ENTERPRISE, Utah He looks like he just stepped out of a movie or the pages of a photography book about the Old West.
Jake Gardner is cut from stock you don't often see today. The 19-year-old member of the Enterprise 5th Ward, Enterprise Utah Stake, is skilled in the trades that won the West. From the style of his wide-brimmed felt cowboy hat to the shiny, well-used chaps that he made himself, he looks the part. His hat, his boots, the cut and appearance of his clothes, his horse and the rifle in its scabbard on the saddle seem to tell a story that does not portray many of today's teens.
Astride his horse, Jake is and looks as comfortable as one who was born there. True, there is a shyness about him. Yet in his shyness there is a commanding strength, a wonderful quietness of confidence. His strength is in his confidence, in his eyes and in the way he goes about the things he knows and loves.
Jake graduated from high school a year ago and has received his mission call to the North Carolina Raleigh Mission. (He enters the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, in July.) That part of Jacob N. Gardner is normal enough. But the 6-foot-tall young man comes from several generations of farming and sheep ranching. His great-grandfather came to the Beryl, Utah, area from Idaho. He brought with him the skills of a potato farmer and began raising potatoes in the Beryl-Enterprise area in southern Utah.
The Gardner family got into sheep ranching when Jake's father, Phillip Gardner, became interested in raising a "few" sheep for fun and to stock the freezer. Today, the sheep business is a full-time job for members of the family. Jake's younger brother will take over in the sheep herding duties when Jake goes on his mission. Right now, it is Jake's responsibility to maintain the herd, the horses and the sheep dogs, and in the summer, he is the one responsible to care for the herd alone in the mountains in the summer pastures near Summit, Utah.
Jake has been going to the mountains to tend the sheep since he was 14. The last two or three years he has been up there by himself.
His summers are rather lonesome. He has faced many different and varied experiences in the high country. One year returning to camp, his horse fell on him and broke his foot. The family had to hire a herder that year for the rest of the mountain season.
In addition to the daily tending duties, he has to keep a careful eye for predators. In the mountains there are the three main sheep killers. The coyote is very common, but there are also mountain lions and bears. While the coyote is the most common killer of sheep, the mountain lion is next. Jake says he has never seen a lion. "But I am aware of them and always keep an eye out. I know that some of the lambs are killed by lions. The lions are the 'ghosts' of the mountains." One of Jake's main foes was a black bear. About a year ago, he had to kill one that had killed a number of sheep. He says they lose about 100 animals to predators each year. While the predators will sometimes kill the ewes, the most common prey are the lambs.
While he spends his summers in the mountains alone, he does have a cell phone for emergencies. His time alone in the mountains is not unproductive. He carves wood pieces and works with leather. Jake showed off a beautiful set of chaps he made in the evenings, a set of saddle bags and some rawhide bridles he was working on. At night he will sometimes visit other sheep camps for conversation and company.
Jake says he likes the sheep business but his first love is training horses. He keeps three or four horses with him in the summer, replacing shoes when necessary. He has a string of about eight horses, all of which he has trained. He proudly showed off his favorite. "This horse would not back up at all when I got him," Jake said. He showed off how well the horse moved under his stewardship and demonstrated how easily he could back the horse. Recently, he has been training horses professionally for others. He says it is just in the way you treat them. "Treat a horse with respect and gentleness, and you get that back from the animal, plus a lot more."
He also has skills as an electrician. Though the sheep business takes a major part of his year, the young man earned some of his missionary funds by working as an electrician in El Centro, Calif. Jake talks with a strong testimony. He shows his love for the gospel and his beliefs. His plans for the future are not definite except for his mission. He plans on keeping horses and sheep as a hobby. "I will probably go on to college and keep on training horses."