My first journey along one of America’s roughest and wildest sheep trails — the Heber-Reno of Arizona — was for the purpose of producing a color motion picture with which to lecture on travel-adventure courses and in schools and universities across the country. I made the journey a second time to take still photos and write articles for The National Geographic Magazine and Arizona Highways. Each time I followed sheep in charge of Rosalio Lucero, the herder, and Pablo Chavez, his campero.
The first trek took forty days. On the second trek we journeyed for fifty-two days, Rosalio with his herd of 2,200 sheep, Pablo with his seven burros to carry our bedrolls and supplies, and I on foot to catch as best I could the warm breath of the trail, the smell of the wilds, and the story of the sheep. I was not an outsider; only an extra bedroll, and that a thin one, was taken along, and a few more cans of tomatoes and pears. I became a part of the migration.
In the elapsed years I have from time to time come again —often with my wife and daughter — to meet the herds once more at the occasional watering places, to renew the fragrance, to recapture the lure of the trail. Each fall and winter I carried my film of this adventure to cities of the Midwest and East and have tried to bring to the people in those packed auditoriums a breath of the wilds. But the halls are hot with the breaths of people instead of with wildness, and the lecture hour is short. There is much, too much, that cannot be said in pictures, about the lore and adventures of the Heber-Reno, and about the qualities of Rosalio, who elevated sheepherding into heroic craftsmanship.
My concepts of nature, because of Rosalio’s influence, expanded profoundly, as well as my ability to overcome fears. In a sense, the sheep trail became my Walden — a fifty-two day opportunity for retreat, where lessons in nature were taught and demonstrated on a daily basis.
Because of the unusual quality of its subject matter, my color motion picture of the sheep drive became the most popular adventure program on the American illustrated lecture platform. (See following page.)
I tell the story as it unfolded, on my second trek, in mid-twentieth century Arizona, before changes and “civilized” modifications began dispelling the grizzly grandeur. The chronicle is important as a historical record. I tell it so that the story of Rosalio and the Heber-Reno Stock Trail may be preserved, as an inspiring contribution to authentic Americana, and to the lore of Arizona and the Southwest.
Enjoy the journey.
Francis Raymond Line.