My husband David and I explored the Four Corners region in the southwest shortly after we were married.
My employer had a pilot base in El Paso and at the end of one of my trips I planned to meet David there to travel around the area. Many dusty, back roads later we found ourselves in Chinle, Arizona on the Navajo Nation.We were profoundly moved by the land and the people. I remember stopping at a ravine just to watch a shepherd guiding his flock of Churro sheep down the banks of a river. Little did I know how profound an impact this scene would ultimately have on our lives.
Fast forward, 10 years later. Now we own a farm in Pennsylvania and we raise Navajo-Churro sheep – the count’s at 29.
When we settled here six years ago, we were eager to purchase animals and wanted to make the right decision regarding breed. To be honest? I was looking at the heritage of it all. My husband was closely watching what could be called “the return.” At that time the Navajo-Churro breed happened to be featured on the cover of a Hobby Farms magazine that I picked up at Tractor Supply. The article noted that the Churro had been providing a “return” for the Navajo for centuries: wool, milk, and meat equals “Life.” It brought to my mind the terrain and the shepherd of years before. The primitive setting. The culture. All right there in a breed of sheep.
The following year, I found a Churro breeder in Pennsylvania – at the time, the only one in a very large region. We paid a visit and couldn’t believe the beauty of the Churro: the four-horned rams, the eyecatching variety of the wool colors! We were sold! I think Linda saw it in our eyes – how moved we were. She sold us one of her remarkable ewes with two ewe-lambs “at side” (a mom and her twins). Our herd was born.
Linda sent this NPR link recently. It’s a wonderful story about the Churro. I felt a lump in my throat hearing the Navajo weaver say, “Sometimes, I just sit with them.Watch them.” I will do that too – just go out and sit with them.
There’s something magnetic about the Navajo-Churro. Something undoubtedly special. You can feel it and see it. Is it the centuries-old heritage they possess, the wisdom I believe I can see in their eyes, or are they just glad for the company? Who knows? I’m a sucker for heritage. I’ll take it over “return” every time.