One of the blessings of this life is that every day presents some form of opportunity to learn. This week, among other things, I got a somewhat painful lesson about the wisdom of wearing gloves when trying to wrangle sheep, and a reminder that you shouldn’t wear your good sunglasses when painting a barn.
We have a good friend a few miles from here who is single and somewhat elderly. When her husband died of cancer a little over a year ago, she was left to run the 10-acre homestead on her own. She’s quite capable, but when it comes to wrestling the Dorper sheep she’s collected, she needs a little help. Since I like to eat lamb, and since working trades is one of the standard ways to get stuff done out here in the boondocks, I help her out wherever I can, and she reciprocates. This year, she’ll set me up with a nice lamb to slaughter for Christmas dinner.
Thursday, I took the day off work to work around the yard, and our friend asked if I could come help her immunize her flock and castrate two young males. I’d never done that before, and the opportunity to learn a new skill sounded kinda fun (evidence that I’m firmly out of my right mind, but I’m happy in that state). Everything went well for the first few. We simply poured some grain in a trough set back into a pen, let several wander into the pen, closed it, and went to work. Unfortunately, after the first round, they got the hint about what we were up to and decided to run for it.
Since they weren’t going to go down easy, it became a game of trying to corner and wrestle them to the ground long enough to get the job done. It turns out I’m pretty good at it, because I was able to work through the herd quickly enough without much help, much to the surprise of our friend. That’s when I got the lesson. We had one sheep left, and she was the most skittish of the bunch (she’d just watched us castrate and immunize her two little boys). Because she was so cagey, I figured I’d slowly work her into a corner before making a grab for a leg to flip her over and pin her down.
I managed to corner her, or so I’d thought. She found a small gap about six inches wide between a fence and a tree with knobby bark. I knew it was there, but I didn’t believe a sheep that fat could fit though a hole that small. I grabbed hold just as she made a break for the gap, and she dragged me with her, scraping the back of my hand along the bark as she went. Heavy gloves (you know, the kind I wear all the time when I’m working in the yard) would have been a godsend.
Aside from messing with sheep, I spent the rest of the day finally painting the chicken coop and barn. Liz said she wanted a red barn. Wow, did she ever get one… You can’t miss it. I’ve been scraping little red flecks of paint off of my sunglasses for two days now. If I haven’t learned by now to not wear nice things when working outside or in the garage, I doubt there’s much hope for me.