While searching for an ancient Ute Indian trail in the White River National Forest 25+ years ago, Andrew Gulliford made a chance discovery.
He stumbled upon a historic sheep “driveway” and a grove of aspen trees that the shepherds had used as their personal message board for years. Names, notes, prayers, curses, and drawings had all been carved into the bark of the trees.
He soon realized that this was a special world, with its driveways and corrals and cairns and trenches and lambing sheds and other nuanced details he collectively describes as a “sheepscape.”
Now a professor of history and environmental studies at Fort Lewis College, Gulliford has finally written his ode to that very sheepscape and to the legacy of sheep and shepherds in Colorado (also New Mexico and, to a certain degree, Utah).
Starting with the arrival of Don Juan Francisco de Coronado and his 5,000 sheep in 1540, he recounts some of the most pivotal moments in western history in just 300 pages. His narrative spans the violent Range Wars and both World Wars, today’s noisy ATVs and encroaching ski resorts, and Peruvian shepherds on their H-2A work visas.
Gulliford’s passion for the subject is surpassed only by his depth of knowledge. Writing with both warmth and unflinching clarity, he succeeds in elevating the oft-overlooked Basque, Greek, and Hispano shepherding families of Colorado and northern New Mexico to their rightful place in western history.
“Like thread hand spun from raw wool,” he writes, “the skein of people, place, and purpose across Colorado’s high country is what I try to unravel.”
And he does, beautifully.