Dorothea; I don't think Valentine was lonely in all of those acres and acres of acres and acres, so much as he was alone. It was a way of life he chose.
Shortly after his wife Kate died, Valentine became quite despondent and distraught. He farmed the children out with various family members, and went to his brothers asking them to buy him out of the company. They didn't want to, but he was insistent, and so they did, and life went on. He took the money he received and disappeared for several weeks. Six or eight weeks later, he returned to the ranch from Miles City. The surprised brothers were even more surprised when he asked for his job back. Family ties among this band of brothers had been strengthened by years of working together, and Valentine gladly returned to his job with the sheep. The Dyba Brothers were glad he was there. He wasn't lonely, he had his dog for companionship and he never lacked for something to do. With a band as large as 3000 head, he constantly had some critter needing medical attention. Some rebel always tempting fate and trying to find the greener pastures; marauding coyotes and eagles had to be put on the run, and he always had an eye on the skies. The sheepherder knew better than most the fickel nature of Montana's weather.
He didn't go hungry, for he knew that the camp tender would find him and his wagon once a week. His meager supply of sweets would be replenished, his tobacco can refilled, and a new batch of reading material would arrive along with the kerosene to keep the lamp he read by burning. What more could a man ask?
Home, for Valentine for seven months of the year was a Montana Airstream, a sheepwagon.
By the late fifties , sheepwagons were already becoming a thing of the past. The early wagons were mounted on the running gear of a regular wagon and had been covered in double layers of canvas, one plain and one waterproof. The newer wagons were redesigned to fit on rubber tires. They were covered in shiney aluminum and could withstand a lot more inclement weather. They were still home away from home for many men through those years. Made of wood, the bottom of the sheep wagon was only about four feet wide, just wide enought to fit on the bolsters of a wagon chassis. It rose about six feet over the running gear like a box. Wooden slats arched over the top of the box from one side to the other. the first layer of white canvas was stretched over the wooden slats and was firmly attached. Over that another layer of canvas, this one waterproof, was stretched much like the canvas of the conestoga wagons. Both ends of the box were wooden. A double "Dutch" door opened over the wagon tongue. The bottom half could be kept closed to keep the dog and other critters out, and the upper half swung wide to catch any stray movement of air. Occassionally a pane of glass was stuck in the door to allow some light.
The opposite end of the wagon was the bed end. High in the end, was the bunk. A very small three paned glass window over this bunk provided the only other light available inside this early "mobile" home. On the bunk was a cotton tufted mattress, well-used and prodded to fit the herders body as he rested. On the shelf over the window was a twelve cell Philco battery radio. Lucky was the man who had a tick or feather mattress It was the rare dog that was allowed on that bed. Storage space was under the bunk which ran about half the length of the wagon. Into this storage space, under the mattress compartmenet slid the table. It was perhap three feet long and twenty inches wide and fit snugly under the mattress. When it was pulled out for meals, a single leg dropped down from underneath the table top for support. The table often was covered in some bright checkerboard oilcloth, red and white or blue and white in color. It was positioned immediately between the two narrow benches that ran on both sides of the wagon, These benches provided the only seating for the herder or his company. Room for four at the maximimum, sleeping room was on the narrow bench. The seats would lift up and provide more storage space for boots, britches, extra blankets,and canned goods or whatever else had to accompany the man on his travels. A leather tongue hung out the front side of the seats to work as a handle, and the hinges on the backside were leather as well.
On either side of the table were two long narrow drawers. Generally the herder kept his cooking stuff and untensils in one drawer and his personal items in the other. The personal items could include his shaving kit, a pencil or pen and some paper, as well as his tobacco and/or pipe. Valentine wasn't a heavy smoker but he did smoke Prince Albert, either rolled in papers for cigarettes or stuffed in an old pipe. The sheep were all quietly bedded and the camp chores taken care of before the rich warm smell of the burning tobacco rolled out over the waves and waves of rich grass. The camp tender would bring him a large round can with his grocery order each week. He would transfer the tobacco into a smaller flat can that fit in his shirt pocket, and he always had it available. Unlike other herders, Valentine was family. If he needed or wanted something else, he rode into the homeplace and raided the larder for what he wanted. Others paid for their tobacco and it was deducted from their wages. Valentine was family.
Some herders preferred Bull Durham. This was stronger and more pungent. It came in small white cloth bags tightly packed with the finely chopped dried tobacco leaf. The small bags were packed in a square bundle that held 12 bags. Packed on the side of each small bag was a package of the lightweight white "smoke" papers. The little white bag was closed with a draw string. The ends of the drawstring had round gold medallions glued to each end. These made it easier to keep a grip on the strings with teeth while the hands were otherwise occupied rolling the cigarette and pinching the end to keep the ground leaf inside the papers rather than all over the pants and floor.
Nearly every herder's home smelled of tobacco mixed with whatever he burned in his cook stove, and the smell of the kerosene he burned in his lamp. The lamp, either a single mantle, or a double mantle, if the herder wanted to read, hung high in the arch of the wagon, over the table. Extra kerosene was stored under the bed as was an extra lamp. Potatoes, some canned food stuffs, and maybe an extra bedroll were pushed into the space as well, even a bucket of coal for the stove could be squeezed in. Moving toward the dutch door of the wagon, ran narrow benches. At the end of these narrow benches on one side was where the tiny stove was located. The chimney poked up through the roof and usually hung at an angle anchored to something with a twisted strand of baling wire....the herders' best friend and handiest tool.
Although the stove was tiny, it was quite efficient. It had only two small burners over a fire box. It had an oven that actually worked quite well and some of the herders became surprisingly good cooks for what they had to work with. Probably the most difficult task was in getting the wagon level enough that cakes came out baked level. Above and behnd the stove was a towel rack or just another chunk of wire. This was where the man of the house draped dish towels, wet gloves, and dirty wet socks. As you came in the door, just to the left was a triangular shaped shelf that held an enamel water pail and dipper. Under the shelf was a small drawer.
No, I doubt that Valentine was lonely. Wild Critters of all kinds kept him company in this empty space. The wind still never ceases to blow through, and the long grass stalks rub and talk to each thing that passes through them. Loneliness wasn't an option. Valentine was family.