1.11.2009

The Sheep Makes the Shepherd

Tending farm animals connects you to them whether you want it to or not. And even though you don’t have them for companionship, they do indeed become your companions.

You greet them on your good days and your bad ones too. You consider their health and well-being every day. You understand what makes them suffer, gives them comfort and you know the games they play. To keep yourself from getting kicked in the ribs or rammed in the head, you get very smart about what upsets them. It’s a relationship, no question.

You also learn the unique personalities and even sheep have them. I have some boring types, some dumb ones, a few sweethearts and sillies, some are great mom’s, some like to bully, but one was really unique.

MotherTrucker was the soul center of this flock for the last 7 years. She 
came to us pregnant and was quickly singled out as being the largest of the mothers. We tried calling her Beatrix Potter but she was such a wideload that she was swiftly renamed Mother Trucker.

She nearly died that first year giving birth to quadruplets. I spent nights in the pen assisting the vet, my husband finally got her to stand and my mother pestered her into walking around the barn until her health resumed. Quads and a near-death experience, she was immediately legendary. She even made the papers.

As years passed, she had many more lambs and her lambs beget more. The year we were decimated by pregnancy toxemia her offspring kept the flock going. When I mourned the loss of so many animals her demeanor would say, “O.K it’s awful, but only struggle with what you can fix.”


If the salt ran short or the waterer needed cleaning she would holler at me until I fixed it. If the rest of the flock was hesitant about going out to pasture, she would lead the way. If a dog came close to the fenceline she would lower her head and threaten.

She was brave, stern, prolific, honest and generous with me.

When I was tired, weak or fearful, I would find her staring at me, like a wise grandmother waiting for the child to get through her snit.

She was patient but unsympathetic - reminding me that I don’t get to control everything and that I’d better get used to it.

Her last days were like her early ones. Down in the pen. But her energy and her demeanor never wavered. She met death with pragmatic elegance. Even if she couldn't stand, no barn dog would get near her food. She let me ease her pain as she coped with the body's unwillingness to let go. She waited for me to come to the barn one more time and then she went.

Like Mozart, she’s buried in a pit. Her bones will go back on the pasture in her final act of giving. She doesn’t have a tombstone, but if she did it would read like this:

Mother Trucker
Great relationships are special but not easy.
Pay attention and I’ll help you manage.
You don’t get to control much – get over it.
I’ll show you what grace is.
I’ll show you how to die.


I get a lot of benefits from my animals, greatwool, hilarious moments, feelings of accomplishment. But this animal taught me how to be a good shepherd and a better human being -even more
blessing from the barn.


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6 comments:

Maga said...

Jules, thast was very beautiful, poignant and heartfelt.

Maga said...

Jules, thast was very beautiful, poignant and heartfelt.

Tonyia said...

A lovely tribute. Thanks for sharing.

Becky Utecht said...

I agree, what a great post about a great ewe. It had me in tears remembering my own "Mother Trucker" ewe and her final days. I loved the photos too.

KnittingsMyBag said...

Wow, what a beautiful tribute. Thanks for sharing. I was really touched.

Apifera Farm said...

Reading this for the first time, beautiful. She and Rosie...two of a kind. Hard stuff, this shepherd stuff, mixed in with so many good times though, just like any life, heh?