July 12, 2024

The Pizen Switch Times

Established 2021

Trail Boss Amos: “We don’t do it for the money; we do it for the lifestyle.”

Sheep Stampede!

By Jim Benterou

This past week, a herd of 700 sheep (and a handful of goats) made their way from Smith Valley en route to Silver Springs, passing through Yerington on the way. This herd had been hunkered down in Smith Valley for the past few months.  They are moved between grazing areas within Smith Valley by their human and canine guides.

The push north is to get the sheep to their home turf (Silver Springs) in time for the lambing season (March/April). The trip is done by walking: sheep, humans and dogs. A small, home-made travel vehicle (shown below) is used as a chase vehicle for food and sleeping quarters.

(Doogie in the foreground)

Recently, this group settled in behind the Raley’s on Goldfield Avenue for a few days of rest.  Then, resumed their trip along the Singatse Range to the north.

Amos (pictured below) is the trail boss that runs the operation.

As Amos has offered, “We don’t do it for the money; we do it for the lifestyle. No timecards; no rush-hour commuting and away from the city”.

Say cheese!

In 1884, the sheep population in the US peaked at 51 million. Today, there are less than 6 million. A 90% decline.  But Amos and his team carry on this craft of sheep herding, nonetheless.  Whether it’s being nostalgic, traditional or simply a preferred lifestyle, these fellas continue to work this trade.

Yes, they clog our streets briefly. But isn’t that part of the charm and joy of living in our beautiful Mason Valley?  A rural valley where, on occasion, time stands still?; where livestock and agriculture are still valued.

Above, one of Amos’s shepherds (Richard) with 2 of his 5 dogs.

And these dogs are something else.  Highly trained; highly skilled.  From a great distance away (at least ¼ mile) the dogs will find Richard and watch for commands that will direct the actions of the dogs.  Hands signals, voice commands and whistling are all used to provide commands to the dogs.  Then, the dogs execute on those commands.  It’s really something to see.

Break time…

If you would like to see the actual “stampede”, follow this link.


You can watch for the return trip from Silver Springs to Smith Valley during the summer season.  For now, the keyboard is closed.