Propaganda and Culture
of the Sheepshooters

Sheepshooter’s Oath of Secrecy

I,________ , in the presence of Almighty God and the members of the Western Slope Protective Association here assembled, do promise and swear that I will keep inviolate and not divulge to any person or persons whomsoever any secrets or activities or names of members of the association, that I will do my utmost at all times to protect the ranges of northwestern Colorado against invasion by sheep. All this I promise and swear with a firm and steadfast resolution to perform the same without any mental reservation whatsoever, binding myself under no less a penalty than that of being shot to death should I ever in the least violate this my voluntary obligation.

Dead Men Tell No Tales
by Haniel Long

They say that dead men tell no tales!

Except of barges with red sails
And sailors mad for nightingales;

Except of jongleurs stretched at ease
Beside old highways through the trees;

Except of dying moons that break
The hearts of lads who lie awake;

Except of fortresses in shade,
And heroes crumbled and betrayed.
But dead men tell no tales, they say!

Except old tales that burn away
The stifling tapestries of day;

Old tales of life, of love and hate,
Of time and space, and will, and fate.

Tale of a Sheep-Shooter
dateline Prineville December 10, 1904
published in the
Oregonian December 12, 1904

“About 3 o’clock in the afternoon the scouts that had been posted during the entire day had ascertained that the herder was alone and unarmed, and that we ran no chances in getting possession of his band. This was done by our party, numbering some dozen men, after we had indulged in a few preliminaries such as firing off our guns and giving vent to a few oaths, just to make the poor cuss stand pat, for if he had attempted to run, we would have had to kill him. He was bound and gagged to prevent his getting away and giving the alarm, and was then placed by the side of a tree.

The band of sheep, numbering about 2000 was then driven to a corral on deeded land, which was done for a double purpose, as we could then shoot without their scattering, and we could also point to the carcasses and say: ‘Well, they were on deeded land and whoever killed them did so merely as an act protecting their own property.’ We then knelt with our knees on the ground, that every shot from our 30-30’s might take effect in more than one sheep, and thus save ammunition. In this manner more than 1500 shots were fired, and as a result 1200 sheep were killed.

Those of the band that succeeded in getting away were without a herder for two days, and many succumbed to the attacks of the coyotes.

Yes, we had our faces blackened so that we could not be recognized, and it was a veritable picnic. Had everything our own way from start to finish. You’re d - - d right, that sheepman will never get within miles of our range again, that’s a sinch.”

Untitled Poem/song lyrics
by John Perry of Glass Butte

Old Bill Brown from away over at Fife,
Started to herd sheep for the rest of his life.
He got a bunch of bummers and a bunch of old ewes,
He started across the desert in his number eleven shoes.

Along came a storm about the third day,
Bill was morally sorry he didn’t have any hay.
Bill headed for the country they called Lake.
Bill was morally certain he would surely make a stake.

One morning, when he got up to round up the bunch,
Along came McKune, who said he had a hunch.
He said he saw some slickers and they weren’t very far,
They thought they ought to brand them with the Horseshoe Bar.
They talked the matter over and there wasn’t much to choose.
So, they put him in as foreman over the Cayuse buckaroos.

Billy started out from the Gap Ranch, with his pockets full of chuck.
Said he would take his sheep to Hampton,
where it would surely change his luck.
But, when the 30-30s came a whizzing down the draw,
Bill was morally certain the work was mighty raw.

Letter to the editor
Crook County, Oregon
December 29, 1904

Morning Oregonian
Portland, Oregon

Mr. Editor;

Seeing that you are giving quite a bit of publicity to the Sheep Shooters of Crook County, I thought I would lend you some assistance by giving you a short synopsis of the proceedings of the organization during the past year. Therefore, if space will permit, please publish the following report:

Sheep Shooters’ Headquarters, Crook County, Oregon

December 29, 1904

Editor, Oregonian;

I am authorized by the association (The Inland Sheep Shooters) to notify the Oregonian to desist from publishing matter derogatory to the reputation of sheep-shooters in Eastern Oregon. We claim to have the banner county of Oregon on the progressive lines of sheep-shooting, and it is my pleasure to inform you that we have a little government of our own in Crook County, and we would thank the Oregonian and the Governor to attend strictly to their business and not meddle with the settlement of the range question in our province.

We are the direct and effective means of controlling the range in our jurisdiction. If we want more range we simply fence it in and live up to the maxim of the golden rule that possession represents nine points of the law. If fencing is too expensive for the protection of the range, dead lines are most effective substitutes and readily manufactured. When sheep-men fail to observe these peaceable obstructions we delegate a committee to notify offenders, sometimes by putting notices on tent or cabin and sometimes by publication in one of the leading newspapers of the county as follows:

‘You are hereby notified to move this camp within twenty-four hours or take the consequences. Signed: Committee

These mild and peaceful means are usually effective, but in cases where they are not, our executive committee takes the matter in hand, and being men of high ideals as well as good shots by moonlight, they promptly enforce the edicts of the association.

We have recently extended our jurisdiction to cover a large territory on the desert heretofore occupied by sheepmen, and we expect to have to sacrifice a few flocks of sheep there this winter.

Our annual report shows that we have slaughtered between 8,000 and 10,000 head during the last shooting season and we expect to increase this respectable showing during the next season providing the sheep hold out and the Governor and Oregonian observe the customary laws of neutrality.

We have burned the usual number of camps and corrals this season, and also sent out a number of important warnings which we think will have a satisfactory effect.

We have just received a shipment of ammunition that we think will be sufficient to meet any shortage which might occur on account of increase of territory requiring general protection.

In some instances the woolgrowers of Eastern Oregon have been so unwise as to offer rewards for the arrest and conviction of sheep-shooters and for assaults of herders. We have heretofore warned them by publication of the danger of such action, as it might have to result in our organization having to proceed on the lines that ‘Dead men tell no tales.’ This is not to be considered a threat to commit murder, as we do not justify such a thing except where flock owners resort to unjustifiable means in protecting their property.

Mr. Editor, please excuse the lack of systematic order in preparing this, our first annual report. Our office is not yet supplied with the necessary printed forms so useful in facilitating reports. We have thought of furnishing the names of our officers, and also those of honorary members of the order, but as your space will probably not admit of a supplementary report at this time, we will not be able to furnish a roll of honor that will be complimentary to the cause.

Signed: Corresponding Secretary
Crook County sheep-Shooting
Association of Eastern Oregon


The New Year was duly observed by our brave boys by the slaughter of about 500 head of sheep belonging to a gentleman who had violated our rules or laws. The names of the active participants in this last brilliant action of the association have not yet been handed in. When they are we will take pleasure in recording them on the roll of honor above mentioned.

The Crook county papers have recently said some uncomplimentary things about our order which may invite attention later on. Our work is now of too much importance to justify a diversion from the regular order of business.

Cor. Sec. C.C.S.S. Association