One of the highlights of my annual pilgrimage to Hailey is the eager anticipation of the arrival of the sheep. Yes, sheep. Scientific name: Ovis aries. Those woolly, smelly, bleating, even-toed ungulates known for nibbling the grass right down to the roots.
All of which begs the question: Why in the world would I be excited by a bunch of migrating sheep?
And that’s a very good question.
Might it be a throwback to my childhood infatuation with the puppet “Lamb Chop?” (Highly unlikely.) Is it my penchant for actual lamb chops and mint jelly? (Ick. Not a prayer.) Could it be that I’m enamored with the romanticized idea of the lonely shepherd, playing his harmonica to soothe the skittish animals at the end of a long day?
We might be on to something here…
Throughout the month of June, herds of sheep are moved from the lowlands to the higher elevations in the Wood River Valley. And the easiest way to get them there is to march them right up through the town of Hailey at the crack of dawn. (In October, when they’re moved back down from the mountains, there’s the Trailing of the Sheep Festival, but in June, apparently little note is taken by anyone but me…)
Baa! Baaaa! Bah! Baaahh! Bah! Baaaaaa! Baw! No matter how you spell it, you can’t mistake the sound of a couple hundred sheep walking right on up Myrtle Street to the bike path. And later, you can’t mistake the trail of sheep droppings liberally dotting all the paved surfaces they’ve traversed.
On my recent visit, I almost missed them. Steve told me there’d been two herds through town already, and he expected a couple more—but when?
I slept with my window open, listening in my slumber for the whistles of the herders and the sharp bark of their dogs. And on the second to last day of my time there, I was rewarded. Baaaaaa! Baa! Baw! Bah! The sound crept into my subconscious as I sat on the couch in the pre-dawn, checking my email. Baa! Baaaah! Baaaaaaaa!
I jumped up and ran out onto the deck. Steve’s house is just one lot away from Myrtle Street. Through the trees, I could see the herd moving steadily eastward. Baaaaa! Bah! BAW! My trip was complete!
So why have I posted these pictures of goats, and not my beloved sheep? Because the goats are being moved at a much slower pace—electrified enclosures were set up for them to pause long enough to munch down the noxious weeds the sheep won’t eat. Yes, that’s right—there are some noxious weeds that only goats will feed on.
But aren’t these goats the cutest little things? And so much quieter than the sheep! Just don’t get too close—they smell just as bad!