat, preserve nature, close roads, and remove humans for wildlife corridors. They are also trying to destroy the „badš guysųones like Pete and his sheepherders.

    Unfortunately, few of these well-meaning innocents have ever been „out there.š Their hands are seldom in the soil. Most produce nothing. And yet they feel justified to judge the ones who do.

    The alleged bad guys (our good guys) are usually those working full-time on the land. They are the resource providers who make our lives better, more comfortable, happier. There are stories in this issue about natural resources. Ranchers, scientists, researchers and teachers include Al Medina (22), Dick O‚Sullivan (26), Henry Lamb (30), Jack Ward Thomas (32), Steve Rich (40), Kimmi Lewis (56) and Matthew Cronin (66).

    While the real producers are living close to nature, most know that almost nothing is „naturalš any more. The land has been manipulated positively by humans for millennia. If you really want to head back to preColumbian times for what you think is „pristine,š you would soon be disappointedųhungry, cold and uninspired, with no car, entertainment system or computer. Because you are not self-sufficient like Pete, you would probably die within daysųof malnutrition, dehydration, predation or boredom.

    We don‚t get bored because readers keep us on point. Some offer detrimental labels but Perry and Elsie excelled (p.12). They call you and me „cousin-marryin‚, Shepler-shopping, troglodytes.š They say I need education. And they gleefully insult us all.

    Despite folks like Perry and Elsie, this job is often encouraging. Our web page is getting close to a million hits a year. At the same time, the real clutch-it-to-your breast magazine is read 600,000 more times a year and readers of this paper version are in every state and many foreign countries.

    Hey, Pete, we‚ll just keep pointing out the good guys! 

 

C. J. Hadley is publisher of RANGE magazine.

    

    

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