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When I read the article on the front page of the Herald Times, written by my granddaughter, Morgan M. Neilson, we were still trailing our sheep and I started thinking about trailing sheep during my lifetime, which at present is 90 years.
Years and years ago, what is now Highway 64 was little more than a livestock drive-way. It took from daylight to dark just to reach Rangely, especially in the spring with mud so thick it could lock up the wheels on those old-time vehicles.
The sheep with the H Lazy T and TH brands have been on this trail since 1920 and in those days there wasn’t much traffic but when Rangely boomed we began to see more and more trucks, cars and of course, the mail. They finally put gravel on the road and then they paved it but the bridges were still designed for the old muddy road. There probably aren’t many people left who remember when you had to stop and decide who got to cross first and when the sheep were there at the same time, they always got to go in the lead.
As the traffic increased and the number of sheep increased, and more of the old homesteads were bought up and water holes fenced, one of the first organized efforts to keep everyone happy was led by the sheep men. On land owned by Regas Halandras, working with the federal government, they got a corral built at the west end of Powell Park. The original corral was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp and I can’t remember the year but somewhere around 1936 or 1937. The corral was used to put herds of sheep in overnight so they didn’t stray onto private property. Even though the corral has been rebuilt the old timers still call it the CCC corral. The newer generation now calls it the white corral.
As time went on and there was more traffic and fewer stopping places that would work with the sheep herds movement of an average of 10 miles per day, a group of sheep men got together and formed the old White River Trail Association which was registered with the State of Colorado as a non-profit corporation on May 4, 1960. The original directors were Nick Mahaleres, Regas Halandras and Nick Theos. The original signers on the by-laws were Regas Halandras, Bert Rosenlund, Harold Banks, W.A. Banks, Herbert Jolley, Tom Theos and Nick Theos. The formation of this association allowed the sheep men to levy assessments to the users of the White River Trail and thereby establish a treasury with which to purchase stopping places that had water and to assist in making improvements to the driveway, including the bridges.
The White River Trail Association (Rio Blanco Woolgrowers Trail Association) purchased land at Scenery Gulch for an overnight stopping place in 1958 and then purchased another stopping place on Blair Mesa in 1967. All other stopping places between Meeker and Rangely, clear to the Utah line are on BLM land and each year sheep producers obtain trailing permits, which are paid for based on AUMs and the time each herd is on the trail.
The old association is now the White River Trail LLC and as such sold the property on Blair Mesa to an energy-based company that allows sheep to stop overnight. A portion of the Scenery Gulch property is leased to energy-based companies to store pipe and other equipment. There is some money derived from this which is distributed to the members of the LLC, some of whom don’t own sheep anymore, so they feel they still get something back, even though the rest of us still use the land to stop our sheep.
I will say that in all the years of trailing it is 10 times the number of people who get out of their vehicles with a camera and ask really good questions over the one person who is mad because the sheep are on the highway.
Nick Theos, President, White River Trail LLC