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Sheep Stories

Fortunately, the sheep got out. Fortunately for me, that is. And the sheep. Dusk had begun to fall. It was the kind of April-like day that we have been graced with this winter. Damp. The air, soft. Almost balmy. Temperatures hovering between the high 30's, low 40's. I heard a blatting near the back porch. A lot of blatting. Eight or ten sheep had gotten out from a gate I had neglected to close properly. Of course, to get to it they had to climb a slope that was sheer ice. The disadvantages of balmy spring-like weather, days, and cold nights. I grabbed a flashlight, and a jacket for some unknown reason. The escape seemed simple enough to rectify. But, nonetheless, I went out equipped. The sheep were the wilder ones from my flock. The younger ones, unaccustomed to being herded. They had not known my dog Steele. Samantha had herded them sometimes, but not with any great regularity. The exercise was not without drama, however, I did manage to get them back to the barn without incident.

I took the flashlight and walked through the mid-level of the barn, expecting nothing but finding something. There in the mow, next to an open hay chute was my least tame two year old, a wild thing, one of the last remaining "untouched by human hands" member of my flock. Two tiny hoofs appearing from her back end. Her right foot stamping vehemently as something off to the side of me. Pendleton, the cat. The ewe glanced at me. And accompanied the glance with an extra stamp. She was perilously near to the opening to the lower level of the barn. She peered down into the well lit hole, enticed by the sound of the lambs in the lambing center below. She knew there was something of great interest down there.

While I've rarely been known to panic in a barn, my Emergency Room training as a student nurse in a big city hospital trained me to avoid that, the thought of her dropping her lamb down that opening presented a bit of a quandary. Work had been going on extensively in the bar that week, but the hinges hadn't been installed to repair the door going into the mow. The ewe had barged her way in. And was not about to be guided back out. And were she to allow me to walk her out, to where would she go? She still would be in the most wrong place in which to freshen. I picked up the door and placed it over the hole in the floor. So much for one problem. The ewe ran into a corner, the little hoofs disappearing back inside to the safety of its mother's womb. Pendleton circled the ewe. She divided her attention between him and me. I received the most vehement stamping of her foot. Pen, recipient of the most ferocious of looks. The ewe stood. Lay down. Pawed the hay and groaned. And in all ways did what freshening sheep do. Except she never took her eyes off of us. And, when ever she was standing, never stopped stamping her foot. I sat on the old spoiled hay left in the mow and took off my jacket in case I had to help deliver her lamb. The temperature dropped. It got cold. It got dark. I kept the beacon of the flashlight on those little hoofs. I slipped, by half inches, across the hay, narrowing the distance between us until she was backed into a corner. I was six feet away from her. She laid down and began to push never taking her eyes off of me. A nose appeared between the hoofs. A very big nose. A correct presentation. The hoofs were larger than I had thought, she couldn't get the lamb out. His head was still inside. His hoofs and muzzle were out. The lamb cried. The ewe stood up. I lunged, grabbed her hind legs. Stood twisting her up into the air and back down on her side. She kicked. And kicked. I ducked. Held onto her upper most hind leg with one hand and reached downward and pulled the lamb out with the other. A very large eweling. I dried it with some straw. Her mother licked her clean with an intensity I'd grown to expect. I grabbed the lamb in my arms and walked quickly to the hay mow entrance, the mother butting me as I went. I opened the door to the bridgeway, the ewe barreling into me. The three of us went out on the icy path to the lower level of the barn, the mother roaring, if a sheep could roar, at me as I went. We squeezed through the narrow door of the barn. Together. I opened the gate to the lamb center, raised the gate to the only empty jug. Slipped the lamb inside as the ewe tried to knock me down. Again. And slid the gate closed after she went inside. A fortuitous instance. Several fortuitous instances.

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