When I was young, we were members of an agricultural organization named 4-H. It was not unlike the Boy Scouts, Campfire Girls, or Girl Scouts in that it was a year-round commitment. Sports teams have their seasons but 4-H was every day. We raised sheep and they didn’t have a designated time of year, but rather, reflected each season with the changes in their lives. They grew wool, needed shearing, we took them to county fairs to compete, they had a breeding and a lambing season. We lived in a suburban development, but relied on the generosity of an elderly farm couple to house our small flock. Twice a day, before and after school, we tended to the animals.
Sheep are not the most intelligent members of the barnyard. They are flight animals and are easily upset, at which point corralling any more than two is a chore. They don’t come when you whistle and view humans as little more than a separate species that provides for basic sustenance. Though we had a few through the years who showed promise, most sheep lose out to pigs for smarts and personality. Charlotte’s Web and The Good Good Pig come to mind as biographies of humble swine. I can’t think of one involving a sheep.
That said, I have always found something peacefully and calming about sheep. Their shape, even when freshly shorn, is soft and inviting. Their smell is warm, lanolin and straw. Their eyes are wide and inquisitive. When the chores were done, at the end of the day, it was so nice to lie in the stall and listen to them softly grinding their hay. They are content to be part of the flock. Sheep catch my camera’s eye; a field full of ewes and lambs on a country road requires a closer look.
The other day I was driving along, beating myself up mentally as I am wont to do lately. While berating myself about my sloth and laziness, my lack of ambition to return to the society of working folks, the flock, suddenly, I just had to pull over to the side of the road. My mental state crashed into depression and I just sat in a parking lot of an ancient factory. The sun was setting and I raised my gaze to the brittle leaves and warm bricks of the buildings.
That’s when I spotted it.