is the time of year ranchers across the Northern Hemisphere move sheep by the
tens of thousands from the mountains to lowland pastures. In the U.S. Rocky
Mountain states, sheep drives can cross 200 kilometers by foot. But land that
used to be open range is gradually turning into subdivisions, golf courses and
busy streets. In one central Idaho valley, ranchers have a colorful way to win
newcomers over to sharing the land. As correspondent Tom Banse reports, they
parade their sheep right through the center of swanky Ketchum-Sun Valley.
Brothers Mike and Mark Henslee are walking with about one thousand sheep.
They started high in the Stanley Basin of central Idaho and plan to wind their
way about 250 kilometers south to warmer pastures near the Snake River. Along
the way, they have to somehow move all those sheep through fashionable Sun
Valley, the getaway of movie stars, politicians and millionaires.
Willis has that house down by Hailey which we go past tomorrow," Mark
notes, and Mike chimes in, "The Kennedy house is up here somewhere that we
probably go past... or the Kerry's. We go past a lot of 'em."
flock stays on steep hillsides to skirt the celebrity estates. But it goes
right down the first fairway of the Bigwood golf course, and Mike observes that
the sheep not only grazed the course, they fertilized it. Fortunately, it's too
cold for golf this morning.
a few decades ago, domestic sheep outnumbered people in the Rocky Mountain
West. Today, people far outnumber the sheep - not just here in Sun Valley, but
all around the region. In some cases, the century-old tradition of the western
sheep drive is being replaced by more expensive trucking.
hit home for sheep ranchers John and Diane Peavey in the mid-1990s, when Sun
Valley's communities built a bike path in the livestock right-of-way.
was one call after another," Diane recalls. "'Get your sheep
off our bike path. Their droppings are getting caught in our
Rollerblades and our bike wheels.' John and I, we kind of looked at each other,
sighed and went, 'Now what?'"
Peavey and her husband run one of the oldest sheep ranches in this part of
Idaho. They decided to become proactive, to share their heritage with the
recreationists, the vacation home owners and other new arrivals. Now every
fall, one of the local sheep ranching families trails their flock right through
the center of the resort town. It's turned into an annual festival called the
Trailing of the Sheep.
was not a re-enactment," Peavey stresses. "These sheep would be
moving from the mountains to the desert country regardless of this
The three-day festival includes concerts, storytelling, sheep dog
competitions and demonstrations of sheep shearing. But the highlight is the
parade, as old sheep wagons, bagpipers and Basque dancers lead hundreds of
sheep down Main Street.
Valley attorney Jim Phillips has acted as a go-between for developers and wool
growers. He says the law is on the ranchers' side when swank developments and
mansion sprawl threaten to block the sheep migration.
you can't just show up [at] a development and say, 'Hey, we want a trail across
your property,'" he says. "It has to be, 'We've had this trail. This
trail has been used as long as anyone can remember.'"
says ranchers have to insist that developers recognize that history and provide
for its continuation. He adds that they could make a stink about maintaining
their trail rights, but they want to get along and sometimes accept minor
Rancher Diane Peavey says the Trailing of the Sheep Festival deserves some
of the credit for the recent improved coexistence.
where there had been animosity – just by reaching out and sharing stories,
sharing music, dance, food, sharing the sheep, sharing them with communities
that don't know anything about sheep – they come to understand and wait each
year," she says. "'When are they coming? We can't wait for the sheep.
Can we help?'"
river of sheep flows across the road outside town, Linda Mueliger waits in her
car, unperturbed by the wooly jam.
great," she says. "The sheep, it's a wonderful thing for the
community. It's lots of fun, yeah."
year, the Trailing of the Sheep was listed by the vacation Web site MSN Travel
as one of the top 10 fall festivals in the world.