Irishman Hailed as Poet Laureate of Sheep Camps


Thursday, May 4, 2017


Kernan Turner


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Brothers Hugh and Denis O’Connor emigrated from Ireland to America in 1907, settled near Merrill in Southeastern Oregon and developed an 800-acre ranch that at its peak raised some 3,000 lambs a season, plus alfalfa hay, grain and potatoes.

Denis supervised widely dispersed sheep camps.  Recognized for his sense of humor and ability to track down lost sheep, he also became known as the “Poet Laureate of the Sheep Camps.”  One poem, titled “Dan’s Proposal to Estella,” was followed up by one titled “Miss Estella’s Reply to Dan.”  The first stanza of the proposal went like this:

“My dear, you are pretty, so graceful and witty,

Then O, what a pity you’re livin’ alone,

If you’ll be my dearie, my auburn-hair’d fairy,

Far out on the prairie I’ll call you my own.”

Estella’s reply began like this:

“Out in your camp, there’s chill and damp

With bitter frost and snow,

When grass is green, then sheep are mean

And herding you must go.”

The poem ended like this:

“And though you smile at weary toil

And someday make a stake –

I’d rather be a maiden free

Beside Old Tule Lake”


Source: Source: Merrill Centennial 1894-1994. Klamath Falls, Ore., Merrill Centennial Committee/Graphic Press, 1994, pp. 156-60.


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