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Sheep Dipping and Goat Roping


I have talked about going to a sheep dipping and goat roping and not everybody knows what that means. Back before polyester, Wal-Mart, and importing all our ready-to-wear; there was a market for sheep wool and goat mohair. Cattle owners found sheep and goats to be a good cash crop that foraged well in the rocky terrain of the Texas Hill Country and West Texas. You fleeced them in the spring and their coats grew back by winter.

It was a good business; the downside was these wooly critters—besides smelling bad—would become infested with ticks, itch mites, blowflies, and lice. Once a year after shearing they needed to be dipped. The chemicals were expensive and messy, and the Department of Agriculture determined they were bad for your health.

A long trough would be made, or a hole dug in the ground to hold the dipping

solution. The animals would be herded through the solution. The county

extension agents back in the 30’s and 40’s encouraged the collaboration of

producers to organize community sheep dipping’s. The ranchers shared the work

and expense by doing all the sheep at the same time. This annual event would

take several days of work, rounding up the sheep and moving all those critters to

one pasture.


The men had to stay until the work was finished and the women and children

brought potluck lunches and dinners to the dip site. In remote areas, the whole

family might come and camp. After the meal, out would come the fiddles, guitars,

and harmonicas, and the fun began. By the time my generation came along, the

dipping of sheep had stopped due to the decline of production and improved

remedies for pest control.

The ranchers missed the social aspect of sheep dipping. So, sheep dipping parties

became vogue. A sheep dipping party was referred to as a FANDANGO, another

word that has lost its meaning. If you ever get an invitation to sheep dipping, goat roping, or a FANDANGO, you do not want to miss it.

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