THE PLATEAU STATES SHEEP AND WOOL 107. Shearing the sheep.—Would you wear second-hand clothes? Perhaps you think you would not, but you do. Everyone who wears fur clothing or wool clothing is wearing the old clothes of some animal.
On a warm day in May the sheep on a Wyoming ranch are hanging out their tongues and panting, because their thick coats of wool are so hot! Soon a man drives them into a big yard, and (see Fig. 118) in five minutes' time the shearers have clipped their coats off. The clippers are much like those that the barber uses, only larger. They are run by a gasoline engine that keeps a dozen pairs of them going at once. After a few days of shearing, the rancher has four thousand sheep coats, or fleeces, all tied up in balls and stuffed into big sacks ready to be taken to the railroad station on a motor truck, and shipped away to the cloth factory.
108. Making a long, long time, longer than any man now knows, peo ple have known how to twist sheep's wool yarn, and also how to weave yarn into cloth. Once every family had to have a spinning-wheel to make yarn, and a hand loom to make cloth; but now spinning and weaving are chiefly done in factories. There are many such cloth-weaving fac tories in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsyl vania, and in Lawrence, Mas sachusetts. Such factories are also to be found in England, France, and Germany. But there are still Indians in New Mexico and Arizona (Fig. 182) who spin and weave blankets and rugs by hand.
109. The sheep ranch.— The station to which our rancher takes his wool is Cheyenne, in the State of Wyoming. Can you find it? The sheep ranch is forty miles to the north of Cheyenne across a level, treeless plain.
By selling the fleeces, the sheep man gets the money to buy the many things he needs and to send his children to college.
When the shearing is over, the sheep are all let loose on the great plain, where they eat grass. In spring there are good rains. The grass grows green and is sprinkled with flowers. The pasture is good ; the sheep grow fat.
110. The sheep the rains soon stop and the weather becomes hotter. The grass is brown and parched, and each day the sheep herder drives his flock west ward toward the mountains. There are two
thousand sheep in the flock, or "band," as it is called in the West, and the herder follows them by day and camps by them at night. He has two dogs, three horses, a rifle, and a canvas-covered wagon with a bed and a stove in it. He cooks his own meals, and about once a month the owner of the sheep sends him a fresh supply of food for himself and for the dogs. For days or weeks at a time, the herder does not see another person. He lives a very quiet life out of doors, with his sheep, his horses, and his dogs. He could not get along at all without the dogs. They are more help than men could be, for they do just what they are told, and run swiftly to bring a straying sheep back to the flock. At night they wake the herder if wild animals come near. His rifle brings down many wolves and foxes that come sneaking around to get young lambs to eat.
111. Mountain pastures.—The sheep herder takes his sheep to the mountains where there is more rain and therefore better pasture than in the plain. The summer pasture is in the valleys among the mountains, and in the open forests on the lower slopes. When autumn comes, the herder drives his flock slowly back to the ranch, where they spend the winter near the house of their owner. Sheep herders with their big flocks may be found in every one of the Plateau States from southern New Mexico to northern Mon tana, from eastern Colorado to western Nevada.
112. High plains with little rain.—We call these states Plateau States because the surface of the plain east of the Rockies is high. High plains are called plateaus. The one just east of the Rocky Mountains is higher than the tops of the mountains of Pennsylvania (Sec. 201), yet much of it is as level as a lower plain, like that of Illinois. It rises gradually as we go toward the Rocky Mountains. The plains of Utah and Idaho and Nevada are about as high as those on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains; yet these plains, too, are often level for long distances, with high moun tains rising here and there above them.