Warm and wooly winterOld clothes and newfound comfort.
By: Ryan Taylor, Agweek
TOWNER, N.D. — Call me old-fashioned, but when the weather gets chilly, I get wooly. Sure, modern technology has brought us a host of synthetic fibers and clothing to keep us from freezing. But in my mind, sheep always seem to stay pretty warm through the winter, so wool’s good enough for me.
I can’t say that my affection for wool is self-serving. I don’t raise sheep. I tried raising sheep for a few years, just to have some animals around that would eat leafy spurge and other weeds. Coyotes ate most of my lambs while they were out eating weeds, though, and my abundant patience wasn’t nearly abundant enough to work around the temperament of sheep.
I did try to be a good manager of the small flock, so I made sure they were shorn each year before lambing. Made for a cleaner meal for the coyotes that way.
And I was tenacious in my wool marketing plan. When I phased out and sold my small, predator-wary flock, I had two bags of wool and a depressed wool market. So I held. And I held. I stored the bags in the hay mow of our barn, walked around them for 15 years and then … the market rallied. I sold at a profit, meaning I covered the shearing cost.
I knew exactly what to do with the windfall of my wool check. I bought a Pendleton wool shirt and paid off the mental mortgage on my lavish Filson wool mackinaw. I actually bought the mackinaw jacket years before I sold the wool, but knew in my mind that someday my Rambouillet cross finely crimped, high spin count fibers held in storage would help cover the cost.
You see, wool goods aren’t cheap, but you feel good when you buy them. The trademark motto at Filson is “might as well have the best.” That’s code for “treat yourself to something nice, it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg, but you’ll like it and it’ll last forever.”
My wool Filson mackinaw “cruiser” was designed and patented in 1914, and there could be one of those original issues still in use I bet. Built for Klondike gold miners, northwest loggers, Great Plains ranchers and other assorted outdoors types, their stuff lasts.
I also have a Filson vest, a couple of Pendleton blankets and a Woolrich shirt. They all come from the byproduct of raising lamb chops and they all come from American companies more than 100 years old. They must be doing something right.
Closer to home, our little girl now has a sporty purple winter wool hat made by the “Wooly Girls” from the cosmopolitan community of Wales, N.D. Smaller company, same classic warmth.
One of my most prized possessions as of late, though, is something I found when going through my father’s old clothes after he passed away. In the stack of things that all children find themselves sorting through as they mourn and remember, I found the nicest, heaviest pair of wool pants you could imagine. The waist was right, the length was right, and inside those brown trousers was the bright blue tag that said “warranted to be a Pendleton” from the Pendleton Woolen Mills of Portland, Ore.
I’m guessing Dad got those pants in the late 1940s or 1950s, but they were just like new. I wear them skiing, I wear them ranching and I wear them feeling the warmth of both the wool and the memories of the man who bought them.
So step aside synthetic posers. I’m siding with the sheep on this wardrobe choice, and I’ll keep an eye out to protect my britches from any confused coyotes because they don’t get to gnaw on the legs under spun wool.