back to three
To pass time I went into the pet store to buy biscuits and two cans of dog food for Jazz and Annie. (Consolation prizes for their late dinner.) Lamb, of course. As someone who's trying to become a shepherd in the 21st century—I try to support the sheep industry with every purchase I make. I stopped buying polar fleece (a dog hair magnet, anyway) a long time ago. I'm a wool-girl now. And whenever lamb is available for dog food, I always buy it. No part of me felt guilty walking back out to the lot to meet my actual lamb. The only reason their species is still around in America is because of products like the ones in my bag. Also: socks, sweaters, lambchops and such. I'm pragmatic when it comes to the animals that raise me and try to make them as much a part of my life (and in this case, my dogs' lives) as possible. We know each other's purpose.
Soon Sara and her husband Chris pulled up. The cab of the truck also held their three-year-old son Warren and a smiling big-eared dog named Jack. On the back bed was a truck cap jury-rigged for livestock transportation. The windows had been removed on one side and held wire mess instead. In the corner of the bed a small black ball was curled up in the corner. He was so much smaller than I anticipated. Just 24" tall and a light fame. His dark face and chocolate wool were strikingly handsome. His expression: panicked. I told him we'd be home soon.
After handshakes, hugs, and paperwork I placed Desperado in the back of the station wagon. He cried and bleated, confused about the exchange and the new vehicle. He instantly started to defecate all over the back seat. "Yeah. Get comfortable." I said. A sheep pooping on plastic lining in my car doesn't even cause for a change in inflection anymore. This is just my Thursday night.
I really need a pickup truck.
Des (name change possibly pending to Joseph or Tobias) slept in the back while the four of us headed back into Southern Vermont. Mike and Phil were with me again, and as far as human travelers go, were very patient. Phil kept Des from hoping into the front seat as Mike and I talked up front. The ride home felt quick. We stopped for pizza and left the lamb alone in the car while we dined from an outdoor porch. All of assumed he would remain in the back hatch, and sleep where he lay.
When I got back out to the car forty-minutes later he was standing in the front passenger seat.
It was dark and late (for a homesteader) when I got back. I knew the adult sheep weren't ready for a new tenet at 10PM so I placed him in with Finn. Finn was overjoyed. He jumped and play-rammed the new lamb with his horns. Nothing harsh or dangerous: kid stuff. But the new guy was bleating and crying and seemed to want nothing to do with frivolity. I left them alone with hay, grain, and water and hoped the clatter would calm down soon. By now the adult sheep, goat, and chickens were all carrying on. Soon the flashlight beam of my neighbor Roy was on all of us. We were like a gang of kids tagging a cement wall, up to no good and caught in the thick of it. He told us he heard the commotion and wanted to check out the scene. I assured him all was well and thanked him. I felt a small pang of gratitude for a neighbor who'd venture out into the dark Vermont woods to check in on a neighbor's stock. I made a note that I really owed him a pie.
All through the night I went out to check on him. I didn't get much sleep. Finn's horns had traces of dark wool on them but both of the little guys seemed fine. Des was shaken up. He stood in the same spot in the back of the pen all night, but Finn stopped trying to get him to play. The move from farm-to-farm is a lot for a little guy. He just needs to hold out in for a few more hours.
This afternoon he'll get to meet the big kids—his new flock. And hopefully, in time, become a member of Cold Antler, as much as anything else out there surely is.
Okay, time to head back outside and haul water. Looks like it's going to be another hot one. The coffee's almost done and the light's starting to stream into the hollow. The backyard needs me. I can hear it crowing.