Rangers Use Wits to Control Unruly Sheepherders


Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017


Sharon Bywater


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In 1921, unruly sheepherders derisively known as the “wild Irishmen” led their flocks into the newly added lava beds section of the Modoc National Forest, often without permits.  The forest rangers responsible for removing the prohibited sheep did not carry firearms and relied on persuasion to get the herders to cooperate.

That winter ranger John C. Davis and visiting ranger Harry Garrison set out to control the situation.  Davis knew most of the herders by name and whether they had permits.  

One irate shepherd refused to move his flock and threatened the rangers if they tried to force him to do it. Undaunted, Davis told the herder that one of his most feared enemies was about to arrive in the area and would deliberately start a fight by mixing their herds together.  The unhappy herdsman left with his sheep.

Forest rangers had a difficult job, roaming the range in all kinds of weather, often without a decent bed for the night.  They managed to create a semblance of order in a remote area that had little regard for the law.

Brown, Sr., William S. "Modoc National Forest - History and Culture." History of the Modoc National Forest 1945, USDA Forest Service. Accessed 11 Jan. 2017. Path: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/modoc/learning/history-culture/.


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