That Wasn’t Supposed To Happen


THAT didn’t go well.

There I was, a middle schoolish city girl standing at the crest of a hill in a dusty Texas pasture, feeling nervous and rather foolish.

If they come your way, just make noise and wave your arms and try to look bigger than you are. 

Those were the instructions my mother gave me before she left to take her own position in the field as our family was gearing up to herd my grandparents’ sheep into a pen in the corner of the pasture. My job was to help make sure the sheep followed the correct path to said pen while Papaw and Uncle Daron rode on four-wheelers behind the flock to steer them in the right direction.

So if they come toward me, I’m supposed to yell and do jumping jacks and that will somehow accomplish something useful. Got it.

But I felt less than confident in my ridiculous-sounding role and prayed to God that the sheep would bypass my appointed section of the field altogether.

I watched as the sheep did exactly what I now know that sheep are wont to do: they ran everywhere except where they were supposed to go. Round and round the field they went – sheep in front, two-legged creatures jumping and waving and motioning all around them, four wheelers behind and circling to try to get them under control.

This was going well.

Terror seized my heart when I saw that the flock had turned and was running straight towards my hill. I froze. A hundred sheep were barreling at me and all I could think to do was spread my arms out beside me in a sumo wrestler pose as my pitiful attempt to follow directions.

They didn’t even check their speed. Big shock. I’m pretty sure some of them even snickered.

When I saw that my skillful demonstration wasn’t working, I pulled my arms into my body, closed my eyes, and tried to take up as little space as possible in an attempt to avoid death by trampling, an unfortunate end to my existence that I was pretty sure was now imminent.

But much to my surprise, they ran right past me and didn’t so much as brush against my clothes. I was left breathless and watching in embarassment as the flock galloped onward toward some other more useful farm hand who checked their course in the proper direction.

No thanks to me, the sheep eventually got penned and I added sheep herding to my list of vocations NOT to pursue. And God in heaven laughed and put farmer’s wife next to my name in His book.

Our daughter Faith is already more adept at farm work than I was at 30, though her size sometimes holds her back. At ten years old, she has more good intentions than her pounds can support.

She was helping dad feed the sheep out in the pasture one evening, carrying her pail of grain to the black feed troughs out in the tall grass. If there’s one thing sheep will cooperate with, it’s the grain bucket. When they hear the grain shaking in the pail, they come running. At top speed, and without the best of manners.

Andy watched her walk to the feed pans with her bucket and the sheep jostling around her in pursuit, so he went about seeing to their other needs. While refilling his water pails, he suddenly heard a squeal. Looking back toward the feeding area, he saw sheep but no Faith.

She had disappeared. Puzzled, he scanned the rest of the field and, seeing nothing, started toward the sheep. All 20 or so heads were jammed down together greedily consuming the coveted prize. But as he approached, Faith popped up from the middle of the bunch.

What happened? Andy asked her, with a twinkle in his eye.

They pushed me over! I fell right into the feed pans! she replied dramatically.

Are you okay?

Yeah, I’m fine. She shrugged her shoulders, retrieved her pail from the throng, and finished pouring grain into the empty troughs.

Mom, I have a story for you to write about, was the first thing I heard about it afterward. And she hasn’t shied away from taking on the task again, either.

We might have a future farmer’s wife in the making. We’ll see what God’s sense of humor has in store for that one.

When I think of a worthy farmer’s wife that I hope to emulate someday, I think of my grandmother. Much like me, she worked at a desk by day and assisted my grandpa on the ranch by night. She has countless stories of laughably impossible situations into which she was thrown with no instruction manual.

Like the time when Papaw had just left for his day job at the post office, and she was at home supervising the kids and vittles and livestock. While working in the kitchen, she happened to glance out the window and saw that the pig had gotten out of its pen. She hurried outside to see what she could do about it.

When the farmer is away, the farmer’s wife will make a way.

She coaxed that pig back toward the pen and tried to scheme up a way to get it back over the fence. Apparently there was no gate and the pig was too heavy to simply lift up and over. This was no small task.

She lifted and pulled and wiggled and hoisted and eventually got the pig’s back two legs over the top of the fence. She paused to catch her breath and observed her predicament. He was so big that his back legs were above her head while his front two legs rested on the ground.

Now what?

She realized she was not going to get this porker back over the fence. Fortunately, their pig was quite tame so she decided to let him roam about the yard — she just kept an eye on him until Papaw got home to do the heavy lifting.

When you’re beat … you’re beat.

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