Sheep Dipping and Goat Roping

In my last post I talked about going to a sheep dipping and goat roping and not everybody knows what that means.

Back before polyester, Wal-Mart, and importing all our ready-to-wear; there was a market for sheep wool and goat mohair. Cattlemen found sheep and goats to be a good cash crop that foraged well in the rocky terrain of the Texas Hill Country and West Texas. You fleeced them in the spring and their coats grew back by winter.

It was a good business; the down side was these wooly critters—besides smelling bad—would become infested with ticks, itch mites, blowflies, and lice. Once a year after shearing they needed to be dipped. The chemicals were expensive and messy, and the Department of Agriculture determined they were bad for your health.

A long trough would be made or a hole dug in the ground to hold the dipping solution. The animals would be herded through the solution. The county extension agents back in the 30’s and 40’s encouraged the collaboration of producers to organize community sheep dippings. The ranchers shared the work and expense by doing all the sheep at the same time. This annual event would take several days of work, rounding up the sheep and moving all those critters to one pasture.

The men had to stay until the work was finished, and the women and children brought potluck lunches and dinners to the dip site. In remote areas, the whole family might come and camp. After the meal, out would come the fiddles, guitars, and harmonicas, and the fun began. By the time my generation came along, the dipping of sheep had stopped due to the decline of production and improved remedies for pest control.

The ranchers missed the social aspect of sheep dippings. So sheep dipping parties became vogue. A sheep dipping party was sometimes referred to as a FANDANGO, another word that has lost its meaning.

If you ever get an invitation to a sheep dipping, goat roping, or a FANDANGO, you don’t want to miss it.

My next post will be about Granddad Bowles getting out of the sheep and goat business.

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