Monday, June 17, 2019
Sheepherder Carvings Exhibit Paired with Sheep Trailing
A sheepherder drives a band of sheep south along the bike path through Hailey on Tuesday.
Thursday, October 6, 2016


Michele Schwartz walked over to a grove of aspen trees and stopped, tracing a curvy line etched in the bark of one with her finger.

“See here—here’s a woman with her hand on her hip,’’ she said. “Definitely a sexy woman.”

There are no Playboy calendars tacked up in these woods north of Ketchum. But hikers can find a curious blend of churches, hearts, horseback riders and naked women etched into the green-white bark of the aspen tree.

This sheepherder carving can be found in Parker Gulch north of Elkhorn.

The etchings are the tree petroglyphs of Basque and Peruvian sheepherders who have wandered through these canyons with their sheep every summer for decades. The aspen bark is their canvas.

"The carvings were the sheepherders’ way of telling people they were here,’’ Schwartz said. "It was their way of acknowledging they counted, given the fact that they spent many a lonely night on mountain ridges and in mountain valleys with just 700 sheep and a border collie or two for company."

A new exhibit, “We Were Here: Idaho Sheepherder Carvings,” opened this week at the Sun Valley Museum of History in Ketchum’s Forest Service Park at First and Washington streets. The pop-up exhibit, from the Community Library’s Regional History Department, is paired with a recreation of a sheepherder’s backcountry camp and a selection of artifacts.

It’s open from 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Admission is free.

The curious can also take a Sheepherder Hike with Flat Top Sheep Ranch owner John Peavey to see carvings in person from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday. A bus will leave from Forest Service Park for the aspen groves in Neal Canyon, a few miles north of Ketchum. Peavey will share stories during the bus ride, which costs $10. People can follow in their car for free.

Unfortunately, the bark on aspen trees doesn’t last forever. It falls off or the carvings scab over and get so weathered you can’t read them anymore.

“They’re kind of like a treasure we’re losing. If we come back 40 years from now, these probably won’t be here anymore,” said Schwartz.

Schwartz, a photo/history buff, wandered the mountains near Ketchum for nearly 10 years taking pictures of the carvings, many of which she gave to the Forest Service for documentation. The oldest she’s ever seen was inscribed in 1929.

"Looking for carvings is like arrowhead hunting," Schwartz said. "You have to look around on every tree."

Some of the carvings specify dates—the sheepherder’s bookkeeping notes to tell him when he’s used up his Forest Service-prescribed allotment of time in an area and needs to move on. Some contain simply a name and a year when the sheepherder moved through the area.

"Sometimes the penmanship looks so much like script, you wonder how they did it with a knife," she said.

A few are revealing, like this inscription, written in Basque on a tree near the Yuba River near Atlanta:

“Don’t know where I am, don’t know where I’m going, but I gotta go.”

A few are downright poetic:

“I’ve summered in the tropics, Had yellow fever chill.

I’ve wintered in the Artic (sic)’ Known every ache and ill.

Been shanghied (sic) on a whaler and stranded in the deep.

But I didn’t know what misery was ‘tll I started herding sheep.”

This year’s Trailing of the Sheep Festival—the 20th—is full of  colorful events, including a free discussion by Pam Royes, who recounts a sojourn with a wandering shepherd in the rugged Hells Canyon country in her memoir “Temperance Creek.” She will be joined by Carolyn Dufurrena, author of the award-winning “Fifty Miles From Home,” which chronicles sheep ranching life in Nevada.

Monica Ebert, a wool laboratory manager, will offer a peak into the world of wool from sheep to mill in a free talk at 2p.m. Saturday. And the latest generation to stake out their place on the land will do the talking at Friday’s annual Sheep Tales Gathering.

Among them, a rancher who told Festival Co-Chair Diane Peavey: “I would love to do it, but first I have to talk to my grandpa to see if he can run the ranch while I’m gone.”

The festival will culminate with 1,500 of John Faulkner’ sheep rambling through town in the annual Sheep Trailing Parade at noon Sunday.

“We’re looking back—looking ahead,” it’s a good place to be,” said Diane Peavey.

Here are the highlights from the next few days:


11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Cooking with Lamb/Chef Loubot, Michel’s Christiania, 303 Walnut Ave., Ketchum. $75.

2-3:30 p.m. Cooking with Lamb/Chef Brent Rasmussen, Iconoclast Books, 671 Sun Valley Road, Ketchum. $75.

4-6 p.m. Sawtooth Mountains Knitted Scarf. Sun Valley Needle Arts in Ketchum. $75.

6 p.m. Carolyn Dufurrena and Pam Royes will tell sheep tales at Ketchum’s Community Library, 415 Spruce Ave. Free.

FRIDAY, Oct. 7:

Dawn-dusk. 2016 National Point Qualifying Sheepdog Trials at Quigley Canyon field near Wood River High School at the end of Fox Acres Road in Hailey. $3; children under 12 admitted free.

9 a.m.-5 p.m. Festival headquarters open at nexStage Theater, First and Main streets, Ketchum.

9 a.m.-noon. Zapotec Dyeing and Weaving with Mexican weaver Elena Gonzalez, Hailey Armory, 701 S. 4th Street, $70.

9 a.m.-noon. Something is Batty with my Yarn! With Lonna Alexander Steele, Ellsworth Inn, 702 3rd Ave., S., in Hailey. $65.

9 a.m.-noon. Felted Soap with Brandy Vernay Henson, Hailey Armory. $45.

9 a.m.-noon. Knitting Workshop with Susie Wilson, Hailey Armory. $70.

9 a.m.-noon. Tapestry Beaded Bag with Joan Contraman, Hailey Armory, $98.

9 a.m.-3 p.m. Botanical Dyes, Flower Petals and Eyeing Kettles with Diana Blair, Hailey Grange Hall, 609 S. 3rd St., $85.

10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. “A Stop Along the Trail”  Wool Pillow, Sun Valley Fabric Granary, 122 S. Main St., Hailey, $140.

11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Cooking with Lamb, Chef Brent Rasmussen, 671 Sun Valley Road, Ketchum. $75.

1:30-4:30 p.m. Nuno Felting with Jon Ortglesen and Cholpon Djumabaeva, Hailey Armory, $95.

1:30-4:30 p.m. Demystifying Color with Joan Contraman, Hailey Armory. $55.

1:30-4:30 p.m. Been Spinning Long with Lonna Alexander-Steele, Ellsworth Inn, $700.

2-3:30 p.m. Cooking with Lamb with Chef Jim Roberts, Wood River Sustainability Center, 308 S. River St., Hailey, $75.

2:30-4 p.m. Sheep Ranching Tales and Questions and Answers with Laird Noh and Mike Guerry. Ketchum’s Community Library. Free.

4:30 p.m. For the Love of Lamb Bites from Cornerstone Bar & Grill, Cristina’s, Enoteca, Iconoclast, Rasberrys, Rominna’s, Sawtooth Club, Vintage, Town Square Tavern and Warfield Distillery & Brewery. Free.

7 p.m. Sheep Tales Gathering—Featuring the stories of “The Next Generation”—the young people who grew up watching their parents and grandparents on the land and now are staking out their own place on it. nexStage Theater, $20.


Dawn-dusk. Sheep dog Trials continue.

9 a.m.-noon. Festival Headquarters open with festival merchandise and more.

9 a.m.-10:30 a.m. Filming Your Family’s Stories, with Carolyn Dufurrena at the Sun Valley Center Hailey Campus in the old Ezra Pound House at Pine and 2nd streets in Hailey. $30.

9 a.m.-noon. Felted Necklace and Earrings with Joan Contraman at Hailey Armory, $60.

9 a.m.-noon Beginning Drop Spindle with Jennifer Green at Hailey Armory. $50.

10 a.m.-4 p.m. Folklife Fair featuring artists, musicians, dancers, food, sheep shearing and folk art booths. Roberta McKercher Park in Hailey. Free.

10 a.m.-4 p.m. 5 Bee Quilt Show at the Folklife Fair. Bed Turnings featuring short stories about historical quilts at 10:30 a.m., noon, 1:30 and 3 p.m.

10 a.m.-noon. From Field to Studio—How to Clean Wool Fleece with Elizabeth McCabe, Ellsworth Inn. $70.

11 a.m.-4 p.m. Lamb Fest at the Folklife Fair, featuring lamb meals for sale from CK’s Real Food, diVine, Grumpy’s, il Naso, KB’s, Seasons Steakhouse and the Blaine County 4-H Leader’s Council.

1:30-4:30 p.m. Shibori Dyeing with Lonna Alexander-Steele, Sun Valley Center Hailey classroom, $65.

1:30-4:30 p.m.  Felted Soap with Brandy Vernay Henson, Hailey Armory, $45.

1:30-4:30 p.m. Make Your Own Designer Buttons with Joan Contraman, Hailey Armory, $70.

1:30-4:30 p.m. Simple Wool Dyeing and felting with Elizabeth McCabe, Hailey Grange, $75.

2 p.m. Naturally Inspiring: The Story of Wool. Monica Ebert, Wool Laboratory manager at Montana State University’s Wool Lab at Hailey Armory. Free.

6 p.m. 20th Anniversary Celebration and Sheepherder’s Ball at nexStage Theater in Ketchum. Reception from 6 to 7 p.m.; Performances and Awards from 7 to 9 p.m. Sheepherder’s Ball Featuring Hot Club of Cowtown from 9:30  to 11p.m. $35-$60.

SUNDAY, Oct. 9:

Dawn-2 p.m. Sheep Dog Trials continue.

9-11:30 a.m. Sheep Photography leaving from Ketchum Post Office at 151 4th ST. $25.

9:30-11 a.m. Chance to ask sheepherding questions at Starbucks Free.

11 a.m.-2 p.m. Trailing of the Sheep Parade Food offerings at Irving’s Hill, Main St. and 4th St. in Ketchum.

Noon. Trailing of the Sheep Parade featuring 1,500 sheep from John Faulkner’s Land and Livestock Sheep, moving from north to south along Ketchum’s Main Street. Free.

1-3 p.m. Felted Animals, Sun Valley Needle Arts, 190 First Ave. N., Ketchum. $70.

1:30-4:30 p.m. Wool Scissor Keeper with Susan Coons, Sun Valley Fabric Granary, Hailey $90.

2-3:30 p.m. Sheepherder Hike and Stories leaving from Ketchum’s Forest Service Park.

To register for a class, go to


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