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History of Klickitat, Yakima, and Kittitas Counties, Washington

published in 1904

A Fatal Sheep Stampede

George W. McCredy, one of central Washington's well-known pioneer stockmen, is the authority for the following story of a remarkable accident whereby a faithful sheep herder met his death in the foothills of Kittitas county:

In the summer of 1889, Cameron Brothers lost 1,200 head of sheep in Kittitas county by what is known among sheepmen as "piling up and smothering to death." One of the features of the accident, which made it the more distressing and served to bring out the heroism of one man, is the fact that the herder, familiarly known as "Hindoo John," with his dogs, was caught under the sheep and also smothered.

At the time it was thought that the herder had deserted his place and left the country. The falsity of this story was proven the following spring, when his body, with those of his dogs, was brought to light by someone examining the great pile of sheep bones on the steep hillside. Then he was exonerated from the charge of unfaithfulness. From all the circumstances and surrounding conditions the accident was accounted for in this way: The sheep had become frightened while grazing upon the steep mountain side and had run for safety toward a clump of bushes and small trees. Reaching there, the leaders could get no farther and were eventually crushed down by the mad rush from their rear. The frightened sheep continued to clamber on top of one another and to be trodden down until they could climb no higher, but were turned aside.

The shepherd, it is thought, was trying, with the assistance of his faithful dogs, to loosen the blockade from the lower side and thus save the lives of his charges, when herder and dogs were caught under the moving, writhing mass and crushed to death. The weather was very warm and soon decomposition had set in. Within a comparatively few hours from the time of the accident the stench arising therefrom was so great that no one could approach within several hundred feet. Nor could examination be made for several months afterward. It is said that the grease from this pile of bodies ran in a stream for a distance of half a mile into the valley.

© 1998 by Cayuse Press

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