A Piece Of History Passes Through Town

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Sheep make their way down from the White Mountains and through the Heber-Overgaard area on their semi-annual trek on the Heber-Reno Sheep Driveway to their winter home in the Valley near Chandler. They were spotted between Forest Lakes and Heber on Sunday.

While many were enjoying their back yard barbecues and family gatherings over the Labor Day weekend, a piece of history was making its way around our town.

More than 100 years ago, the first sheep herders made their way from the east Valley near the Mesa, Ariz. area to the Mogollon Rim, and then over to the White Mountains. This drive would begin in the spring to graze their sheep in the cooler, high elevations and back to the Valley in September for winter. And so the sheep trail was created.

Every year since the 1890s and in some years that go back as far as the 1870s, the drive to the cooler, summer temperatures has occurred. It was understood in the beginning of the sheep’s introduction to Arizona that during the summer months they have a healthier advantage by traversing the terrain to cooler temperatures for the summer. In the early part of the century, a presidential executive order was signed and the Heber-Reno Sheep Driveway was created.

At one time, a few hundred thousand used to make this path. Since much of the agriculture has left the Valley, many of the sheep herders have ceased operations. Only one outfit with a permit left that is making this semi-annual trek is Sheep Springs Sheep Co. of Chandler, Ariz.

We may be witnessing one of the very last runs of sheep as there has been litigation in regards to the trails proximity to Big Horn Sheep habitat along the trail near the Lower Salt River between Usery Pass and Blue Point Bridge. The forest service is scheduled to have an environmental impact assessment completed this year.

Also, the owners of the Sheep Springs Sheep Co. have mentioned breeding and caring for the sheep for wool no longer makes money like it once did.

The 23rd annual Heber/Overgaard Oktoberfest will be held on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 18 and 19, at Bison Ranch Resort. In addition to the arts and crafts booths, there will be plenty of food of all kinds, as well as a beer garden. For the children, there will be a number of inflatables, a children’s train ride, pony rides and a mechanical bull for children and adults. The Chamber of Commerce will also feature live entertainment on Saturday afternoon from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. by the American Kountry Band. On Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m., a Willie Nelson impersonator called Almost Willie will perform.

An admission is required for the show at the Wild Women Saloon Banquet Room. There is also an afternoon and evening poker tournament that will be held on Saturday at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. with prizes to the winners. On Saturday, Sept.18 there will be a car show from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. Admission is free for the event, however a $5 donation is requested for parking. All proceeds from this event and parking are donated to the Fireworks Fund.

The Faith Lutheran Church, at 2750 Mogollon Drive, will hold a rummage sale, bake sale and silent auction Sept. 10 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sept. 11 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The silent auction will begin Friday and close Saturday at 11:30 a.m.

The proceeds from this auction will benefit local organizations such as the community food bank, Lions Clubs of America and will assist with housing stranded travelers. There is a call to donate almost-new items, antiques, special interest items or services you would like to share with your community. For more information, please call Don or Jenny Grotberg at (928) 535-3825.

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