One Wild Ride

“Where IS everybody?!”

Uh oh, I thought.

I jumped up from my chair and trotted toward the back door after I heard Andy’s loud footsteps and near-yell halfway through what had seemed like a very average summer morning. Noah put down his guitar and Faith poked her head out of the bedroom.

Didn’t you hear me calling you? Andy asked, obviously out of breath and bothered about something.

The kids and I looked at each other and shook our heads, confused.

I was in the middle of the yard calling for help! Didn’t anyone hear me?

Now we were feeling sheepish. We had not.

I groaned inwardly. This had not been a good day for Andy so far. While making his coffee that morning, he had looked out the kitchen window to see a lamb with its head stuck through gaps in three different fences and pieces of equipment. Who knows how long it had been there or how it had even managed to get into this position.

He threw on his clothes and ran outside to help. The three-month-old lamb was stuck tight. All Andy could do to get him out was cut the fence, a very last resort for this type of scenario. That meant he now had another task to add to his already very long list.

Repair front pasture fence.

A short while later at chore time, Andy discovered the sheep he had just brought home from pasture had sheared their mineral feeder completely off the wall of the main wooden alleyway in the barn. In its place was left a large gaping hole and another new task:

Patch alley wall.

On his way to the pig’s pen, he found Noah chasing chickens around the yard. Again. Chickens love to dig holes in the dirt and sit in them (see my take on this practice here). Ours had apparently been digging near the fence and ended up tunneling an escape hatch. So this was scribbled down next.

Fill in hole under chicken fence.

Knowing the length of Andy’s fuse by the tone of his voice in this very short exchange of words in our kitchen thus far, I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what new catastrophe had struck.

…what happened? I asked, reluctant, after an awkward pause.

A sheep got out while I was feeding and I had to chase her down. And he told his tale.

Dolly, one of our yearlings, managed to sneak out through an open gate while Andy had his hands full of hay. He watched her silently though not entirely calmly while shutting the gate and formulating a plan.

He quietly lifted the shepherd’s hook off its nail inside the barn and went as fast as he dared to the corner of the building. Peeking around the corner, he spotted Dolly on the edge of the garden and she spotted him. Creeping with the utmost patience, Andy made up the ground between them and squatted down in front of her. He held out his hand and called her name. Being a fairly tame sheep, it seemed like she wanted to come, but she was spooked and jumpy from being alone in her new surroundings.

After a couple of minutes, Dolly put her head down to nibble some weeds and gradually ambled around, turning her back to Andy. He made his move.

His hook darted out and snagged Dolly’s back leg. But while he tried to pull her toward him, he was being shaken like a flag in a hard wind as the sheep convulsed her leg in a panic. If you’ve ever watched a Mutton Busting event at a rodeo, you know something of what happened next.

Mutton busting is a parent favorite. Bang! goes the gate and out comes a child clinging for dear life to the back of a sheep who immediately takes off running wildly across the dirt floor of the arena. The idea is for the kiddo to hang on for as long as possible and not cry.

I’m not sure if Andy cried or not, but he did hang on for quite a ride. hat sheep shot out from his grasp and galloped, jumped, shimmied, reared, and wrestled her way across the whole length of the garden plot. Andy grabbed hold wherever he could and refused to let go. The only thing different from the mutton busting you might have seen is that this rider was finally left clinging not to the sheep’s back but to the underside of her belly.

Sheep will calm down if you can get them on their back, and that’s the move Andy was trying to maneuver on a bucking bull. When the ride was finally over, Andy had managed to reverse Dolly’s position so she was lying on her back on top of Andy who was lying on his back in the dirt.

Here, a new item was added to the top of the list: Get this dang sheep off me!

This was the point at which Andy had tried calling for help. He shouted our names over and over again through our open windows, and received no response. We were oblivious to the rodeo happening in our own backyard, which we now regretted this scene would have been much more entertaining!

After some seconds of weighing his options of which there was only one he sighed and muscled his way back onto his feet while keeping Dolly in her backward repose, and then deftly escorted her back to the pen with the rest of the sheep.

If there were wild applause or a belt buckle to be won on this day, Andy would have been the undisputed recipient of these worthy awards. Instead, he heard an apology from his family, a quick pat on the arm from his wife, and clumps of dirt and grass to pick out of his pants the rest of the morning.

This was not his first rodeo  and it will not be his last.

Giddyup.

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