You could say I live in cattle country. Actually, it’s wheat country … farmers proudly boast of the highway signs that announce our county as one of the largest wheat producing regions in the nation. When it comes to livestock however, you are most likely to see cows and horses in pastures … and here and there, a few sheep are scattered about… usually for County Fair or 4-H projects … rarely more than a half dozen or so. Oh, and llamas and alpaca’s … we’re seeing them around more and more as well … but this is a blog about sheep.
Large flocks of sheep are not the norm, so My Guy and I were impressed when we rounded a curve and met with this view.
The sight compelled us to let up on the gas pedal, roll to a stop, and climb out of an air-conditioned car into more-than-warm heat to watch and … even more, to listen. Listening is the key here … these guys could ratchet up some noise … bleating … bawling … noisy children vying for attention between gulps of grass.
An odd thought occurred to me …
Sheep have been maligned.
Yup. It’s those darn “sheeple.
” Sheeple”. With political tempers flaring these days, just about everyone, it seems, is labeled a “sheeple” … the dig is meant to suggest that one doesn’t have a mind of their own. I think people really mean to call their opponents “lemmings” but instead it became sheep … you know, those mindless sheep.
However … trust me … sheep have minds of their own. These guys did. It took three sheep dogs and a hawk-eyed shepherd in a golf cart to keep these baaaadies in line. They had all kinds of ideas about where they wanted to wander and several were clever enough to find a way to that greener pasture along side the road … on the wrong
My brother raised a lamb for a high school FFA (Future Farmers of America) project, and I tell you, that little lamb was clever. He found a way to unlatch the gate of his pen and wander across the street to my grandmother’s back door. I don’t know why, but she fed him cookies (may be why he made weight for the showing), and that little guy remembered those cookies. Every chance he got, he escaped and made his way back to Grandma’s house. He butted the screen door with his head until she answered. Pretty smart, if you ask me.
Sheep are clever, useful (for wool), and cute. And tasty … for those who like lamb chops … but I won’t go any further down that road!
Did you also know that sheep are loyal and tend to have friends? I grew curious and found several interesting articles about sheep. Check out this one. Looks like I’m not the only one to feel that sheep have been given a baaaad rap. (Sorry … it’s hard to resist stupid puns!)
The individual personalities of sheep stood out to me that afternoon.
“Listen to all those voices,” I said to My Guy. “They’re talking to each other.”
Sure enough, it seemed like scores of conversations were transpiring amongst the flock; melodic voices, gruff voices, pleading bleats, sharp reprimands, complaints, humored tones, bossy ones. I was certain that a group near the road was gossiping about the ewe that had slipped through the fence and was happily chomping on grass untouched by any of her comrades.
“Greedy,” her friends seemed to say.
“Just wait! That shepherd dude is about to sic one of those hyper dogs on her,” another retorted.
Sure enough, the shepherd rolled up in his cart and with the help of one of the dogs, had her hopping over the fence pronto and back to the herd.
Listening to sheep chatter, I was reminded of the Bible’s word picture … a sheep know a shepherd’s voice, especially a good shepherd’s There’s another side to that … a shepherd knows the voices of his (or her) sheep too. They are as identifiable as a room full of kindergartners would be, similar, but certainly full of individual personalities.
Modern sheep are bred to not have horns, thus they are not as well suited to protecting themselves, but there was a day that could fend off just about any enemy/predator with sharp horns. They throw a pretty vicious kick so aren’t entirely without protective instincts. Still, sheep are vulnerable, particularly to predators like wolves. They need some protection; guidance is a good thing for sheep too. They’re stubborn enough to wander off until they are in over their heads and fat pickin’s for a starving wolf.
Maybe we disdain “sheeple” because we don’t like the idea that humans might be just as vulnerable as our little, wooly friends. Humans seem pretty convinced that we don’t need anyone to tell us what to do. Not sure it works like that though … something to ponder, for sure.
Share your sheep facts and stories in the comments. I bet there are some great ones out there.