Sunday, September 25, 2011

Perfect Autumn Day ~ This is one of my favorite times of year in the Wood River Valley. It is a quiet time. The summer tourist season has ended and there won't be a lot of activity again until the winter ski season begins. I love the busy seasons with the energy and wonderful mix of people from all over the world, but fall is a special time for locals. In addition to the quiet, there are other annual signs of autumn: the groves of aspen turn gold, the restaurants offer "slack specials" and best of all: the trailing of the sheep. Our community was founded on mining and sheep herding. It wasn't until the 1930's that Sun Valley became the first destination ski resort in the U. S. Before that time the miners and sheep herders claimed this area. Basques relocated from Spain and raised sheep in this Valley which reminded them of their homeland. Still, today in the spring the sheep are herded north along the bike path, through the streets and up the little canyons. And then, in the fall, they are driven back down, heading to Arizona or California for the winter. We all cherish this annual ritual which brings us close to our history. In fact, we celebrate it. In a few weeks we will have the Trailing of the Sheep Festival complete with a lamb dinner prepared by the Catholic Church, Basque dancers, sheep shearing demonstrations, booths selling spun wool and displays of the wonderful Basque wagons which are still in use today. The wagons can be spotted around the Valley during the sheep herding seasons. They are handmade of wood, usually with a stove pipe sticking up in the air, a small door at the back and often a metal wash tub or a broom attached on the outside. They are as much a part of local history as the trailing of the sheep. The herders live in them as they follow and look after their flock. Today most of the shepherds are Peruvian. The Basques have assimilated into the population, but over the decades their culture has influenced and enriched our community. Peruvians have taken over the the sheep raising and tending, bringing with them, their traditions and contributing to our community in a new way. But I digress ~ despite a bit of smoke in the air from distant fires, yesterday was glorious. My husband and I and our two golden retrievers drove north to see the changing leaves. Along the way we stopped at the Hemingway memorial located next to a stream under a grove of cottonwood trees, met a Peruvian shepherd, saw hawks soaring in the blue, blue sky, threw sticks into mountain streams for the dogs, took a few short hikes, then finished the afternoon with cold beer and sweet potato fries at the Sun Valley golf club. A perfect autumn day.
I am gradually moving long sleeved shirts and sweaters to the front of the closet, cutting back the summer flowers and this week's task is to move a cord of cut wood to the porch. I hope you are enjoying fall where ever you may be.