Saturday, March 19, 2016
My father once told the story of an orphaned lamb who came to live at his family's farm. My aunt added further details to the story, both of which are combined in this retelling.
The Whites had a sheep farm not far from my grandfather's farm in Stoneboro, Pennsylvania. One of the White's ewes died after giving birth and Mr. White needed to find a home for the lamb. He asked if the Doyles would like to have it. Of course the children were delighted and their father, Gust, agreed. It was a sweet, gentle, male lamb they named Sambo.
There were four or five children who helped care for the lamb. The youngest was Billy, perhaps just three or four years old at the time. Billy was little, the lamb was little. It all worked out great.
As lambs will do, Sambo began to grow. Little Billy would hold his hand up and Sambo would run into it, sometimes knocking him down. It was a fun game and everyone saw the humor. Sambo continued to grow. The children would gather to go to school and Sambo would come up behind them, lower his head, and butt one or the other of them. The children thought it was both fun and funny. But by the time Sambo was half grown, his butting was not so playful. He began to butt little Billy in earnest, sometimes surprising him from behind and knocking him over. It was no longer funny. The adults realized that Sambo could hurt Billy.
Sambo went back to the White farm from whence he came to live a life of grazing and, probably, butting the other rams. Perhaps he became a wether.
Of course they took care of the lamb, feeding it from a bottle until it was old enough to be weaned. My little grandchildren loved the little lamb which followed them everywhere. Little Olivia wasn't talking much at the time but would call "baaaa" and the lamb would come running.
After it was weaned they gradually transitioned it to live in the pasture during the day, but kept it enclosed at night to keep it safe from coyotes or other predatory animals. After a few weeks it spent most of its time in the pasture. When they walked near the fence the lamb came running, remembering the ones who had taken care of it.
Then one day when they walked near the fence the lamb didn't come. My daughter was unable to go into the pasture with the two little ones, but when her husband came home in the evening he found the little lamb dead in the field. There were no marks on it. His guess was that without the guidance of a mother, the lamb had eaten a plant that was poisonous. How they grieved for the little lamb they loved.
My only personal experience with living sheep is seeing them at the state fair where I love to bury my hands in their wool and then have a whiff of lanolin. I also have experience cleaning, dying, carding, spinning, and weaving their wool. Wool is not as easily accessible these days as it was when there was a wool co-op in the area so I haven't done any spinning for a number of years.
If you visit Sepia Saturday 322 this week you can read others' experiences with sheep, or rabbits, or chickens, or who knows what other animals.
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