Daddy bought “me” a flock of sheep when I was ten years old. There were about twenty ewes and a ram. They resided in the sheep shed, of course, and had the run of the barnyard and part of the grassy field north of the barn that Daddy had fenced for them.
I learned there is more to raising sheep than shepherding them and watching them eat grass. A truck pulled in with a big sheep dip tank. The sheep, who were filthy, were pushed up a ramp and into the dip tank to destroy parasites, and clean their wool. They looked scared and were bleating as they swam to the end of the tank. I could see why, because the sheep dip was black and smelled awful!
It was fascinating to watch the professional shearers who then came to cut the wool off the sheep. They clipped fast and close! The wool was cleaned, combed, and sold. When lambs were born in the spring, I imagined growing rich as my flock multiplied and we had more wool to sell. The lambs were so cute and fun to play with.
Then I discovered that the feisty ram of the flock would charge my fluttering red jacket when I waved it like a bullfighter. I maneuvered him onto the barn floor, with the haylofts and lofty ceiling as my bullfight arena. “Olé!” I shouted, imagining that I was a bullfighter, as the ram put his head down and charged through my waving jacket. He charged unseeing with his head down, and ran into the barn door, breaking off one of his horns. My “Olé” faded into “Oh no!” Then I made a mistake. I didn’t say anything to my parents.
A couple of days later, Mom said to me, “Daddy wants to know what happened to the ram’s horn.” I explained my bullfight “game,” and nothing more was said. A week later, when I came home from school, the sheep were gone. I asked Mom, “What happened to the sheep?” “Daddy thought you weren’t old enough to take responsibility for the sheep,” was her reply. Nothing more was ever said. Daddy’s discipline was never confronting, never punishment. He simply corrected the situation in which I had made my “mistake.”
Looking back, I realize now that the sheep were really intended for me, and not a family venture. I can’t imagine how Daddy must have felt after all the expense and work he invested to start the sheep business for me, and then I was too immature to care for the sheep.
Imagination is wonderful and exciting. But it has to be balanced with common sense and consideration for safety for animals, and for people.
“Baa Baa,” said the sheep,
“My fleece is white as snow,
I like to lie down in the dirt,
Everywhere I go.”
“I find the dirt around the barn,
And that is where I play.
I like to roll around in dust,
Until I’m dirty gray.”
“The boy would like me clean and white,
But I don’t think that way.
I’d rather lie in dust and dirt,
So this is what I say…”
“Baa — Bah!”