A Sheep by Any Other Name

meeting-bobI stepped outside to breathe in the fresh cool air of an Oklahoma Indian summer evening possibly, maybe, kind of surrendering to fall weather. The sky held a hint of  blush still highlighting the horizon before the darkness settled in. It was peaceful. And it was quiet. Very, very quiet.

Too damn quiet.

What was missing was the serenade of our old ram. Every evening prior to this for the last decade, if you stepped outside within sight of the pasture just to the south of the barn, you would be treated to a hopeful…no, that’s not the word…a demanding, somewhat plaintive one-note song.

Baaaaaaaaaaahb. Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahb. Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahb.

Ok, when you attempt to say that, be sure to make the “aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah” part sound as if you are gargling when you say it. Then you’ll nail it.

This cry was so distinctive that said troubadour earned his name because of it.

Bob.

Ok, I would have typed it the way it was really spelled, but in print, well, you would have ended up saying “boob” in a warbling voice and…no. Nope. Wrong on so many levels.

But back to Bob.

On this evening, Bob did not call to me. Bob was not with us any longer. It’s simple really, Bob got old and needed to move on to the big pasture in the sky.

bob-baby

Baby Bob

I remember when Bob first joined the Tails You Win Farm family. He came to us via a friend who found a stray little lamb. Yes, a stray baby lamb. It was right around Easter time in the spring. Perhaps Bob was an overzealous parent’s version of gifting the kids a bunny (please don’t do this) or a baby chick (even more of a don’t do this!). Or perhaps poor little Bob just strayed from the safety of his flock and apparently met up with a not-so-sheep-friendly dog or coyote. Bob had some wounds, a sore, swollen leg, and he was scared.

Fortunately for Bob, he found a very sheep-friendly human and she immediately starting doing her best to care for him. Ok, the one thing she did wrong? She actually named him Lambykins. Yeah. No.

She also immediately started looking for a safe haven for Lambykins-soon-to-be-Bob.

So yadda, yadda, yadda (do I REALLY have to explain that Jim and I jumped at the chance to have a baby lamb join our four-legged family?) and tiny, scared Bob-no-longer-Lambykins was secure in our horse trailer and headed to the farm. At the time, we had a llama that would be the perfect woolly companion and protector for our dear little lamb.

Now, when I say “lamb” you likely picture a precious, fluffy, white little creature with big brown eyes and an undeniably innocent, sweet nature. That’s what I pictured too.

But Bob was different. He was a black sheep. And when I say black sheep, I mean it in every sense of the term. I think Bob could have been considered cute and sweet for maybe one month of the 120 months that he shared our home. After that, especially after shearing time, he looked somewhat like a prehistoric alien and we had to start using adjectives like ornery, stubborn, thick, and not-the-sharpest-crayon-in-the-box to describe him.

bob-and-scoutBob got rather big, rather quickly. And Bob was pushy. Especially at mealtime.He wanted his supper and the supper of every single animal in the barnyard. So, at feeding time, Bob morphed into a black, fuzzy missile charging from feeder to feeder, pushing even the biggest of our horses off their grain so he could nibblenibblenibble it up at an alarming rate. The horses would stamp, snort, bite and kick in protest, but Bob in his woolen suit of armor was seemingly oblivious.

I recall Jim and I commenting to each other on more than one occasion, “This can’t be good for him.” You see, sheep really aren’t supposed to eat horse food. Sheep are supposed to eat sheep food.

So we tried to sequester Bob at mealtime. We tried to convince him to eat his special sheep food. He, in turn, discovered how very hard the top of his head was and tried to butt us into the next county.

Oh. Hell. No.

Picture Nancy, with a feed bucket swinging like a medieval flail, yelling and chasing after Bob (perhaps with a slight limp after having Bob’s helmet head meet squarely with my hip joint) while threatening all means of bodily harm if he EVER did that again. For the record, the threats were empty, Bob evaded me with great ease, and we never cured him of his exceedingly poor mealtime manners.

Oh sure, we could have put him in a separate pasture. And we tried that. We put Bob in Jerry Swinefeld the hog’s pasture (nobody, not even Bob dare steal food from Jerry!). The result? Well, where there is a will, there is a way, and where there is a way, there is a Bob. If Bob wanted to get out of a pasture, he got out. Add to that the fact that when Bob moved into Jerry’s domain, Jerry was not amused and moved right out. Yes, 700 pound hogs CAN somehow crawl under a pasture fence. Who knew?

Jerry vacated his comfy pig pasture and took up residence in our front yard and in the shade of the trees alongside the pond.

You know. Loose. Able to amble over to see what was going on at the neighbor’s house.

Now we had a large ram and a really large hog on the lam.

Back to plan A. Good luck horses. Duke it out with him. We surrender.

Then there was the time that we presented Bob with his first round bale of hay. If you are not familiar with “farm stuff,” a round bale is a large – generally five feet in diameter and four feet wide – roll of hay. You set it out to feed groups of animals during the fall and winter. It’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet for pasture dwellers.

Jim carried the heavy bale into the pasture via our trusty blue ford tractor and set it down about 20 feet from Bob. Bob stood staring at this new feature to his pasture and instead of saying “hooray, lunch!” Bob screamed “INTRUDER!” as he reared up, tucked his chin to his chest, and charged head-first into the side of the 900-ish pound bale.

WHAM.

Bob rebounded off the bale and landed firmly on his backside. And you know what happened next? He repeated the charge. He landed on his ass-end again. And then he repeated this feat no fewer than 10 times.

Oh Bob. It’s food, not foe. Bless. Your. Heart.

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Young Bob and our mini horse, Trigger

All in all, I think we gave Bob a pretty good life. He had plenty of room to roam. He had horses who tolerated him, he had donkeys and one fine mule who protected him from the coyotes (because yes, there was that one time the coyotes tried to lure Bob away to certain demise and Ferris Muler saved the day).

Bob always had fresh water to drink. He always had shade. He had several bad haircuts to help him stay cooler (and no, we never did master the art of keeping his wool clean or finding ways to spin it into woven tributes to his life here). He had shelter in bad weather and cool breezes on beautiful days.

And he seemed happy. He liked to have that tough spot on the top of his head scratched. He liked carrots and apples. And when he surveyed me with his funny, alien-looking sheep eyes, I think I saw a flicker of affection from time to time. Maybe ours was a bit of a love-hate relationship, but love won out. I admit it. I think Bob would admit it too.

bob-and-nanBob was our first sheep. Bob was most definitely our last sheep. But hey, Bob, I’m sure glad YOU got to be our one and only. You were an experience from start to finish.

Now get out there and enjoy stealing from all of the other animals’ feeders in sheep heaven, you big woolly bully. We’ll miss you. We’ll miss hearing your name.

Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahb!

 

How to Move a Huge Hog That Doesn’t Want to Move. Riddle solved.

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Jerry…the picture of noncompliance.

Before I tell you the answer to my riddle from earlier this morning (if you missed out, you might want to read here first), let me walk you through the events that left me a tad battered and bruised, but victorious on oh-so-many fronts.

Ok, when I last shared with you this morning, I was looking forward to the prospect of going out to convince one wayward Jerry Swinefeld that he should not be living as a gypsy pig, he should move back into his comfortable digs in the barn. Behind a gate. Behind a fence. Two things I consider essential to responsible large hog/small hippo ownership.

I was pretty convinced that if I just went out, sweet talked Jerry a bit, maybe scratched him in all of his favorite spots (under the jowls and belly being the very favorite), and offered some past-the-point-for-human-consumption strawberries (YUM! A Jerry favorite), my big guy would just haul himself to his feet and lumber along with me back to the barn.

I was sure of it.

I walked over to the spot where I left him last night to find him still firmly, lazily planted in the brush, under the trees on the backside of the pond dam. He even grunted me a little “ah-ah-ah” good morning greeting. I felt this was a positive sign. Was Sir Never Miss A Meal a tad peckish?

I sure hoped so.

I sat down in the tall grass and brush beside him…tree branches hanging low over my head. It did not escape me that I was serving a little round of brunch hors d’oeuvres in prime blood-sucking, mini vampire meets mutant zombie territory. You might know them as ticks.

Since it was Sunday, I took the opportunity to offer up a hopeful little prayer…”Dear God, Far be it from me to question your wisdom. I know everything you designed has a purpose. But ticks? Really? If there is any chance you are feeling up to banishing them from the earth now and forever, I’d be crazy grateful. If that’s asking too much, just banish them from this immediate area, OK? Thank you, God. Amen.

I’m guessing I gave God a good laugh. And the ticks too. Nobody was banished this day.

Anyhow, I sat and talked with Jerry who was more than happy to accept my offering of strawberries. I scratched in all the right places. He closed his eyes and sighed in bliss. I showed him MORE berries in a nearby bucket. He drooled. On my leg.

I hopped up enthusiastically and said, “OK, let’s go to the barn!” And off I went, nearly skipping with optimism.

Jerry? Not so much. In fact, I am fairly sure I heard snoring from the underbrush and possible teeny tiny giggles. Damn ticks.

Ok. Plan…what are we up to here…I think C by now. I decided that Jerry was boycotting his pasture until Bob the ram was relocated. Plan C: Catch and move Bob.

Sounds simple enough, right? You would be wrong. Bob is not a fan of being caught. You can pet him, you can feed him, but put a rope on him? Yeah. Cute little rodeo time.

Lacking a dog in my entire pack with a clue as to how to properly herd a sheep, I was on my own. I took my “sweet talk the hog” course of action and modified it to the “sweet talk the ram” plan of action.

bob

Farm tip…when a ram holds his head down and eyes you like this, it’s best to not stay in front of him. The’re called rams for a reason. You’re welcome.

I whispered sweet nothings to Bob. I scratched in all the right places (SEE Jerry? You DO have something in common with Bob!). I used mad ninja skills to slip a rope halter around Bob’s neck and up and over his nose.

Ta da!

And now we lead the ram…we lead the ram…oh, the ram leads us in bucking circles. Ok, that’s fun too.

I finally got Bob to the barn and got the bright idea that I should give a couple of long spots on his hooves a trim before moving him to the donkey pasture and releasing him. I called Jim and informed him of my grand plan and asked him to bring the hoof snips to the barn.

When Jim arrived, I had Bob calmly tethered to a post in the barn. This was going really well!

I reached down to pick up a foot and Jim says, “Wait! Give me your phone!”

I look up to see a smirk on his face and a twinkle of mischief in his eye. Oh hell no, Mr. Gonna Hit It Rich On You Tube. Not today.

As you can perhaps imagine by now, Bob was not feeling cooperative about the whole hoof trimming scenario. Someone was going to get stabbed with hoof snips at this rodeo and I didn’t want it to be me.

Plan D: Make Bob lie down.

The easiest way to shear Bob, to trim Bob’s feet, to worm Bob, to do ANYTHING with Bob, is to get him down on the ground. He calms right down and somehow seems to think he’s stuck.

Let me interject here that Bob the ram is not the brightest Crayon in the box. In fact, on the MENSA scale of animal intelligence, Bob ranks on the low end of “bless his heart.” If you’re from any region of the U.S. where you believe y’all should be in the dictionary, singular and plural (all y’all), then you totally understand that.

Not in the mood to wrestle with a ram that is well past the cute little lamb stage, I proceeded (yes, with Jim watching and snickering) to make Bob lie down. You do this by standing facing his side and you reach under his stomach to pick up his front foot on the opposite side. Usually, if you pick that foot up and bring it back, he’ll just fold like a miserable poker hand.

Of course not today. So, I had his far front foot in my right hand and reached across his back with my left hand to tuck his back leg up and ease him down.

That was what was supposed to happen. What DID happen is that we both “eased” down, with a tad more force than I had planned, on top of my left arm.

The good news is that Bob was fine and securely down in the “bless his heart” stuck sheep position. The less-than-good news is that I found out I am not Gumby (younger people, look it up) and elbows are really, really only designed to fold one way.

I am a tough woman, but I will tell you I was in some pain. Oh, but Jim was watching and I was going to suck it up. No wimpy girl moment. No sir.

I did warn him that I might need to cry for just a moment (in case he wanted to do the right thing and look away…he did not), and then I channeled my inner Taylor Swift, decided to shake it off, and started trimming those hooves sticking out from that temporarily paralyzed ram.

Job done, I convinced Bob that he could, indeed, still stand up all on his own and Jim and I marched him from the barn to the donkey pasture—Nan playing the part of border collie, Jim in the part of shepherd.

I can’t say that the donkeys were happy to see Bob back. So if donkeys don’t care for you, and a hog can’t stand you as a flatmate…well, Bob…it may be time to have a little talk about hygiene or something.

Ok, Plan D accomplished, though it was not really the plan I needed to accomplish.

Plan E was to leave a tempting meal in the barn for Jerry, refresh and fluff up his bedding, and leave the gate open. Surely he would get tired of his little camp-out and decide to head home.

Yay Plan E! I would return to the barn after a few hours away to surely find Jerry napping happily in his bed. A simple gate to shut and all would be right on the farm.

I showered, de-ticked myself (nasty little blood sucking bastards!), did the grocery shopping, and headed back out to celebrate Jerry’s return.

Have you guessed? Have you? Yeah. No Jerry.

Plan F: Channel your inner Future Farmer of America kid and MOVE THAT PIG.

You’ve seen them do it at the county fair, right? Kids, little kids, are moving big hogs around with nothing more than a stick in their hand. Hey! I have a stick!

So I grabbed a long crop we keep in the barn and headed back over to Jerry’s nesting spot. In the grass. And brush. Under the low hanging trees. Where the ticks are.

No Ms. Nice Guy now. All business. “Jerry, get up, get up (tap with stick), get up!”

Holy cow, he got up.

I got behind him and started tapping. Just like the 60-pounds-soaking-wet kids at the fair.

“Go to the barn!” (tap-tap-tap his left side) “Go to the barn!”  (tap-tap-tap his right side) “Go to the barn!” (repeat) (repeat) (repeat)

What do you know? He went to the barn. He walked right into his pen and ate a bite of his welcome-home dinner and checked out his bed.

Plan F, I embrace you!

I learned a lot today.

1. You cannot convince Jerry that Bob is a pig in sheep’s clothing. No bromance there.

2. I still really hate ticks. They still really love me.

3. Elbows should only bend the one way. It’s bad if they bend the other way.

4. Ibuprofen is our friend.

5. You CAN move a 700+ pound hog that does not want to move.

I’m not really sure I answered my riddle. Sure, Jerry is back where he is supposed to be, but I didn’t find and repair his escape hatch, so we may be repeating this whole joke-on-me tomorrow. My hope is that with Bob gone from his world, Jerry will settle back into his happy routine of eat, wallow in mud, sleep, wallow in mud, eat again, sleep some more.

20150412_103901And me? Well, I’m giving myself an “atta girl” for tenacity today, and a “bless my heart” for trying to rearrange my elbow.

I can already see tomorrow in my crystal ball…”Hey Nancy, how’d you hurt your arm?”

It could be a long Monday. Hey Jerry…STAY PUT.

Riddle: How Do You Move a Huge Hog That Doesn’t Want to Move?

Jerry at the porch

Jerry on a previous walkabout.

Do you have an answer to my riddle?

No?

Shoot. Me neither.

This post could also be titled: When Good Pigs Go Feral. It all started after Spamela Anderson, our grand dam of the farm, passed away at nearly 13 years of age. This left Jerry Swinefeld alone in his pasture. I interpreted “alone” to mean “lonely.”

I may have been wrong.

You see, about a week or so ago, I moved Bob, our resident bachelor ram, into Jerry’s pasture. There’s some nice grass springing up, it’s a safe little pasture with access to roomy shelter in a section of the barn, and the coyotes tend to steer clear of the big hog…so that would afford Bob some security (he is not one tiny bit savvy and falls for the “follow me little lamb” line every time a coyote tosses it his way. If not for the donkeys and the mule Bob would have been a main course years ago).

Thinking like a human, I came up with the idea that Bob would be great company for Jerry Swinefeld. Bob would nibble grass while Jerry would luxuriate in his favorite mud hole. The two would nap side-by-side in the shade. The odd couple would share the spacious stall in the barn at night, snuggled in the sweet-smelling straw.

Paradise, right? Wrong.

The day I moved Bob to Jerry’s pasture, Jerry moved out of his comfy digs in the barn and dug a new bed in the farthest corner of his pasture from the barn. He would not come back to the barn, not even to eat. This is is a profound piggy statement because, well, it’s FOOD and he’s a PIG.

So I thought I’d give them a little time to work it out. You know…give them a week and surely Jerry would decide that Bob wasn’t such a bad roommate after all. Right?

Wrong again.

Jerry has upped his game. He up and moved out.

We’re still not entirely sure how a 700+ pound hog has managed to subtly slip out of a seemingly still intact fence, but he has. Now he has taken up residence by the pond, up against the backside of the dam.

And he is not budging.

Usually I can lure him back to the barn with promises of grand feasts (this means rattle a bucket with anything remotely edible in it and he’ll jump right up). But he’s not falling for it this time.

Bob seems concerned. He spent the night standing confused by the fence, staring at his wayward friend snoring on the other side.

So today I get to figure out how to convince Jerry to come back to his home…and I need to do this before he decides to head off to see if the neighbors might have anything interesting to eat. That NEVER goes well.

How do you move a huge hog that doesn’t want to move?

Well, I’m going to solve that riddle today. My first guess is that I need to move Bob back to the donkey pasture.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about Bob’s seemingly uninventive name after reading names like Spamela Anderson and Jerry Swinefeld? Well, he named himself.

Baaaaaahb. Baaaaaahb.

Stay tuned…this riddle is very likely to turn into a full-fledged joke.