Monday, June 17, 2019
Sheep Tales—From Grizzlies to Cookies
The Oinkari Basque Dancers played to hundreds—about two-thirds who indicated they were attending the festival for the first time—during Saturday’s Sheep Folk Festival.
Sunday, October 9, 2016


Imagine being trapped in a cage with a grizzly.

Such were the stories of the Sheep Tales Gathering at the 20th annual Trailing of the Sheep Festival this weekend.

The so-called “next generation”—the young 20-somethings who grew up on sheep ranches and are now making it their life’s work—took the stage Friday night.

Christina Giordani,’s first encounter with sheep was in New Zealand where she was stopped in traffic because of sheep. It prompted her to move to Sun Valley and go to work for Lava Lake Lamb.

And, while they couldn’t tell you about the blizzard of ’52 during which sheep tunneled to where they were going, they had plenty of stories of their own.

Chief among them: Lou Arambel, a fourth-generation sheep rancher who moves 5,000 Rambouillet-Columbia crossbred sheep 212 miles from the Colorado border to the Wind River Mountains of Central Wyoming.

Arambel, whose great grandparents came from the Basque Country in the 1880s, recounted how he and his wife Shelby usually don’t have to worry about grizzly bears in the southern stretch of the Wind River Range. But that changed one day when he found the unmistakable evidence of a grizzly kill.

Arambel went up the mountain to calm his sheep, the “Souieeee!” of the grizzly ringing in his ears. He called Fish and Game and an officer came with a 4-by-4-by-8-foot cage.

Christie Erickson and Cory Peavey run sheep in the Pioneer Mountains east of Ketchum for Cory’s grandfather John Peavey and his father Tom Peavey.

As hoped, the bear lumbered into a trap, which snapped, and the bear rolled into the cage.

Arambel thought no more of it until five hours later when he ventured back in the vicinity of the trap. This time he heard a different sound—the small plaintive, “Oh! Oh!” of a human.

There in the box was the Fish and Game officer—with the bear.

Turned out the officer had tranquilized the bear and was trying to get a blood sample from it when he, too, fell into the box and it snapped shut.

Kathleen Eder and Sally Toone took time out from campaigning for seats in the legislature to serve up lamb meatballs outside Enoteca for The Love of Lamb bites Friday night.

It was fortunate for him that Arambel showed up when he did because the bear was beginning to emerge from its tranquilized state.

“He could’ve gotten eaten!” exclaimed the vivid storyteller.

The “next generation,” moderated by National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Founder Hal Cannon, featured 15 young people, including four couples.

While Arambel told of employing sheepherders from Nepal on his Boulder, Wyo., ranch, Christina Giordani told of being lured into the sheep industry developing pet treats and other value-added goods for Lava Lake Lamb near Carey.

For the Love of Lamb diners pose with Miss Lambchops outside Cristina’s Restaurant.

Chad Osguthorpe related how he doubled his Suffolk/Merino mix from 600 to 1,200 in the Wasatch Mountains near Park City despite being diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at 19. And last year his father and grandfather’s advice to “leave the lamb better than what you got” paid off when he signed a deal with Patagonia.

Brittany Cole Bush related how she grew up five miles from the beach in California but experienced a calling when she landed a job using sheep and goats to graze away noxious weeds and reduce fire hazards in the land around San Francisco’s Bay area.

Dominique Etcheverry told how she hands out cookies to calm motorists who must stop as her father’s sheep trail down a busy highway between Jackson, Wyo., and Utah.

“If they’re tourists, they’re usually interested. Locals—they’re over it,” she said.

Cody Peavey, who with his brother Jacob is the fifth generation to work the Flat Top Sheep Ranch, told of forging his way through his sheep chores during a blizzard to make it to the Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade at Sun Valley.

And Jake Benson told how he did not grow up on a sheep ranch but developed a love for sheep by shadowing legendary rancher Eddie Larson, who had one of the biggest sheep herds in the Cedar City, Utah, area. Larson gave him a few lambs, which he raised to pay for his college education.

And today he runs sheep above Lake Mead near Zion National Park. He also tries to pass on his enthusiasm about sheep to the kids in his area, having recently talked to 2,600 fourth-graders about the sheep heritage in their backyard.

“All I know is sheep,” he said. “They’re my hobby, my passion.”


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