Cliff Steelman's entrance into the sheepdog world began with the gift of a dozen ewes from his mother in 1977. After a year of using his children Missy and Clifford alongside his wife to handle the sheep he was given a dog named 'Bob' . Frank Williams, an old sheepman in the Walla area decided Cliff could use some help. Cliff was president of the Blue Mountain Wool Producers during this time where he met Nick Stagg. Nick is a great dog handler and Border Collie enthusiast who moved to the U.S. from England and he taught Cliff much about training and handling dogs.
In the late 1970's Cliff with three friends, Nick Stagg, Frank Williams and Carl Depping put on working dog demonstrations at fairs and rodeo's in Washington and Oregon. Cliff also taught clinics throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho and in British Columbia for many years.
The first 'real' sheepdog trial Cliff entered was the Northwest Championship at Scio, Oregon in 1981 where he scored a '0', yes zero points. From that time on he was truly hooked. He enthusiasm for trialling grew with each passing year. He ran the Southeast Washington Sheepdog Trial at Walla Walla, Washington for 10 years. During that time he was also instrumental in starting the trials at Athena, Heppner, Enterprise and Baker City, Oregon. For several years Cliff could always be found helping at the Beavercreek Trial in Oregon City hosted by Frank and Kathy Brunetto.
In 1985 and again in 1995, KING 5 Television of Seattle filmed a documentary of the feral sheep gather on Decatur Island, one of the San Juan Islands of Washington. Cliff and Nick Stagg were and still are the shepherds who gather those sheep for shearing, vaccinations and pulling off the lambs for sale. These documentaries are still seen throughout the region and have been viewed nationwide throughout the years.
These two were contracted by the U.S. Park Service to gather feral sheep on Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands off the California coast in the late 1990's. During the bidding process Nick and Cliff were flown over the island by the Park Service but because of a soggy landing strip they were unable to land. They were awarded the bid based on cost projections, sheep knowledge and past experience, having gathered the feral sheep of Decatur Island for many years. The dogs, supplies and men arrived by landing craft to discover the island was standing on end! It was so steep that the trails around the island were sometimes six feet above and below one another. The sheep could navigate very well and could outrun the dogs and men with ease. With a crew provided by the Park Service to help them they built a trap about an acre in size using hog wire and steel posts. They were able to capture some 300 head of sheep. They broke even with their expenses and came home sore footed and much wiser.
Cliff's involvement with the Oregon Sheepdog Society lasted for many years. In 1988 he served as a director during the time OSDS was incorporating as a non-profit and drafting its by-laws. He served as treasurer for 8 years.