How To Get Along With Others

Can’t we all just get along?

The rams are at it again.

As you may remember, we brought on a second breeding ram this year, and we deputized all of you, our readers, to help us name him.

That you did, and we enthusiastically welcomed Earl to our flock.

But not everyone in the barn was enthusiastic about Earl. Andy the ram, for one, was not. (Andy is our existing breeding ram, and he came to us with that name from his former owner. So now we have Andy the ram and Andy the farmer. We’ve just embraced the awkwardness.)

The thing is, you can’t just throw two rams together in a pen and walk away, or your two-ram operation may be very short-lived. They would use their genetically hardened heads to ram each other until only one is left standing.

Disaster. Death. Doom. You get the idea.

It’s kind of like what happens when you put boys in green uniforms next to boys in blue uniforms on a football field in Michigan. Territory and testosterone are nearly-untamable forces in the animal kingdom, too.

First, we had them in adjoining pens, simply out of necessity. But one afternoon we discovered that Andy the ram had nearly busted through the metal gate separating them, putting a round, head shaped indentation in the metal fence panel. (That makes broken gate #2 for Mr. Ram.)

So, being the first-generation farmers that we are, we knew exactly how to handle this situation. We Googled it. 

To be honest, that is what we usually do, but this need called for more serious tactics. We asked around among our sheep farming friends.

An older farmer told us about a surefire plan to introduce a new ram into your flock, and this method was confirmed by a larger group of sheep owners that Andy asked as well.

The whole proposition was a risky one, but what choice did we have?

The idea is to put the two rams together in a small enough space that they can’t do serious harm to each other while they work out the pecking order. They’re going to push and shove and kick there’s no preventing that but at least you can keep them from getting a running start at it.

It’s the farming version of that good ol’ sibling get along t-shirt. Were you ever subjected to this form of relationship therapy/torture by your parents? You know, where you and your combative sibling are forced side-by-side into an extra-large white Fruit of the Loom in order to teach you how to get along.

I feel like the entirety of the US of A could use a giant get along t-shirt wrapped around its coasts right about now.

I don’t actually know if this strategy works with humans: my parents never resorted to this tactic for me and my sister. The opposite actually proved most effective for our relationship. She moved out to go to college, and we started getting along better immediately. (Which proves who was the problem in the equation, obviously.)

On the other hand, when it comes to dealing with my own personal dramas, I’ve found that being in close quarters can be a very effective therapy: I’m talking about those internal battles that we all have to reckon with at some point or other. Families have a way of putting us nose-to-nose with unwelcome problems that we’d rather not acknowledge, much less try to solve.

The love we have for these sometimes-troublemaking people forms the fences that keep us in the relationship. We stay, we deal, we overcome, and we make the best of sometimes difficult situations.

For our rams, we had no other tried and true formulas in our vast realm of experience to pull from, so this was Plan A. And if it failed, we wouldn’t need a Plan B, anyway.

So we put them together nose-to-rump, and said a prayer.

At first, they took sideways pot shots at each other every few minutes, and we had some concerns that the pen wouldn’t hold them. These were fairly vicious blows Earl kept getting knocked hard into the wooden gate. (As a yearling ram, he is only about half Andy’s size, after all.) This lasted for several hours.

We were not prepared for what we discovered when we checked on them one last time before bed: the two of them were lying down next to one another in an apparent truce. Maybe this was going to work! We turned out the lights and prayed we would find two live rams in the morning.

And we did. I am happy to report that the rams are now getting along just fine, and we’ve now moved them into a larger pen where they only occasionally butt at each other. It may be that this strategy is worth pocketing away for our future farming endeavors. And maybe it’s a strategy we humans should embrace when facing our own personal giants visible and unseen.

There’s no disputing that our get along efforts have paid off. The rams are getting along so well that we often find Earl lying down with his head on Andy’s back. Precious.

Except that they both still take cheap shots at Andy the farmer whenever his back is turned.

Maybe we should lock the farmer into the ram pen, too.

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