© 2022 | Jefferson Public Radio
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd.
Ashland, OR 97520
541.552.6301 | 800.782.6191
KSOR Header background image 1
a service of Southern Oregon University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

As It Was: Irishman Hailed as Poet Laureate of Sheep Camps

Brothers Hugh and Denis O’Connor emigrated from Ireland to America in 1907, settled near Merrill in Southeastern Oregon and developed an 800-acre ranch that at its peak raised some 3,000 lambs a season, plus alfalfa hay, grain and potatoes.

Denis supervised widely dispersed sheep camps.  Recognized for his sense of humor and ability to track down lost sheep, he also became known as the “Poet Laureate of the Sheep Camps.”  One poem, titled “Dan’s Proposal to Estella,” was followed up by one titled “Miss Estella’s Reply to Dan.”  The first stanza of the proposal went like this:

“My dear, you are pretty, so graceful and witty,
Then O, what a pity you’re livin’ alone,
If you’ll be my dearie, my auburn-hair’d fairy,
Far out on the prairie I’ll call you my own.”

Estella’s reply began like this:

“Out in your camp, there’s chill and damp
With bitter frost and snow,
When grass is green, then sheep are mean
And herding you must go.”

The poem ended like this:

“And though you smile at weary toil
And someday make a stake –
I’d rather be a maiden free
Beside Old Tule Lake”

Source: Source: Merrill Centennial 1894-1994. Klamath Falls, Ore., Merrill Centennial Committee/Graphic Press, 1994, pp. 156-60.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.