Story by Cris Paravicini
By Cris Paravicini
A year has come and gone since Little Ewe was born and each day since that time, she peacefully follows the herd into the corral on the evening tide. Predictably, she is the last sheep through the gate as they trail away from the coming night and the hungry willow patch.
They see me waiting and rush ahead, spilling at my feet like a white, frothy wave - stirring the sour scent of oily wool as they grunt and push against my pant legs. A low rumble vibrates deep in their belching, fermenting bellies as they drop wooly heads like anchors into the snow, and they'll not lift them again until the last alfalfa pellet is inhaled. All the butterfat ewes feast - all but Little Ewe. She only watches and waits as the flock eats, then begs, then eats again as I'm coaxed into pouring the last, sweet, grain dust from the bucket. The herd has always answered my silent call in a rhythm as easily predicted as when the weary sun succumbs to the beckoning dusk.
Little Ewe's birth last March from a young, husky ewe was expected, but what Little Ewe was, was not. Her crib mate was a robust, perfect buck lamb, but somehow, the womb had forgotten that it held twins and nurtured only one. Nature had played the Joker and wasn't willing to re-deal the cards, so I held the curled-up little ewe lamb in one hand and pondered - Now, what am I supposed to do with ewe? Her mom was not troubled, though, and licked and mothered and paraded her offspring equally, proudly.
All the lambs of the herd blossomed and thrived - all - but Little Ewe. She simply would not grow. Throughout the spring, she was bunted and hooked, herded and harassed, then forgotten by all, but her mother. And each night Nature asked her to lie down nearest the hungry eyes of the stalking, panting willow patch.
As summer scampered across the valley, Little Ewe tried, but couldn't seem to fit into the daily buck and charge of the carefree lambs as they danced carelessly through the dandelions and clover, each day growing sleeker and fatter. She simply stayed on the outer edge of the herd at her mother's side - watching and waiting.
Passersby scolded me for fussing with her. "You need to get rid of that misfit. She don't fit in; ain't gonna amount to nothin'. Why, just look at that wool-blind face and that pot gut; and gawd's sake, those spindle-shank, toothpick legs. I'm telling you, she's a scar on that purty, little herd," they taunted. To me, though, she looked like a little marshmallow with a teddy-bear face.
It was nearly mid-summer when a mysterious fever crept through the little ewe, but she continued to tag along behind her mom, though she obviously was in pain. Then one evening, after she appeared to be rallying, I grabbed her up to tend to her illness and was horrified when all I held was two handfuls of dead wool. The fever had sheared every staple from her small frame. I tried to pat the wool back into place, so life wouldn't notice my mistake, but the hanks just tumbled to the ground, and Little Ewe just looked at me - as unsure of my next move as I was. All I could say was "Now, what the heck am I going to do with ewe?
I left her alone after that, and she continued to come and go at the back of the herd each night. What wool remained on her frame seemed to ride along, slipping back and forth like a dirty rug on a slick floor. Eventually, Nature re-seeded her and Little Ewe grew a brand-new coat.
All the fat, frisky lambs now are gone, dining at someone else's table, but since Little Ewe wouldn't make even a mouthful, peacefully still, she follows the herd, watching and waiting.
Tonight, she followed the others into the corral, again, but tonight was different as she pushed her little, pot gut and spindle-shank legs into the pile of pellet-gorging ewes and came up with her own hard-earned mouthful of sweet-pellets. And later, when the sheep bedded down for the night, Little Ewe laid down in the middle of the herd, where the hungry belly of the willow patch could not see her. Still, though, I can see her and I wonder - Whatever am I going to do with ewe?
|The Pearson Angus Ranch is located approximately 2 miles
northwest of Daniel, and 11 miles west of Pinedale, Wyoming. Cris can be
reached by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyrights: Photos and page text content copyrighted,
Cris Paravicini, 2000. No part may be reproduced without permission of
the author/photographer. Page graphics copyrighted, Pinedale Online, 2000.