A Faithful Herder?s Predicament
?Oh Lady,? called the Boss from his jitney, ?make up that list of grub on my desk, will you? Henry?s here for supplies for Duke, and if I take the time now, I?ll be half an hour late at my mowing.?
I was about to retort that if I took the time, I should be half an hour late with my precious Saturday morning. But the Boss has a persuasive way, and I am a dutiful ranch wife; so I put the dish pan on the stove and went to the cellar, list in hand, and Henry trailing behind. Henry is the camp mover and Duke is one of the herders. In a few minutes, lard, potatoes, peas, tapioca and rice were packed in a box. With a slab of bacon, and a bottle of vanilla from the house, Duke?s order was complete.
?You tell Duke he?ll have to get along with the coffee pot he has, or make coffee in a lard pail, for the Boss says we?ll buy no more equipment now for sheep wagons.?
?All right, I?ll tell,? said Henry, as he climbed into the trap wagon and gathered up his reins.
Back at my dish washing, I thought about Henry and his way of life and his future. He is so cross that I can not like him, but I find him interesting. He has bleary eyes, a seamed and weather-beaten face and a straggling, ill-kept mustache. His shoulders and back are stooped. His great red hands hang almost to his knees. Although an American citizen, he has never learned to speak English well. His solitary life as a sheep herder and camp tender has made that impossible. If he talks about the sheep or things pertaining to the ranch or camps I can understand him, for I have learned his vocabulary so far. But when he gets a rare conversational impulse, I am at sea at once.
He came to America, a young man, shipped to Wyoming at the suggestion of relatives already here, and went to work at the only thing he knew, herding sheep. When I think of the burning summer days, flies, mosquitoes and bitter water; the raging blizzards; days and nights when he was never warm; the gnawing, wet cold of many springs, I pity old Henry and can almost forgive his endless grouch.
Every week he buys a pound can of ?Union Leader.? With this he keeps his wicked black pipe filled. Every six months he buys a suit of underwear, six pairs of cotton socks, a shirt, a jumper, a pair of overalls and overshoes. Every three or four years he buys a hat or cap and a sheep skin lined canvas coat. Could anything be more simple? Result? Fifteen thousand American dollars. A pleasant future stretches before him ? a return to France and a very advantageous conversion of his dollars into francs. Then, the purchase of a farm in his beloved Pyrenees and a flock of sheep. With a boy to herd them, what a life of ease! But there is a hitch!
Early in the summer of 1914, Henry went to France for a short visit. Almost a millionaire he was, in his native village. What pleasure to make plans to be carried out in a few more years, in which he could save many more American dollars.
Then ? bang! France was plunged into war! But Henry was not alarmed; until suddenly he was drafted. In vain did he protest that he was a citizen of the United States. Perhaps he was too ignorant to show his papers to the proper authorities. Perhaps it would have been to no avail.
Sullen and disappointed, he found himself in a French army camp. Here he considered ? and one dark night he swam the river, traveled by night until he had slipped into Spain. There he bought papers, and in a few more weeks had returned to America ? and the sheep ranges.
Now, the goal has been reached. He has fifteen thousand American dollars, and he is ready to return to a peaceful France to fulfill his dreams. An American citizen but a deserter from the French Army! Perhaps his case could be easily explained. But Henry, suspicious and ignorant, is afraid to give his confidence to French consuls here; and afraid to return without assurance of safety. Must he remain now in America, which has always been only a means to an end, and live his life in solitude of the sheep camps, or out in the world among Americans?
Sheep Assessment Values
In many of the Western states livestock values for assessment purposes for the coming year will soon be determined by the body authorized for the purpose according to the state statutes. In Wyoming the State Board of Equalization consisting of three men determines the values. One of the duties of the state wool growers? associations should be to have a committee to represent sheepmen at the board meeting when these values in sheep have been ?deflated? this last year with vengeance and assessment values should accompany. Sheepmen ask only what is fair, but it is not their idea of fairness that their property should be assessed at a value proportionately greater than other classes of property.
In this state the board last year put into effect a ruling that registered ewes should be valued at $75 per head and registered rams at $100, and later modified this to mean show sheep only. As a matter of fact, there is no justification for assessing any registered animal at more than any ordinary animal. Whenever that is done an assessment is made upon an intangible value, and intangible values are not assessed upon other classes of property. An animal?s registration is dependent upon a peculiar individual identification mark combined with a book record maintained by the breeder and owner of that animal. Do you find any state taxing a doctor?s accounts, or a merchant?s list of customers, or an engineer?s field notes? Then why should the records of a livestock breeder be assessed?
On broader grounds, such animals should really be exempted from taxation, instead of penalized. The man who is enterprising enough to buy or raise registered animals is generally considered a public benefactor. His work is one of improvement and those who benefit most are those who use his stock in improving their own herds.
Is it the duty of taxing bodies to obstruct progress and to discriminate against the honest man who is trying to better the lot of himself and his neighbor?
Old Mexico Restocking
The dove of peace has not fully established herself in the land of revolution and cactus, but livestock shipments are moving into the land south of the Rio Grande. In the first week in December a trainload of cattle and sheep that originated in Kansas City and Fort Worth was shipped through El Paso into Old Mexico. This particular shipment was mostly breeding cows and ewes, and had cost approximately $22,000. Other shipments are to follow, provided a new revolution does not interrupt. Men who have made a close investigation of the best grazing sections in Mexico state that the country is short on cattle and sheep. The Terrazazas ranch has been purchased by Americans, and is to be restored to its former carrying capacity. General indications are that the old trade in live stock which was conducted over the Southern International line will soon be re-established, with the movement south instead of north. It will take several years to restock old Mexico to a point where she will be able to produce a surplus. At the present time, Texas interests are in a waiting mood.
C. M. P.