Author Archives: darcyminter

Trailing of the Sheep Festival 20 Years Later…

By Diane Josephy Peavey

The Trailing of the Sheep Festival, in Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey, Idaho, starts tomorrow, Wednesday, October 5, and runs through October 9. It is a festival that is celebrating its 20th year of preserving the stories and history of sheep ranchers and herders, celebrating the rich cultures of the past and present, and entertaining and educating children and adults about the production of local food and fiber that have sustained local economies for generations. Sheep rancher Diane Peavey and her husband John founded the festival in an effort to help newcomers to the area understand and appreciate its sheep-ranching history. We asked Diane to write a blog for us to share the story of this special event. Enjoy!


This wonderful, appealing, “who ever thought of this” event called The Trailing of the Sheep Festival, which last year hosted over 25,000 people from 36 states and eight foreign countries, turns 20 this year. But its beginnings were unique.

In the early 1990s our family, now five generations working sheep, reached out to newcomers and not-so-newcomers all angered over the sheep droppings on the new community bike path. Our phone rang off the hook. “Get YOUR sheep off OUR bike path. Their droppings are getting caught in my roller blades and bike tires.”

Sad but true. The path was the pride of the county but unbeknownst to most of its citizenry, the bike path would never have become a reality without the support of sheep ranching families because it was to be built on top of the sheep right of way.

“A bike path across our sheep easement? Sure no problem,” sheepmen said. ‘We’re happy to share.”

But it turned out not everyone was as happy to share, especially those recreationists eager to fly down the new bike path that for a brief time each spring and fall was covered with sheep droppings. Oops.

We thought fast and my husband John—always happy to share what he most loves…his ranching life—invited the community to join us for coffee and a little history about sheep ranching at a local café and then follow us to the bike path and help herd the sheep south keeping them off the asphalt trail. That first year 20 people showed up. The following year there were many more and by the fourth year it was a Valley-wide occasion. We were becoming a community of herders. The controversy faded but not the crowds. Then in 1996 we got a call from the Chamber’s dynamic and creative director who got right to the point. “Let’s talk about your sheepherder walks,” she began, “I think we’ve got a festival here.”


That was 20 years ago. Slowly we created a three-pronged program for the second weekend in October, the time of year when we were moving our sheep from summer mountain pastures to desert winter range. First there would be a sheep parade down Main Street Ketchum, Idaho, of 1,500 whirling and dancing ewes. They were greeted with thunderous applause. No reenactment here. This was living history. We’d be moving the sheep with or without an audience.

Then we’d have a Folklife Fair with music, dance and food, shearing and working dogs that celebrated the cultures of the earliest herders—the Scots, the Basques and today the Peruvians.


And for the third event we were all in agreement. We would have a time for telling stories about sheep ranching and the families that have grazed their animals in the hills around Hailey and Ketchum and throughout the West for over 150 years.

This last program has become our most cherished and our lasting legacy, a time when we listen and record the stories of our families and our history. After the crowds have left and the sheep are miles south of town, the stories, the memories, the personal histories, the reminiscences of place and belonging, the conversations of survivability, of sustainability, the insights into our western landscapes remain.

In 2014, the Trailing of the Sheep Festival began a three-year storytelling adventure called “Celebrating Generations.” That year we honored “the Visionaries,” those first families who found a piece of western land that matched their dreams, made it home, made it their life’s work, cared for it and fed the country from its bounty.

In 2015, we heard the stories of second and third generations, “the Survivors,” who kept the family dream alive against huge odds during the farm depression of the 1980s, years of drought, fires, predation of their lambs, and dramatic growth in imported lamb and wool among other issues. They hung on.

This year our final year of Celebrating Generations, we will listen to the “Next Generation”—those poised to follow the generations of family before them. Will they hold onto the dream of their parents and grandparents or find an easier life for themselves? If they stay, will they lead this timeless profession through dramatic change over the next 20 years into a technological, computerized, genetically guided businesses or gently remold change so it can still exist alongside a band of sheep resting mid-afternoon in a mountain meadow?

This is a pivotal generation. What optimism or commitment will guide those who stay? Can they take up the dream of their great grandfathers and make it their own? There are stories to tell.

Looking back, looking forward at 20 years —The Trailing of the Sheep Festival.



It’s nearly time to get your tickets to the 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

WFC_8495 33rd NCPG Poster_smallestReal Stories. Straight Up.
If you are planning to attend the 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, we suggest you come prepared…with your favorite story! The event, January 30 to February 4, 2017, will be an extravaganza of stories, first-hand accounts told in verse, song, film, visual art, new media, and just plain ol’ prose. All around Elko you’ll experience today’s renaissance of storytelling–tales rich with lessons learned, risk-taking, humor, heroes, neighbors and family. We are especially excited to be hosting The Moth Mainstage at the Gathering. The Moth is a leader in the national resurgence of storytelling performance and can be heard on National Public Radio.

Sit back and listen or join in with your own stories. Interested in documenting stories from your life? Sign up for a digital storytelling or oral history workshop or recording session at our StoryCorps booth. Curious about new and old avenues of sharing experience? Attend a roundtable conversation with bloggers, radio and video producers, journalists, cowboy sages and visual artists. From the keynote address to the last show of the Gathering, we’ll honor the tradition of storytelling, as told to the best audiences for the performed word in the rural West.

Ticket Sales Begin September 6 for Western Folklife Center Members
If you want the best seats in the house and want to be sure you get to see your favorite performers in an evening show, you best be a member of the Western Folklife Center. Members get to buy their tickets a full month before the general public, starting at 9:00 am PST on Tuesday, September 6. Membership starts at $40 for an individual, and since you get a free ticket to one of two members’-only shows with that (value $40), your membership is FREE. So, visit our membership page and join online, or contact Carolyn Trainor, our membership guru, at 775-738-7508/888-880-5885 ext 222 or, and she will hook you up with the membership level that is right for you.

Dom Flemons by CE

American Songster Dom Flemons by Charlie Ekburg

Ticketed Shows and Workshops
Have you visited our new Gathering website? All of the ticketed shows and workshops are detailed there at The 33rd Gathering will feature Doug Moreland and the Flying Armadillos from Texas and rising star Luke Bell Kicking up Dust on the big stage to open the main event. Corb Lund is back as is American Songster Dom Flemons, a huge favorite from last year. Ian Tyson has fully recovered and will be gracing our stages once more as will so many other Gathering favorites! If you’ve never tried a workshop during the Gathering, this could be your year. We’ve got digital storytelling and oral history workshops, cooking with celebrity chef Kent Rollins, horsehair hitching, songwriting, rawhide braiding, and dancing, dancing and more dancing. We will be sharing much more Gathering news between now and January 30 on this blog and website, so check back often! And get your tickets early!


Visit Our New Website!

WFC-bannerWe invite you to visit our newly renovated website at Thanks to everyone who worked on its construction and to the funders who supported the work, we are better able to serve you, our members and supporters. We hope you like the results!

You’ll find the site more intuitive –  everything within a click or two away. One of the goals of this renovation is to make communication easier and more concise. You should be able to find what you’re looking for within a pull-down menu if not directly with a button on the cover page. A work in progress, we welcome your comments and recommendations for ongoing improvement.

One facet of our mission is to provide opportunities to tell the real stories of the contemporary rural West. Our National Cowboy Poetry Gathering delivers that opportunity in a big way in real time every winter (January 30 – February 4, 2017). We hope that our website becomes the digital home for continuing the storytelling and poetry and ranch land culture-sharing that happens at the Gathering through conversations on our blog. Our large inventory of YouTube videos and Deep West media projects, both audio and video, carry on the storytelling tradition. You can access these stories and performances with links here.

The Western Folklife Center has been “gathering” these stories, songs, poems and topical panel discussions from its beginning. Since 1985 and the first Gathering in Elko, Nevada, showcasing ranch culture in the present tense–as told by the cowboys, ranchers, and diverse ethnic agrarian communities of the West (and the world)–has become the driving vision and modus operandus for the organization. A community was launched back then, first by cowboy poets once unaware of others like themselves with rhymes in their hip pockets, ranchers and townsfolk, and then tourists arriving along el Camino I-80. And that community continues to grow and diversify to this day just as the West grows and diversifies. We’ve become a bridge for those steeped in deep Western traditions and those drawn to the West for a thousand different reasons. With our knowledge of traditional folkways, we beam a light and lend an ear to the sights and sounds of the changing landscape of ranch culture. We become creative place keepers.

We hope this website helps spread the word and keeps the faith in rural values that we share in common. Thank you.

David's signature

David Roche
Executive Director

Healing the Warrior’s Heart: The Magic of Plan B, Part 2

Submitted by Taki Telonidis

As I explained in last week’s blog post, we experienced a lot of snafus while filming Healing the Warrior’s Heart. Yet, almost every snafu was counterbalanced with an unexpected positive development.

Medicine Man Leo Pard

Medicine Man Leo Pard

My second example involves the Medicine Man who’d been working with Martin Connelly, the returning veteran we follow in our show. After interviewing Martin during the July shoot, I stayed in touch with him over the coming months. Every two or three weeks I’d give him a call, and often speak with his mother as well. We built a relationship, and in early fall I asked if we could visit him again and he agreed. Since returning from deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, Martin had been working with an elder named Leo Pard who conducts sweat lodge ceremonies for returning veterans on the reservation. I was interested in interviewing Leo and perhaps filming him working with Martin. Martin was willing to do this for us, but his permission wasn’t enough; we also needed the okay from the Medicine Man.

Martin gave me Leo’s phone number up in Canada and I called him one afternoon. Leo was pleasant and polite, and I could tell he had a sense of humor…but he would not talk about his ceremonial work with veterans over the telephone. I remember him saying something like, “I’m old fashioned, and our ceremonies are not something I can discuss over the telephone with someone I don’t know. I need to meet you in person, look into your eyes, and feel what’s in your heart.” I explained that I lived more than 800 miles away, and that it wouldn’t be possible for me to make an extra trip up to Canada just to discuss the possibility of interviewing him. He insisted that those were the conditions, however; and I ended up scheduling our second trip to the reservation not knowing if he’d even agree to an interview.

Blog 2_Photo 2_Pre sweat prayer

Pre-sweat prayer

In early November, I drove up to the reservation two days before our Director of Photography Doug Monroe was due to fly in. This was so I could pay my visit to Leo up in Canada and hopefully close the deal. On the day after my arrival, Martin and I drove several hours to one of the most remote locations I’d ever seen, and I’ve been to some pretty isolated places. Our visit with Leo and his wife lasted three hours, and in the end he agreed to allow us to attend the upcoming ceremony he was going to do with Martin, as long as we followed his rules about what we could and could not shoot. Basically, we could record the preparation for the ceremony, but once he and Martin entered the lodge, we had to turn the camera off. We were set…

…until a freak storm that dropped 18 inches of snow forced Leo to postpone his trip by a day. Thankfully, the next day arrived and it was perfect, and true to his word Leo came down from Canada and met us at Martin’s house. We all got goose bumps when we realized the date was November 11th…Veterans Day. The heavy snow had inundated the lodge, and there was quite a bit of work to do to prepare the structure. Martin was behind schedule, so at first, there was a fair amount of tension in the air as Doug recorded the preparations, and he and I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible. As we got closer to the ceremony, though, Leo and Martin loosened up and we were able to collect great footage, and also do an interview with Leo next to the lodge. When it came time for the ceremony, Leo allowed Doug to record a prayer he says before entering the lodge, and then the plan was for Doug to leave the immediate area and collect some landscape shots. I was asked to join Leo, Martin, and Martin’s uncle Humphrey inside the lodge for the sweat. So Doug left, and I entered the lodge and sat between Martin and Leo. I soon realized that Leo was gazing at me intently, and I began to feel quite uncomfortable. Our eyes met, and after a few moments, Leo’s stare turned into a smile. “So, Geronimo (he could never remember my name), where’s your cameraman?” I explained that I’d sent him away as per our agreement. “Well,” said Leo, “there’s a few things I’d like to say before the ceremony actually starts, and he is welcome to enter the lodge and record them.” Given the sensitivity that normally accompanies Native ceremonies, such an invitation is extremely rare, if not unheard of.

Leo Pard in the Sweat Lodge

Leo Pard in the Sweat Lodge

It was an unexpected gift that I could never have imagined, even as a Plan A.

Trail’s End Ranch Radio Show

By Robin Wignall

NCPG14 Trail's End Ranch Radio by Gib Meyers

Fred Newman, Jerry Brooks and DW Groethe rehearsing the Trails End Ranch Radio Show.

The Trail’s End Ranch Radio Show is produced in the style of Prairie Home Companion and other radio shows of the old-style ilk. It is approachable for folks who are new to the cowboy poetry scene but has enough tooth to keep the veteran attendee interested as well. The show is highly entertaining to watch. I experienced the gambit of emotions—from laughing, to stomping my feet along to a great tune, to tearing up in sadness. It is worth the price of a ticket! And, there are still tickets available for the Friday 8:30 “airing” of the show at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, according to my inside source.

Written by singer-songwriter Stephanie Davis, the Trail’s End Ranch Radio Show features several vignettes, recitations from various famous cowboy poets, humorous faux ads and music played by the Trail’s End Ranch Hand Band. Fred Newman of Prairie Home Companion fame features prominently in the show. His table of sound-effects “instruments” includes a balloon to make alien sounds, glasses, beer bottles, a box of what sounded like aluminum recycling, a pair of old shoes and a roasting pan. I found myself wondering how he gets through TSA at the airport!

Poets DW Groethe, Henry Real Bird and Jerry Brooks are featured in the show. Groethe and Brooks even play characters in some of the skits. Groethe plays an alien with the assistance of a coffee can (you have to see it to believe it—its quite cool). Brooks plays a chuck-wagon gourmet well-versed in the preparation of roadkill. While Real Bird doesn’t participate in any of the skits. he recites several of his poems, interlaced with his native Crow Indian language.

The opening act is a paean to bailing twine. As any ranch kid knows, bailing twine holds the world together, and according to the show’s song, “is more useful than a ginzu knife at a Donner Party reunion.” Among other uses noted in the song are a leash for your pet lizard and a belt to hold your pants up. No matter what the problem, “the solution may be sitting on the dash of your truck…always carry bailing twine.”

There are multiple ads for made-up companies including Levitation Coffee for when you need to cowboy up, Western Brew Sarsaparilla with its natural mood enhancing agents, and a shady realty company that could take your ranch from cows to condos in 90 days or less.

Not all of the recitations are light-hearted. Brooks and Real Bird both recite  poems that are emotionally and intellectually stimulating. All three of the poems are about love, but not in that sickening romantic comedy way. I think Henry Real Bird said it best: “love is there like a robin in the winter sky.”

The show is sponsored by the Interculture Foundation. Tickets available at

Dame Nevada

“There’s a basin, wrought of reason,
tortoise dry and clean of air
Where rivers hike to meet their fate,
get lost and disappear
Where Grand Adventure had a say
and different would prevail
And where only hardy life hangs on
to all that it entails”

This is the first stanza of Waddie Mitchell’s new poem, “Dame Nevada,” written in honor of the state’s 150th anniversary being celebrated this year. Waddie debuted the poem tonight at the opening show of the 30th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, an official event of the sesquicentennial celebration.

The performance was opened by Nevada’s Lt. Governor Brian Krolicki, and featured Waddie with other Nevada artists, including songster Richard Elloyan, writer Carolyn Dufurrena, poet Walt “Bimbo” Cheney, and Larry Schutte singing the classic “Nighttime in Nevada.”

What a great start to what will most certainly be a wonderful 30th Gathering. We hope to post much more during the event, here and on Facebook ( and Twitter ( Come join us if you can!

Dame Nevada by Waddie Mitchell_sm

Healing the Warrior’s Heart: Turning Ancient Ceremonies Into Cutting Edge Therapy

First Nation title 1 from 38This is the second installment in a series of blog posts about the making of  Healing the Warrior’s Heart, a public television special that presents a Native American perspective on both the soldier’s and the veteran’s experience. The program reveals the central role that military service plays in Native life and explores the spiritual traditions that help returning American Indian soldiers reintegrate into society and cleanse themselves of war. Western Folklife Center Media Producer, Taki Telonidis, is heading up the production team and blogging about his experiences.

PlaneSunset“This was the view from my window seat as I headed back to Utah from Massachusetts after collecting the latest piece of the Healing the Warrior’s Heart story: an interview with a psychotherapist and author named Ed Tick.  More than a pretty sunset, it seemed a fitting coda for a conversation that dealt with spirituality and the soul.”

“I had decided to fly out and meet Dr. Tick after learning of his unique approach to treating veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and reading his book War and the Soul. Tick’s methods rely heavily on the healing traditions of Native Americans and other tribal peoples, which he has studied extensively over more than 30 years. His work with veterans began not long after the Vietnam War when he was a young therapist and a veteran walked into his office seeking treatment. When their eyes met, they did a double-take as they realized they’d been classmates in high school. But Tick’s friend was almost unrecognizable; his experiences serving in Vietnam had transformed him both physically and emotionally.”

ETick“Doing therapy with his former classmate connected Tick with the community of Vietnam veterans in his corner of upstate New York. Many of them were suffering, and the Veteran’s Administration (VA) system and other therapists didn’t know what to do with them. Tick told me the story of how the head of this group was so desperate for someone to help his comrades, that he “drafted” Tick to be their doctor. Tick came to see helping vets as a calling, although it wasn’t long before he realized that his training had not adequately prepared him for the task at hand. The diagnosis of PTSD (which at that time had recently been coined) didn’t adequately explain the suffering of these veterans. And the treatment protocols addressed only the symptoms, not the problem at its core.”

“So Tick decided to look at how other cultures defined and treated the trauma of war. His quest took him first to Greece (homeland of my family!) where he studied the ancient wars, learned about citizen soldiers, and found references to war trauma and healing in classical writings. His quest then led him back to America and to an examination of the healing traditions of our nation’s first warriors: Native Americans. He discovered that for thousands of years, American Indians, like tribal peoples around the world, have been dealing with the problem we now call PTSD, but in a very different way. Suffering warriors were people whose soul and spirit had been tainted by what they had done and witnessed; so they were cleansed and purified through rituals. There were other ceremonies intended to transfer the responsibility of a warrior’s actions to the entire community, relieving him of the burden of his deeds. Another step was the honoring of veterans by the community, an important rite of passage that put them on a life-long path of service to their people.”

“Learning about the healing traditions of Native peoples convinced Dr. Tick that they hold clues for America as it struggles to better assist its suffering veterans. In fact, Tick and his wife and partner Kate Dahlstedt have incorporated much of what they learned into retreats they conduct for veterans through their nonprofit organization, Soldiers Heart. Their work has caught the attention of the military, which last year hired them to conduct trainings for chaplains that incorporate the lessons of Native American healing.”

Untitled“Dr. Tick’s work has become important to the Healing the Warrior’s Heart project. His book War and the Soul deconstructs how tribal cultures define war and the emotional trauma it inflicts on soldiers. It also discusses Native American healing traditions at length, and identifies their key elements and how they contribute to healing at the core level. Tick’s forthcoming book, Warrior’s Return, maps out how those elements can be applied in a non-native context, and used by chaplains and other professionals in treating veterans who served in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“The interview with Tick was a powerful experience, as the information and passion poured out of him; it was a lot like drinking out of a fire hose. Now the challenge will be to absorb it all, and figure out how best to use it in the documentary.”      Taki Telonidis