Sheepherder as a Cowherder?

by Leo Platero

Ring, Ring, “Hello son, we need your help herding cows off the mountain, can you come and help?”

“Yeah, I guess I can help, do you have horses to ride?”

“Naah, you have to herd the cows on foot, too steep for horses, so hurry and come on down.” From Montezuma Creek to the Chuska Mountain is about three hours.

That’s how the sheepherder and three others got roped into herding cows off Chuska Mountains in New Mexico.

The cows almost become wild during the summer and a fast horse is needed to round them up. Grandpa and his sister Pauline live near Whiskey Lake. Sorry to report that the lake is drying up, so don’t pull your camper to Whiskey Lake, because there is no fish.

According to grandpa, we will herd the cows to the edge of the ridge. It should take three hours. Winter pasture is near Nashchitti, NM, a 4,000 foot drop on a 13-mile trail that has been used by the Benally family for many years.

Melvin Muskett and I had a late start. As we stumbled down a trail much like the Grand Canyon, we had one speed – slow. Its hard on old knees, but an oak staff helped steady the old sheepherder.

We got lost a couple of times but our Liahona directed us to fresh cow pies among the pine tree forest. When there was an opening, we could see the picturesque valley below and the highway in the distance. A pleasant rain cooled us and some leaves were already turning yellow. We heard an elk and heard of bears.

Finally about 3/4 of the way down we heard the mooing of cows and rising dust in the thicket. As we walked and stumbled we could appreciate the forefathers who walked and walked. What did they do when they finished walking? Yes, walked some more.

By now we had been on the trail for about three and half hours. We ran out of water and were tired and hungry and our feet hurt. The sun was beating down on us as we lost the shadows of the pine trees. Now there were cedar and pinon trees and sagebrushes. There were also prickly pear cactus with their red fruit. Above us the crows seemed to be playing hide and seek with the moving clouds in the late afternoon.

Finally after pushing the doggies for about four hours, we arrived down from the mountain to winter pasture by Nashchitti, NM. By now the shadows have gotten long and the sun disappeared behind the Chuska Mountain.

We still had to walk another two miles to the winter home. Finally arriving at the house, Sheepherder took out the bottle that had St Christopher well water and guzzled it down.

Sheepherder plans to stay with herding sheep and not pushing cows off Chuska Mountain. I’m not much of a cowherder!

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