It is a delight to be the spouse of a hard working, joy-filled, dedicated man.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Inspired to Share a Memory

So Saturday, I spoke of how Mildred inspires me, she does so with nearly every post, I try desperately not to be inspired by her lovey tea, coffee, chocolate and lemonade sets, lest Dear Dirt, just a poor school teacher and sheep shearer, be driven further into poverty by his wayward wife and her tucked away plastic.

So because of Mildred, and Empress Bee, who is always gallivanting off to sea, wearing a tiara, to eat cake, luscious delightful cakes and when she is on land is always speaking of making these clearly southern creations of hers, and because I live with Cake Girl, I was inspired to build a cake Friday. If you're hungry and you missed it, scroll on down and have a slice, there is a little left I am sure.

Another inspiring person I read is LindaSue, (you are all inspiring really, otherwise I would not be reading, and I hope to get to you all). She is in the middle of kidding season, not to be confused with comedy month. A while back she told of going to rescue a neighbor's_goat that got it's head stuck and the rest of the herd was bashing the poor thing.

Then in another post about kidding she and Kathy were discussing how goats and sheep have little sub-herds within the larger herd and so now she has inspired me to tell you a story of when Dirt and I were starting out in the sheep life. Pull up a cushy chair 'cause this is another of Lanny's Longies.

As most of you know, Dirt and I rent our farm from the late Dr. Dale Tibbits DVM and his lovely widow Norine. Twenty-two years ago, after we had been here a year Dale brought his sheep from another farm out to this farm to eat for the summer. The flock stayed into late fall, mid-December, and one actually lambed here, a very early, but not unheard of, start to lambing.

Dirt found the momma and lamb off by themselves, we scooped them up and brought them into the barn until Dale and his farm manager could come and pick up the rest of the herd before they lambed under the inexperienced eye of his crazy renters (us). How inexperienced were we?

Even though I had been raised by a farmer boy and a farmer girl, the farmer boy went on to be a suburban businessman because farmer girl never wanted to be on a piece of land that even remotely looked like a farm ever again. So my farming knowledge came from having been farmed out to cousins in the summer and listening to hours and hours and hours of farming stories, lore and advice all my growing up years from my father. And the gazillion books I read. That was all the experience I had, but it was enough to know that Dirt had next to zero.

I had already introduced him to gardening and learn that he knew that plants went into the ground and that was pretty much the extent of his garden knowledge. But he was especially deficient in the lamb department, because when he saw the lamb he freaked out because it had a tail! I stood in disbelief because even though I had never been around my cousin's sheep farm during lambing season I knew they had tails that needed to be taken off. Besides, had he never recited Little Bo Peep?

The flock, ewes and the ram, came back early the next summer so that the lambs could stay at the other farm and be weaned. While the flock was here, Dale asked if we wanted to see them through the next lambing season and he would split the lamb crop with us. "Cool" was our less than mature answer, we thought Dale made that offer because he saw what great farmers we were.

Lambing season went really well (the last year that happened) and late winter passed onto early spring in a "happy go lucky, laid back, life on the farm", John Denverish sorta way. Everything about "farming" went well for Dirt and I that year. My garden had been huge and profitable, nearly every meal clear into early spring came from the garden, the root cellar and the cow that we had butchered. And now with lambing season having gone so well, we looked forward to the lamb that would be on the table next winter.

One day Dale's farm manager shows up on his way back from the auction, and in the trailer he has a young sheep, a Cheviot type. He explained to me and attentive little Stephanie, that the previous fall the lambs that had been kept over at the other farm for weaning were then ready to be slaughtered but mixed in with the lambs for slaughter was the farm renter's pet lamb. On slaughter day the slaughter guys arrived before he or Dale could get there and of course the first lamb to be dispatched was the friendly little guy who immediately came up to the fence when people showed up.

The renter's wife was very sad, and a little mad, so Dale and his farm manager, Bruce, promised to replace it. So here they were with the replacement. Which I found rather humorous because it was clearly no one's pet and wanted nothing to do with people and it was here at this farm instead of the other farm where the renter who lost the "pet" lived. But that was how things were done in my life from then on out.

I was happy to have her, she was very pretty and very different from the rest of the flock, however the flock did not agree with me. Yes, they could tell she was different but they were not happy to have her. She was all white, clean white face with stick up ears, they, being all Suffolk, were white fleeced with wool-less back faces and legs, and their enormous black ears droop slightly to the sides of their heads, very different sheep indeed. You might say like day and night. And they knew it!

For weeks she was not allowed in the barn by the other sheep. When they were all outside she was many yards from any of them at anytime. I felt very bad for her and gave her extra treats, but as she was not very trusting of humans sometimes she didn't always get her treat, because our big moosey tame Suffolk were always there to get it before she did.

One morning we were having some nasty spring weather, I sloshed out to the barn to do chores and I was glad to see that she got up the gumption to go inside the barn with the other sheep. Poor thing was against the wall on one side of the barn while all the other girls were lined up at the wall feeder on the other side. I felt bad for her but at least she was in out of the weather.

After lunch I went out to check on everyone and see what was going on. I didn't see my new little friend anywhere in the barn. She must have gotten tired of being a wall flower and went outside, the weather had cleared so she would be okay. I went to lean over the half door to grab the water bucket and it wasn't there. What the heck had those silly sheep done with the bucket? They were all staring at me in a rather sheepish manner.

"Girls, where is your bucket?" I said as I hopped over the door. Once I was in the barn I could see that the bucket was under the feeder. "For crying out loud, I was coming out to give you more water, there was no reason to throw a fit," I exclaimed to them as I tried to tug the bucket out from under the feeder.

I had to get down on my knees and reef on the bucket to get it out, "What the heck?" I griped while tugging and tugging.

Once I got the bucket out I could see there was something else behind the bucket way under the floor of the feeder. I reached and grabbed onto it and pulled out my sweet little friend.

They had bashed her to death, and then stuffed her under the feeder hiding the evidence with the water bucket. The evidence was clear, the bucket was still retaining it's new oval shape. Unbelievable, murderous sheep. Just because she was different. Not of their herd.

I was sobbing by the time I got her out from under the feeder and shaking by the time I got her out of the barn. I had yelled and screamed hateful things at my other dear sheep, now that I knew what they were capable of, shewing them out of the barn and locking the out into the pasture.

I was racked with sobs as I headed to the house to call my husband. His friend and colleague, Jim, answered the school phone.

"Jim, is Phil there?"

"Yes, but what is wrong?" Clearly Jim could hear the distress in my voice.

"Oh, it is horrible, one of our sheep is dead, the other sheep killed her."

"That's too bad, but are you sure she is dead?"

"Yes, I am sure."

"Did you try Sheep P R?" he says completely even toned.

On any other day, if it was someone else, that quick witted Jim was pulling this on, I would think it to be rather funny, but not today and not to me.

"Uh, Jim, could you just get Phil please?" I say in a sad voice, not a hint of laughter.


Phil got on the phone to hear the bad news and he said to just put her in the wheelbarrow and that he would take care of her when he got home.

"What are you going to do?" I asked.

"I'll just take it out onto Weyerhauser land and set a trap for the coyotes."

"You can't do that. You can't let her be torn to bits by those coyotes."

Long pause on the other end by the sensible husband talking to the irrational, momentarily overly sensitive wife.

"I'll just bury her" I say. I thanked him for talking to me and being willing to help but that I would just take care of it.

So back outside I went. I hoicked the body into the wheelbarrow and took a break while I surveyed the areas where I could bury her.

All around the house and in most of the pasture the soil is nearly rock-less, so that wasn't really a factor in my decision but I didn't really want to go too far as the baby and little Steph were in taking naps. I thought of how the Indians planted fish under the corn for a better crop so I figure I would put her in my garden where I was going to plant tomatoes.

I got the shovel and began to dig. I took a break to go get my inhaler and continued. I had a beautiful grave dug for her. Sides were straight up and down it was nearly chest deep, okay it wasn't six feet down but this wasn't a county grave site and she wasn't a human. So I hopped out and took another puff on my inhaler as I went to get the wheelbarrow, aka hearse, with the poor deceased sheep in it.

I wheeled her right up to the edge and though it didn't seem very dignified I figured my best bet for getting her into the hole was to just up end the wheelbarrow and let her slide on in. Besides it was better than what Dirt was going to do to her.

So I grabbed the handles of the wheelbarrow and up they went, but contrary to expectations she did not slide right in. I did not account for rigor mortis having set in and her molding to the wheelbarrow. I tried to shake her out but all that happened was that I lost hold of the wheel barrow and the whole works went into my beautiful grave.

Oh this was not good. All that was sticking up were the handles of the wheelbarrow. Straight up. I stood and stared at it for quite a while. Then I resolutely turned toward the house.

I walked back to the house, grabbed the phone, dialed the number for Dirt. Again Jim answered, but I spoke so firmly and my voice was strong enough that Jim just answered with, "I'll get him, hang on."

When Dirt came on the phone I explained that I had dug a beautiful grave in my tomato garden. He agreed that it was as good a place as any and it might do the plants some good.

I explained to him what had happened when I attempted to dump her body in. He inquired as to what I wanted him to do about it.

"I wanted to know if we could use the handles of the wheelbarrow for tomato stakes?"

To which he busted out laughing and told me no, that he had just bought that wheelbarrow and no, tomato stakes should not cost fifty bucks. I told him I thought he was being very narrow minded and unfair. He told me to get the wheelbarrow out of the hole.

So I did. But first I took another puff off of my inhaler.

That garden saw many grave stones in the next year. Then we had to branch out. There have been a lot of deaths here at the farm, there have been many sorrows, tears, anger and a little callousness has set in also, reality eventually dawns on even the idealistic. Many deaths have come after hours of work, like floating cold lambs in the bathtub till your arms feel like they are going to fall off, only to have them never make it.

One time my husband and some of his work friends and their wives rented my sister's house on Cannon Beach, at the last minute I didn't join them and my girls because my favorite Nubian goat was so pregnant with triplets that her back legs went out and she couldn't move. Even though I was fairly pregnant myself I would hold up her back legs and take her for "walks." That however, was one of the successes of our idealistic crazy work. She lived for many more years and her triplets all survived too.

As another blogger Cliff, a real farmer says, This Farming Game Is Not For Sissys. And there have been plenty of times that I have come to the clear conclusion that I am the chief of sissys. But then there are times when I am Eldon Barker's daughter and I buck up and put my shoulder to the grindstone. Once in a while I even come out with a funny story. Thanks Linda for inspiring me to share this one rather humorous story.


KathyB. said...

Ah yes. That story has stuck with me since before I kept sheep and I still keep it in the back of my mind as i watch my flocks within flocks of sheep, chickens, goats...and then watch people. Even my doves, yes, the beautiful white doves, picture of the symbol of peace, yes even the doves keep flocks within flocks and are very, very UN peaceful toward each other. Dare I say it? The effects of SIN in this world.

Thanks for a nice read Lanny.

LindaSueBuhl said...

So once again I return to my beloved verse Isaiah 11:6 "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat,the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them." I don't think it irreverent to say the coyotes will live with the lamb and not eat it or the roaming dogs won't tear up goats. Life isn't all giggles and grins when one keeps animals, gardens or just gets up in the morning to face challenges. I think too often about the animal's feelings when reality is - we've gotten rid of "bullies" only to have the formerly downtrodden turn into meanies themselves! Ah tiz a puzzlement.
BTW I blush at the term inspiring you - perhaps I'm just goading your good stories to the surface!

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

that was an amazing story and made me tear up a bit... my grandparents kept several hundred sheep in pennsylvania and grandma got SO attached to them, they all had names. there always seemed to be a baby in the kitchen too with bottles and all. but i never knew they would turn on another sheep like that! wow!

smiles, bee

Mildred said...

I enjoy hearing about your life; so far away and so different from my own. This was a great post and I am enjoying getting to know your blogger friends better. Thanks and have a great week.

Sparky ♥ ∞ said...

That story was worth the time to read it. :o) I knew about dogs having sub-groups and turning on each other, but I never dreamed of sheep being this way! How dreadful for you! One time I had a dog give birth and her previous older offspring turned on the newborns, killing all but 3 (there were 8). One newborn had to be put down (By my husband! He was so torn up about it.). I've never forgotten that. One thing raising animals has taught me is Life is hard, cruel and many times unkind, but certainly worth the effort. ♥ ∞

Daisy said...

Lanny, that is a great story. I am so sorry to hear what happened to your dear little sheep, but the part about the tomato stakes idea did make me laugh.