Chronicler: Bernard Etchemendy

Buffalo, WY

1971

Interviewer: William Douglas

 

Side 1

00:10- 20:00 When, why came to Buffalo. The trip, who worked for once there. Who made up the community, no fences. Different outfits in area. Bought sheep and land, went to work with another outfit (1929). What sheepherding in Wyoming was like, winters, how many sheep ran. Relations between cattle and sheep men, who controlled land. Problems between cattle and sheep men. Cattle men would kill sheep if came into cattle land. Stories of cattle aggression against sheepherders.

 

20:02- 24:35 Did sheep men fight back? Weren't organized, could not fight back. Mostly problems from cattlemen quieted down before Bernard came to country. Coyotes were a real problem, always stayed with sheep to keep them away. What they used to keep coyotes away: rifles, traps, etc. Used Strychnine? to kill coyotes eventually. Lot of losses to coyotes: 5-10%.

 

24:43- 35:15 More on operation with Otegi. Had 500 sheep at time, paid feed out of wages. During Depression, was paid $50/month. Was not able to make much money from sheep, pooled money with brothers to pay for sheepherding. Kept up partnership with Otegi until 1941, with 5500 sheep. How much land cost to lease. Too many sheep so they had to split up partnership and more manageable to herd. Did this until '68. Now had 2500-2600 sheep on his own, 2 men all the time working for him. Often sent away for herders from French Basque country by letter, then Spanish Basques (western range assoc.) also had Wyoming Range Assoc. to bring herders. Quit because leases were hard to find, expensive and had problems with red tape, etc. Getting too old to do it anymore. Retired since '68 (tape made in '71). Works a little sometimes if they need help. 

 

35:22- 51:00 Basque hotel in Buffalo, owned by Bilbao family. Took herders in, also boarding house (name of hotel Bilbao's). Bernard went there to have some Basque cooking, drinks, played Moose and a place had a handball court. John Asponda built the wall for everyone. Was a leader in the community, older man in the area and tried to help people in a jam. Came to Buffalo from California/Nevada, his brother was first Basque in Buffalo. The early Basques there; how they got there and who related to whom. More about John Asponda and Bilbao's and how long Bilbao's stayed in business. Other sheepherders in the valley. Celebration used to be on August 15, but no longer. Priest would come and give mass for herders, townspeople would come up too, have a big feast and celebrate, sing & play moose. Now, problems with non-Basques drinking too much and causing trouble (free food & booze). Also used to have Basque radio broadcasts, ended spring '71. More about radio station.

 

51:45- 59:00 (end) No Basque organization/club, not enough people for one. Basque priest comes once a month for a couple weeks. Where sons live and work. About Bernard's wife, married 1938. Knew her from old country, went back to find her after 12 years stateside. How many times family has been back to Basque country. Relations between Basques and non-Basques vs. sheep/cattle men. Sentiments towards Basques in area. How many Basque sheepmen left in area (tape ended).

 

Side 2

00:04- 05:30 How many Basque sheepherders left in Buffalo & how many sheep they run. No Basques in the cattle business, some Basque sheepmen have cattle also (1000-1500 head). Some Basques working in town. Basque businesses in town.

 

05:38- 12:15 Other Basque events in Western states. Relatives of Bernard, where in Nevada he has been. Time when Basque dancers came to Buffalo. Other Basques in region, never had events in region outside Buffalo.

 

12:20- When ? came to Buffalo (1903). Aspondas were there, came before 1901-2. His brother Jean Asponda was there 1890s. Harriets were there also. Basques in Idaho 1916 in Pocatello. Basques in Miles City (1917), winter of 1919 a dry year and cold winter. Killed many sheep and cattle.