Tuesday, May 26, 2020
Why Are Sheep Such Good Followers?
The sheep parade, as seen from the Warfield Distillery, stretched along Ketchum’s Main Street.
Monday, October 14, 2019


The 1,500 sheep that took over Main Street Ketchum on Sunday wandered past a piece of sheep history.

That would be Jack Lane’s Mercantile—now Enoteca restaurant.

In the 1960s, said Dennis Burke, former foreman at the Flat Top Sheep Ranch, Jack Lane’s store was the center of the sheep industry in Sun Valley. You could buy everything there from dynamite to Stetson hats—it was a buy-all store, he said.

Magen Dufurrena takes the wool her grandparents raise in Lovely Valley northwest of Winnemucca to the Mountain Meadow Wool Mill in Buffalo, Wy., and a weaver in Boise.

On any given day you could find the sheep men sitting near the window, Lane in an overstuffed chair, as they told stories. And Lane didn’t have much use for anyone who didn’t deal in sheep.

“I’d get so nervous when a non-sheep person walked in the store because no one would say, ‘Boo!’ to them. One lady asked if he had an egg beater. And Jack responded, ‘What would we do with an egg beater in a sheep store?!’

“Another time someone asked for a carton of Camels and Jack replied, ‘I don’t sell them,’ even though they were in plain sight.”

Why are sheep such good followers that we’ve coined the phrase “Follow like a sheep”?

Vendors at the Ketchum Town Square offered all things sheep, including this pendant featuring a sheep dog.

Sheep have no sharp teeth or claws to fend off predators. So, they find their safety in numbers, said  Burke.  “If a bear comes near, they’ll run in a group.”

Henry Etcheverry, who runs sheep near Lava Hot Springs in southeast Idaho, said the range there once sported 300,000 sheep. Now there are 20,000.

And the sheep industry took a hit this year as exports to China dried up over the trade problems the United States is having with that country, he added.

 “Beautiful pelts are worth nothing,” he said.

Illlusions Lab was among the fashion design and felting art vendors.

That said, Idaho is a wonderful place to pasture sheep as it has enough food you can slaughter sheep right off the mountain, he said. Food is more scarce in Nevada and Utah.

That means Etcheverry can raise sheep for the Shepherd’s Pride brand with no antibiotics or growth hormones.

Etcheverry doesn’t rely on dogs in his operation, as do many sheep ranches.

 “My father said a man with a good dog has skinny sheep. But we’ve don’t have wolves in southeast Idaho we have to worry about,” he said.

Have you ever seen so many different earrings sporting sheep?

But he does have black sheep.

“You might have 20 blacks in a heard of a thousand ewes. Occasionally, you count the blacks. If you’re out two blacks, you’re probably out quite a few whites,” he said.

And, while some boutique operations such as Lovely Valley Wool employs black sheep to create natural black and grey wool, Etcheverry must keep his black sheep far away from his white sheep at shearing time.

“Pendleton Mills, which makes wool blankets, gives the black sheep a wide berth,” he said. “They’re afraid a black fiber might mar the pure white fibers they’re looking for.”



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