Our third and final installment in a series on Peruvian sheepherders in Wyoming. Pedro Castillon spends his time all alone in the Wyoming desert tending the sheep. Photos by Dan Cepeda, Star-Tribune
OUTSIDE KEMMERER -- Pedro Castillon loaded his tiny DVD player with a highlight reel of soccer goals from the 2012 World Cup.
He told us to watch. He'd seen it countless times, and his favorite goal was coming. He rattled off a player's stats. Pedro's partial to Spanish players unless Peruvians from his native country are playing.
"I wish I had a TV to watch soccer, with cable or Dish," he said in Spanish. "I haven't watched many games in the last six years."
Six years he's been here, herding sheep in southwest Wyoming, isolated by mountains and deserts.
For Pedro and nearly 20 other Peruvian sheepherders working Julian Land and Livestock, dealing with the loneliness often proves a harder task than herding itself.
They gather in the fall, trickling down from the mountains with thousands of sheep into a ranch near Kemmerer.
The Peruvian sheepherders working in southwest Wyoming use those several weeks together to sort sheep, socialize and move out again.
In early August, as a part of a special look into the isolated lives of sheepherders, Star-Tribune reporter Christine Peterson and photographer Dan Cepeda spent three days living with two of the herders in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Peterson conducted the interviews in Spanish because the sheepherders speak little English.
They revisited the herders at the ranch when they gathered together in early October. The herders talked about their dreams of more money and dread of Wyoming winters. You can read that story today in the Lifestyles section.
In January, the Star-Tribune will join the men one last time in their isolated winter range in Wyoming's Red Desert.
KEMMERER -- Just off Highway 189 in southwest Wyoming, nine dirty men fought with more than a thousand sheep.
The men slipped and slid in muddy earth, some muttered curses in their native language while others laughed. It was early October, winter was coming and the mud would only get slicker.
The sheep needed to be pushed through a chute, dewormed, vaccinated and painted with a brand on their backs. At less than a year old, the sheep didn't understand that they should follow the animals in front of them through the chute. Some climbed on others' backs. Some tried to back up. Others jumped over the sides.
One sheep made it over the wooden wall and sprinted aimlessly around the corral. Liber Guerra, one of the Peruvian sheepherders, ran after it, trying to grab it and often missing.
"Run, young one. Run!" Pedro Rojas Castillon called after Liber.
Peruvian sheepherders employed by Julian Land and Livestock bring their flocks to the ranch for processing before heading out to different pasture for the winter. Photos by Dan Cepeda, Casper Star-Tribune
BRIDGER-TETON NATIONAL FOREST -- Before first light, Pedro Rojas Castillon stepped out of the canvas tent he shares with his half-brother. He separated his horse, Negra, from the six others, mostly pack horses, used to relocate the camp when it's time to follow the sheep to greener pastures. The horses' hooves stomped the ground and the bells around their necks clanged, helping the brothers keep track of the animals in the dark.
Pedro's brother and only companion, Firman Rojas Casas, helped him saddle the horse.
The day before, more than 100 sheep had strayed from the herd of 2,000, wandering into a forest of pine trees and aspens surrounding the meadow in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. They'd have to be gathered before the light grew brighter and they scattered more. Coyotes spent the night howling, and Firman worried some of the lost lambs may not have made it to morning.
He stayed in the camp, heating water to make coffee over the small wood stove. The larger herd would have to be moved soon enough.
The brothers are short men with dark skin, made darker by years working in the sun. They came here from Peru to herd sheep, moving them from meadow to meadow and making sure those that stray are brought back. They wake every morning before the sun rises, working until the last rays sink below the hills covered with wild pink geraniums, yellow mule's ears and pale-green sagebrush.
Sheepherders from Peru work deep in the southeast Wyoming forests without any modern conveniences. Photography by Dan Cepeda, Casper Star-Tribune
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