In 1966, a group of Mendocino County women wrote and published a cookbook entitled “Mountain Lamb Cookery.” The women, who called themselves the “Mendocino County Bo-Beeps,” were the wives of local ranchers including the McNab Ranch. The Bo-Beeps were an Auxiliary Committee of the newly formed Mendocino County Wool Growers Association.
In addition to having delicious lamb recipes paired with wines from local vineyards, the book discussed at length numerous stories regarding the origins of the McNab Shepherd as told by Oliver Chambers. Chambers was married to Mildred McNab, the daughter of John L. McNab, and the granddaughter of Alexander McNab.
The cookbooks were made by hand so they would stand open at any page. Men from the Mendocino County Wool Growers Association cut sheets of masonite for the book covers and drilled holes in them. On the front covers, a nostalgic picture was etched in yellow showing the sheep rancher watching his flock of lambs in a high mountain pasture, his McNab Shepherd dog at his side. The art work was done by Maxine Foster, whose husband, Wayne, was ranch foreman at the McNab Ranch.
What follows are short story excerpts from the Mountain Lamb Cookery about the McNab Shepherd. According to the Bo-Beeps, the information was taken from a speech given by Oliver Chambers at The First Annual Mendocino County Wool Growers Association and Sheep Dog Sale in June of 1965.
Stories From The Mountain Lamb Cookery
The McNab’s Stamina
In my research on this dog, little seems to be said about another very important characteristic of the McNab: stamina. Wayne Foster, who now runs the McNab Ranch and has trained his dogs, had a visit from another sheepman, George Plummer, from Unnak Island in the Aleutians, Alaska. He runs sheep on this island, which is serviced by ship once a year, supplies brought in and wool shipped out. He runs 4,000 ewes and 5,000 wethers and sells no lambs. Mr. Plummer’s McNab is now old and has been replaced by a Border who he said “is good for about two hours.” He has to come to the ranch to get more McNabs as they will work for him all day. He needs stamina in his dogs as we in Mendocino County do.
Hungry Little McNab
Don Darby of Ukiah used to be in the sheep business and this is the story he tells: He and his neighbor Cap Ornbaun of the Rockpile Ranch in Sonoma County had butchered a beef and thrown the refuse off to the side. The next day they came by the same spot and found a thin, hungry little McNab trying to get something to eat. Luckily they were able to catch the dog and identify it through it’s Mendocino dog tag. It belonged to Fred Sagehorn, a local sheepman. When Cap called Fred to ask him about the dog, Fred said, “Why yes, that’s my dog! The last time I saw him was when I was helping a friend in Lake County gather. I put the dog around a band of sheep and haven’t seen him since.” There was a moment of silence, and then Cap said, “Working a little wide, isn’t he?” They must be wide working to gather our sheep which are wilder than those on the smaller farms of Scotland or the Sacramento Valley.
A McNab Goes Fishing
The McNab Shepherd is a very versatile dog. He makes a good pet for children and is often used or a cattle dog or deer dog. I would like to tell you one more story demonstrating the intelligence of this dog: One proud owner told me that one day after he had been working long hard hours, he up and decided to go fishing. He was hustling around getting a lunch and his gear together and decided to take his dog. He searched everywhere but the dog was not to be found. Finally as he passed the back of the barn he spotted him – sure enough, digging worms!
The following is a list of the Mendocino County Bo-Beeps, Mendocino County Wool Growers Association Auxiliary, at the time of the Mountain Lamb Cookery publication in 1966: Hazel Korpela, Joanne Grothe, Aloha McCarter, Rosemary Torell, Patricia Littlefield, Maxine Foster, Freda White, Betty Pronsolina, Lucile Herreid, Enice Mathison, Vina Rickard, Elma Waddington, Donna Waddington, Alice Hensley, Eva Johnson, Eleanor Pinches, Ella Korpela, Helen Ornbaun, Hazel Smith, Ruth Hanes, Albertine Sagehorn, Margaret Singley, Janet King, Ella Butler, Frances Linser, Ann Brown, Marie V. Hill, Marie La Rue.