Desperate times call for desperate measures. I have too many sheep. I can't afford to feed them all. I can't find homes for them. These are not culls!
American Idol was a beautiful, yearling ram, with excellent conformation, awesome horns, nice fleece and a friendly, yet respectful, demeanor. He deserved a chance to live and be a flock sire. That's why I kept him over as a ram lamb.
This year, I had even more, nice quality ram lambs that did not sell. Beautiful ram lambs. Sweet boys. No buyers...
Last Friday morning, I got up before dawn to load up Idol and three of the ram lambs and a yearling ewe. I put them in my trailer and made the hour drive to the nearest Livestock auction barn. My heart was heavy and guilt enveloped me like a dank, mildewy cloak.
I've never taken sheep (or any other animal for that matter) to "the sale barn". I had no idea where to go or what to do when I got there. After asking several people for instructions, someone finally told me to back my trailer up to one of the loading docks. Back my trailer up? To a specific target??? Yeah, right...
After some nice lady kindly backed my trailer up to the loading ramp for me I went to open the door to let the boys out. I felt like I was sleep-walking in a bad dream. Interestingly enough, I was unable to open the back doors to my trailer. The lock appeared to be stuck. The nice lady came back to help me once again. She pulled. And pounded. And twisted. It wouldn't budge. Seeing the two of us struggling with the trailer latch, a man unloading calves at the next ramp came over to help. He proclaimed that the lock was bent. How the heck it got bent between home (where I closed it myself) and the stockyard is beyond my comprehension. But it was clearly bent and not about to open. By now a group of men had gathered around and was taking turns trying to muscle the bent lock open. They finally managed to break it off with a crow barn and a hammer. Exit rams. My beautiful boys. I just kept thinking: "These are NOT CULLS"!
Gemini ~ Zodiak's lovely black/iset, yearling daughter (the one with distinct "moon spots") was in the front of the trailer ~ in a separate pen. I opened the side door to get her out.
Gemini was a good sized ewe. Probably close to a hundred pounds. She hit me like a freight train as I opened her door. I managed to grab a handful of wool as she blew past me. I clung desperately to her wool and a hoof as she slammed me to the parking lot and drug me across the gravel yard. Fortunately, (for me ~ not for Gemini) a young man with a rope came to my rescue. We put a halter on Gemini and led her toward the ramp. About six feet from the ramp, Gemini slipped her halter and made good her escape! Now there was myself (limping slightly) and about 8 guys chasing this poor, beautiful ewe all over Lanesboro, Minnesota. We chased her for about an hour. Interestingly enough, Gemini didn't really seem to be frightened ~ just determined not to be caught. I, on the other hand, was completely aware of the fact that she was clearly, running for her life!
Up and down streets, through back yards and alley ways, past churches and gardens ~ Gemini led us on a tour of this lovely, Hillside community. At one point, I was trying to run very fast to catch Gem before she ran into the street in front of an oncoming truck. Apparently my mind can think faster than my legs can run because I ended up falling flat on my face (and stomach and hip and knees) directly in front of said oncoming truck! I remember thinking "this can not possibly be the way that I am going to die!". It wasn't. The truck was driving slowly and stopped with plenty of time. I drug my weary body off of the pavement and set off in pursuit of Gemini. After what seemed like hours (it was probably close to one) Gemini let me approach her and put a halter on her. I led her back to the stockyard (down a steep hill through pickers and vines and over fallen trees and rocks) where she was quite content to enter the pen, next to the boys. I went in with my sheep. I petted and scratched everyone. I apologized for failing them. I said a prayer and then I said goodbye.
I have to say, I was impressed with how clean everything was at the barn. The people who handled the animals did so with respect and were kind and gentle. None of the animals seemed panic stricken. Maybe I'm just trying to make myself feel better. I didn't stay around for the auction. They'll send me a check in the mail.
On the way home, I decided to try to make something positive come out of this day. I stopped along the side of the road and loaded up my Jeep and trailer with stones from rock slides to add to the rock wall I'm building by my new barn. I thought it would be a kind of "Tribute" to Gemini and Idol and the ram lambs.
I arrived home exhausted. And depressed. I decided to to take a nap. I had worked until midnight the night before and got up before dawn to have the sheep at the sale barn by 8. It was a damp and dreary morning. I wiped the blood off of my knee and climbed into my warm, snug bed. When I awoke, 4 hours later (!) I went out to see my flock. I decided to carry some of the rocks over to the new barn. I loaded up my wheel barrow and trucked them across the yard. They fit nicely onto the first layer of rocks that I had already placed. I went back for another load. I was tired and impatient so I put a few extra rocks into the wheel barrow ~ figuring it would save me an extra trip. It must have weighed 300 pounds! I managed to push it about 2 steps when I felt something "pop" in my right calf. The pain was excruciating. I figured I had torn my calf muscle and the only thing that I could think of was that I had to get into the house and get ICE!
It probably took me a half-hour to hobble into the house. I got an ace-bandage and wrapped an ice bag around my calf. I spent the evening sitting on my couch, with my leg elevated on a pillow and wrapped in ice. I kept thinking: they're not culls...
I guess I didn't actually tear the muscle. Must have just strained it. By the next day, I was able to hobble around a bit. I even managed to get outside and move the rest of the rocks! I needed the wheel barrow, to feed the sheep, so I took most of the rock out and just moved a few at a time. I was determined to make something positive happen from that horrible day. As I was placing one of the last of the rocks on my retaining wall (a big, heavy one), I didn't get my fingers out of the way fast enough and smashed my ring finger and pinkie between two large rocks. Once again ~ excruciating pain. I broke the finger nail about half way down into the 'quick'. I finally came to the realization that NOTHING good was going to come out of having taken those magnificent animals to the sale barn...
So, I accept it. It was a horrible thing. A desperate thing. But, for me ~ this year ~ a necessary thing. I still have too many sheep. But I will NOT be taking any more to the sale barn...
A big branch fell on my fence last night. The fence in the ram's pasture. I was able to remove it myself. Life goes on in the Bluff Country.
..."Don't worry, I'm still here!"