Sunday, January 06, 2008

It was a Dark and Stormy Night

It was a dark and stormy night and I didn't even bother counting my flock. What stupid sheep would stay out in weather like this? So, I never hear Lamb Chop's small voice cry out. I doubt I could have heard her baa over the raging creek, the rain banging on the metal roof of the barn, or the thunder and lightening adding to the mayhem.

Except for the tempest outside, I slept soundly. It might have been different if I had realized I was missing one of my charges, and my littlest one at that. As I walked over to the barn the next morning, surveying the fallen limbs and scattered leaves, I heard something. I looked toward the creek below our loafing shed. The dogs turned to look at the same time. What was it? Peering more closely, I saw the soggy shape of a small white lamb, caught by her wool in the blackberries. Lammie was encased in heavy vines and she had been there all night.

By habit, I carry pruners in my coat pocket. I tend to cut at things along the path as I walk to and from the barn. This morning, I used my pruners to cut Lammie free from a tangle of thorns as there didn't seem a way to pull them out of her wool. Once free, she wobbled a bit on her feet so I picked her up and carried her into the barn. I tried to pull the remainder of the vines from her matted wool, then rubbed the lamb down with a towel to dry her off a bit. She is a tiny thing and when I put her back in with the flock, one of the larger ewes pushed her up against the manger with a strong head butt. Guess Lammie figures pretty far down in the pecking order. Okay, last.

I thought that would be the end of it; however, several days later, now more watchful of the flock, I noticed Lammie did not arrive back at the barn with the rest of the girls. The days were still short and I hadn't thought to go to the barn until almost dusk. Once I had bedded the sheep and horses down for the night, I picked up the flashlight, called a dog, and walked out into the rising gloom. I checked the first spot I had found Lammie, and then other areas near the barn, finally walking across the bridge to the far field. Cougar stalking territory! I headed into the closest woods and thought I heard something. A little farther in, I caught the reflection of Lammie's white wool. Once again I snipped her from the blackberries.

After this happened two more times, I locked her in the barn for a week just for a little peace of mind.

Lammie is back out with the flock these days because daylight lasts longer and I have more time to find her. We went for quite awhile with no mishaps. Then, she almost died because of how she wound herself up in the swamp grass until she was upside down. I had a heck of a time cutting her out! She couldn't stand so I threw her across my lap like the cowboys in the movies throw calves over their saddles and drove her back to the barn. Within 15 minutes of being right-side up, she was eating hay as if nothing had happened.

Just this week, I pulled her from the blackberries once again, after freeing her sister caught in a bush in a different pasture! This time, Lammie, truly looked like the goat set in the trap for the velociraptors in the Jurassic Park movie. She was under some trees in the back pasture, right up against the hill. Gives me the creeps just to think about it. Her sister had been crying out loudly in that distressed sheep baa. Lammie was standing quietly, knowing (did she really know?)I would eventually find her, but her sister had made enough noise for the both of them. I clipped her free and she ran to the barn, as I trudged behind her wondering about retarded sheep and whether I had one.

The way I figure it, Lammie will be lucky if she sees her first birthday because there may be some night when I can't find her. She is half the size of the other sheep, with a big head, round belly, and short legs. For a sheep, she doesn't seem very smart. She certainly isn't fast. I hope, with spring coming on in a month or two, the new grass will help her to grow and flourish, to become strong enough to pull out from the blackberries. If not that, maybe she will learn to stay away from those wicked bushes all together. I won't hold my breath, but I will be sad if she meets an early death. She's kind of cute in a stunted lamb sort of way. For now, I will keep the battery on the flashlight charged and hope the only thing out there that catches her are blackberries!

This photo is NOT one of Lammie, but shows how lambs can get wound up in the blackberries so tightly they need clippers to get free. This lamb is also about twice the size of Lammie.

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