Posts Tagged ‘goats’

We are heading north across the Great Sage Plain—a gently rolling 1500 square mile plateau covered with wind-blown soil and gray-green scrubby sagebrush.

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Across the Great Sage Plain

It stretches across southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah and holds the highest density of prehistoric and historic sites in North America, according to the Bureau of Land Management. It’s thought that upwards of 30,000 people lived here in the 1200s.

We peak a rise in the rod-straight road and spread out before us, replacing the monotone landscape, are huge green rectangles of alfalfa and wheat and pinto beans—the visible results of twenty-first century irrigation technology. The change from arid plateau to rich green pastoral vista is absolutely abrupt, and to me almost breathtaking, this modern western agricultural scene where centuries ago Ancestral Puebloans successfully cultivated beans and corn and squash.

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Running Horses

Heading up a dirt road we are suddenly flanked to the south by a large herd of horses, at least 40, being controlled by four mounted cowboys, two men and two women. They hold the horses in the field and ditch directly off the road while we, another car, and a truck stop dead. Then with whistles and shouts the cowboys direct the herd—paints, roans and tans who are now trotting—down the road and across into the northern field of alfalfa. In a swirl of dust and muscle they move east. I am dazzled. The running horses, the dust, the cowboys convey such a beautiful sense of freedom. To tell the truth, I almost cry.

Later, as we head for home through McElmo Canyon toward Cortez, we come across another herd being moved to new “pasture.” This time it is a good looking band of angora goats, maybe 50, who appear over a barren dirt and stone hill on the north side of the road. They are being managed by five dogs. There are no people in sight. Again we stop dead in the road and the lead dog, a black and brown mongrel, crosses


Dogs Herding Goats

the pavement. He is followed by goats who string out in twos and threes, being goaded by three more dogs who work the pack, pushing them along to an equally uninviting, overgrazed plot on the other side. The last dog, this one black and white and fancy enough looking to be perhaps at least part border collie, sits patiently on the road’s north side, waiting for every last goat to cross safely before he jumps up and trots along behind. For a moment I think: “Dogs herding goats? Is this real?”

But of course it is. For me, in moments like these, the West of the Imagination becomes very, very real.


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