This is a reflection on the most remarkable sheepherder who ever worked for my Dad.
Never found out much about his background except that he raised cattle in Texas, found it too hot there in the summer and loved the Montana landscape around Livingston.
He also comes to mind in this latest era of he-man types because he is the finest example of somebody who could survive on his own in the wild, yet he was almost saintly peaceful and calm.
First I have to mention his unique connection to sheepdogs (ours were all Border Collies). Other sheepherders were pretty slack and let the dogs do half the herding work themselves. (Eeeh, it came together enough.) Verne would give orders to the dogs (I swear this is true), they would stare at him intensely and then run off and do exactly what he said, as if they understood his words. He included vivid gestures, so maybe that was the trick.
He was an ace shot. Had no problem scoring grouse and deer. Got a pheasant one time. On top of that he was a remarkable cook who could create gourmet meals on the primitive firestove of his sheepherder cabin with the rude spices available in that day. He was my first introduction to a true male cook.
But he was indeed a solitary soul. My mother and I would go to Oregon to visit her relatives every summer for two weeks. My Dad couldn’t cook scrunt and got tired of eating in restaurants. So, since he brought Verne supplies once a week he got the idea that maybe he could eat that gourmet lunch out at the sheepherder cabin for the time while the home cook was away.
He had the supply-delivery lunch with Verne, which was normal.
Then Dad came back to the sheepherder shack around lunch the next day and had a chow.
The day after that when he went up the valley at the same time … there was nobody around the shack.
Dad got the message.
Final note: Verne told my Dad that he was retiring, would not be back next year, but that part of it was that he wanted to give Dad a beautiful game rifle that he had used only up on the ranch. Dad said, oh, no, no — let me pay for it. Verne said, “You’ll TAKE IT or I’ll KEEP IT.” I would look at its gorgeous design from time to time in Dad’s bedroom. No idea what happened to it.