I think I’ve told you before that I grew up on a small farm and when I married, I married a farmer. We raised beef cows, feeder cattle and had quite a few sheep some of which we use to show at the fairs. We also had a couple of horses for riding. There was corn for silage, corn for the crib, hay fields, wheat fields and soybean fields too. We had a couple of turkeys that basically served as watch dogs. They were so grumpy and cantankerous you didn’t want to get within 20 yards of them or they would chase you in an effort to thrash you. No Thanksgiving table for these two. This must be where the phrase “tough old bird” came from.
Most of our friends and neighbors were farmers; heck basically the whole AREA was farm land and the area was also host to several Amish communities. Let’s face it; we were as rural as you can get! That is not to say that we were hicks! We knew how to have fun and kick up our heels. There was always a neighborhood bid euchre party some place, or an old fashioned belling after a wedding. (Am I pulling your leg or what??) WE EVEN WENT SNOWMOBILING IN SOUTHERN LOWER MICHIGAN!!! THAT was when we actually had winters! One winter for about 4 days, a snowmobile or a long legged horse was the ONLY way you could get from one farm to the other.
I know I am making myself sound very, very old…but I’m not! This was only about so many years ago! (Maybe I AM old and I just don’t realize it yet??!!) Sure, things were a lot different then, but we still had fun. We’d go to bars and drink, dance, tell off color jokes. We’d have parties (including a keg of beer and lots of wine), spend the afternoon playing softball, and carry the party on into the night. And I’ve got to tell you, there isn’t anything much worse than having to do chores the next morning with a bad, BAD hangover.
Where is all of this going, you ask??? I needed to set it up to tell you about some friends of ours who moved from Chicago to our farming community. The hubby originally WAS from the area but the wife was a true Cicero Avenue transplant.
At this particular party, Rita had partied hard…like everyone else. She was not accustomed to farm life, farm animals, farm terms…you get the picture. This time she wanted to know HOW you sheared a sheep and “Why do some of the baby sheep have long tails and some have short tails? Are they born that way or what?” We told her that we would all show her how to shear a sheep but we knew she wouldn’t even want to KNOW about the tail thing. Even I avoided being around when it came time to dock lambs tails. Out into the field we all went (minus any shears, which Rita didn’t even notice). We asked her which sheep she would like to shear and of course she picked out the biggest one in the flock. Her reason?? MORE FUR!! Not, MORE WOOL!! MORE FUR!!
“The first thing you have to do is tip it over. Just push it on over. No, Ya gotta get him up on his butt.” (The FIRST thing she had to do was get it to stand still! HA!) She must’ve “chased” that ram around and around the flock for 15 minutes and she finally got him. “OK!! I’ve got him!!! Can someone hold him so I can tip him over??” She hung on to that “fur” for dear life as the ram decided to jump, buck and run…all in that order. Now, sheep are not known for their intellect so it wasn’t long before the others in the flock joined the hullabaloo. They had no clue as to why they were all blatting, jumping, and running but, as a group (AKA flock), they decided it must be something they were supposed to do. Pretty soon, there was a regular sheep rodeo and Rita was right in the hub of it. She finally had the sense to let go of the rams back and landed with a big THUD. Please remember that this field was full of sheep 12 hours a day, so it obviously was full of sheep poop too.
Rita had sobered up some and the sheep dung all over her clothing didn’t help her mood any. She told us that she had learned a couple of things from her first and last farm experience. First; Sheep are damn heavy, Second, sheep fur isn’t as soft as it looks plus it stinks, Third Sheep are stupid animals that ought to be shot! She no longer cared where wool came from and, according to Rita, “The only thing cute about sheep is the little sheep.” We couldn’t stop laughing. The more we laughed, the more her family tree came shining through in her verbal communication.
The rest of us observed that one of the larger sheep was charging on a dead run, head down and coming directly for us. We couldn’t tell if that horrible noise was coming from the charging sheep or were WE all screaming??? If you’ve never witnessed a cluster of inebriated farmers and their wives running from a shrieking sheep, you’ve missed out. Most of us made it over the gate but Rita and one of the other hubbies both fell before they got to the gate. Keep in mind; we are all still laughing and holding on to our sides….except Rita and the hubby who are both lying within inches of the gate. At least the rest of us had the good sense to wait until we got on the other side of the gate before we collapsed to the ground (still in hysterics). We never figured it out; Was Rita and Bob playing dead and hoping the ruse would work or did they trip and fall down at the same time, same place?
Mama sheep ambled on over and blew some sheep snot all over Rita’s pretty black hair. After all, it IS rather difficult to charge after someone if they are not running. It was at least another 5 minutes before the Mama lost interest and she and her baby went back to the flock….which was not to far away, watching and waiting to see what they were supposed to do next!
It was a very long time before Rita could laugh about the whole unpleasant incident. The rest of us had enjoyed the day immensely..except the smell of Rita and Bob.
Before I leave this story, I do have one more livestock story for you (at least just one FOR NOW). As soon as I graduated, I got a job in a local bank in the accounting department. It was audit time. One of the auditors approached me with a ledger and a confused look. He told me he was going over loan documentation and wanted to know about this collateral. I told him I’d try to assist him, but that was not normally my area. He said “What is an ee-we? This farmer has listed 21 ewes as collateral (again he pronounced it as ee-we).” I couldn’t help but giggle as I told him that was pronounced as USE and a ewe is a female sheep. He laughed, looked sheepish (sorry, I couldn’t help that pun) and thanked me…and asked me not to tell the other guys.
Our New Normal
4 weeks ago