My mother and I shared memories of her neighbors, the Espils, who were Basque sheepherders. The patriarch of the family, Pete Espil, grew up herding sheep in the Basque region. In 1909, he settled in Arizona and started his sheep ranch. His herders would move the sheep from the Flagstaff area to the Litchfield Park area. I remember when the sheep would start showing up in the fields near Litchfield Park - we'd hear their 'bleating' and the occasional bell ringing of a herder. Blackbirds would perch on the sheeps' backs, and the pasture would have an odd pattern of cream colored sheep with black dots.
Here are a few more photos of the sheep drive near our neighborhood:
The sheep drive passes near the Usery Regional park, which is near us, too. This information comes from the history link: "Usery Pass is also known for being a major sheep trail leading from the high country north of Mt. Baldy south to the Salt River Valley. Flocks of sheep, led by Mexican and Basque shepherds with their dogs, present a picturesque sight in the spring and fall as they move into or out of the Coconino plateau region."
We have an annual pass to hike the Usery trails, and now that the weather is getting COOLER, Shado and I will be hiking every Thursday morning. I can't wait! This trail runs right along the sheep trail.
I found an interesting video with the rancher/owner of these sheep. He discusses the future of these sheep drives. Some of the scenes are similar to what we saw yesterday. I don't know how long the video will be archived, but I hope it is still viewable for many months.