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Monday, June 29, 2009

Would Ewe Like a Haircut?

The Farmer had been shearing sheep for a couple of weeks. Every couple of days, he would lure a few more customers into the sheep-salon, where he would pen them in and give them a close-but-not-too-close shave. His record was ten sheep in one day. He was on a roll. But the dumber sheep were quickly being weeded out. Soon only the smart ones were left. These ones kept escaping from the sheep salon. The Farmer needed a new place to secure his customers. So he put them in the aisle of the lambing room, between the pens.
Last summer was the Farmer’s first season shearing his own sheep. Always the practical-minded one (with a healthy dose of Scottish blood helping him to mind his pennies), he decided that rather than pay the usual fee to have a shearer come in, he would learn to do it himself. Those first few shearing sessions were quite comical (for the observer, anyway; maybe not so much for the sheep). The professional sheep shearer made it look so easy. And have you ever seen how they do it in Australia? Flip the sheep, straddle it, shave a few clean strips down, flip ‘er over, repeat, and….release. Sheep gives itself a shake, lets out a baaa, waddles away, twenty pounds lighter, air conditioned and very grateful.
The first few customers of the Farmer put up such a fight – they must have sensed his uncertainty – that they ended up with more than a few nicks around the knickers. After wrestling, tackling and shearing just two or three of the woolly beasties, he was exhausted and called it a day. It took him over a month to shear them all.
This year was different. The Farmer got his shears sharpened. He has a system now. He is in the groove. He may not be up to the two-minute mark yet but he can shear a sheep a lot quicker than he used to.
So back to the sheep in the lambing pen. The Farmer put them in there, because the holding pen outside the shearing room just wasn’t holding anymore. Donkey kept knocking the door down so that he could pick at the sweet hay that is just over the wall in the storage area. And when he barged in, the sheep all ran out.
They couldn’t escape from the lambing room; the door is bolted shut. This seemed like a good idea to my husband at the time, I’m sure.
The next morning, I went out to feed the sheepdog and turn the horses out. As soon as I stepped off the back porch I could hear the lambs in the distance, just bawling away. I put the dog food down and took off at a trot in my pink rubber boots toward the lambing room.
When I opened the door, a little rush of water ran over my boot. Clearly I had been too anxious to get back to the latest episode of “So You Think You Can Dance” the night before, and had inadvertently left the water running all night. I waded into the ankle-deep flood, turned the tap off and discovered a motley crue of soggy sheep in the corner, standing on the only piece of high ground they could find. Suddenly I realized there was sheep poop floating on the flood. Disgusting. I opened the back door of the lambing room and let the water run out over the back ramp. Next, I convinced the sheep to wade through the flood and out the front door into the pasture. When I returned to the lambing room, I discovered Mocha the calf standing in the aisle. She was looking for the sweet feed.
“Hey. You don’t belong in here!” I had just uttered these words when Mocha suddenly turned and emptied her bowels into the flood. Oh. What fresh HELL is this? I groaned.
I grabbed the shepherd’s crook and poked her in the flank until she reluctantly trudged out the door. The din of the lambs bawling (I don’t know what they were so upset about; the flood couldn’t reach them on their elevated plateaus of hay and manure) was deafening. I ran back out to the shed, returned with a wide snow shovel, and proceeded to plough the flood of water and poop out the back door of the lambing pen. When the mess was gone, I flooded fresh water over the floor. Finally, I refilled the lamb feeders with hay, sweet feed and water. Suddenly the bawling stopped. All I could hear was grunting, snuffling and snorting. Occasionally a lamb would let out a strange garbled “baa”, almost in appreciation. They sound so strange, I half expect Jim Carrey to stand up in the middle of the crowd sometimes.
Within an hour I had the mess cleaned, the feeding done, the lambs settled.
When I returned to the house, I brought the Farmer a coffee and told him the story of my hellish feeding session. This was his reply:
“You mean you let my sheep go?”

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