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Fall transhumance

By Merrill Ogden - | Oct 5, 2022

Some of you may not be familiar with that longer word in the title of this column. I know that many of you are familiar with the short word – “Fall.”

My wife and I are all too familiar with the word – “fall” lately. I missed the last step on my front porch steps a couple of weeks ago and went down. It takes a while to get over bruised ribs and a bruised ego.

My wife is mostly recovered, we think, from a fall that resulted in a fractured elbow. That fall was partly a consequence of being in a “walking boot’ with a fractured foot from a different event. I could go on about both of us, but let’s not.

The word “fall” as being used today is the synonym to the word “autumn.” It’s interesting that we have two words for this season of the year.

It’s also interesting that our concept of four seasons of the year is not how the world has always looked at the year. Much of the world operated under a two season, warm and cold, concept for a long time.

The longer word, “transhumance,” in today’s column title is a good one to know in Sanpete. We don’t use it much, but the concept it represents is very evident here. I think of that word when I get in a “Sanpete traffic jam.” That means getting stuck in a herd of sheep.

My college edition of The Random House Dictionary of the English Language defines transhumance as: “…the seasonal migration of livestock and the people who tend them between lowlands and adjacent mountains…” The cattlemen and sheep men of Sanpete may not know the word but they live the word.

When I see sheep on the road, I sometimes think of this story involving people I know. It’s about the out of state city girl who married a Sanpete boy. We listened as she related her frustration when she had experienced a herd of sheep on the highway for the first time. She was in a hurry and, of course, the sheep were on the pavement and she couldn’t get through them.

She hadn’t yet learned what most Sanpeters know. You don’t stop for the sheep when they’re headed the same direction you’re going; you slowly keep moving and they’ll make way for you even if it’s an “up close and personal” passage.

This city gal determined that she’d had enough of not making any progress. She triumphantly told us, “I finally decided that I couldn’t wait any longer. I was just going to have to go through them – what the heck: pork chops!” We had a good laugh and then explained to her the difference between pork chops and lamb chops.

For the next while, we’ll be seeing livestock moving from one grazing place to another. We’ll see sheep and cattle on the roads. Most of us who have been around for a while take these sights and sounds (and slickish roads of the non-snow variety) for granted. But seeing herds of animals on the roads is quite the novelty for those who haven’t experienced it before.

Students at Snow College who don’t come from agricultural areas are entertained by the “parades” of livestock. Some years ago, my wife grabbed some international students and took them out to the street to see the sheep go by. They were grinning and laughing and “high-fiving” each other over the spectacle!

It’s a great time of year. The crisp, cool nights and warm days are nice. The leaves on the mountains are changing colors. The lawns in the valley don’t need mowing as often and lawnmowers will soon be retired for the season.

It’s a great time of year to experience the “countryishness” of Sanpete. Enjoy the transhumance phenomenon. Look at it from a new perspective. Perhaps you’ll be surprised at how much pleasure you’ll get from watching our cowboys and cowgirls on their horses doing real cowboy work. The dogs are fun to watch too as they work the herds.

There’s a lot of simple pleasure in noticing our life here, that we sometimes don’t think twice about. It’s simple, yes – but really – who wants “complicated?” Enjoy! — Merrill


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