He was all of 98
Sheepie came to live with us on our farm by a river when he was a big sheep, but less than one year old.
He was hand reared in town by a friend of ours and once he got too big for their backyard, they decided he needed more space and to be a ‘real sheep’. Sheepie only ever though he was a person before then, so his move to the bush was not an easy transition.
When he arrived he was put, as sheep are, immediately in the paddock. The house paddock to be fair, which means he could see the house, had a lovely trough that was cleaned daily and was hand fed lupins daily and various scraps from the house. None of these things mattered though – he was certain he did not belong in a paddock and bleated desperately from the corner every time he saw movement at the house.
But, sheep are sheep. And he although he didn’t like it, he had to find his mob.
The thing is, on our farm by a river we didn’t have sheep anymore. In the hey day we’d had 15,000 sheep and all the work that went with that, but now only the ghosts of the sheep long-past haunted the 8-stand shearing shed. The only remnants tufts of wool hooked on the fences and the smell of lanolin and sheep shit so strong it seemed unbelievable it wasn’t fresh. And dust. Dust that sometimes blew relentlessly when the south wind blew to remind us what happened to the topsoil in the dry, hot summers when the sheep roamed.
In the house paddock we had kangaroo’s (Matilda, Misty and Chelsea) and an emu called Herbette (once we realised Herbie was a girl when she laid a big greeny black egg). Sheepie thought the kangaroo’s looked more like his kind (because his kind were people remember) so once he stopped pining in the corner he trotted off after the roo’s . They HATED him. One look and the roo’s started hopping – fast – away from Sheepie.
Sheepie though was a sheep with the amazing inbuilt mob mentality that sheep have and he was not one to give up easily. So he ran – as fast as his little woolly legs would carry him – after the roo’s. Herbette, not to be outdone and with a very small head (and thus I suspect a fairly small brain), started running too – as fast as her three-toed dinosaur legs could go. Not to catch a mob or be a sheep or a roo, but just because.
And so, there was our mismatched menagerie of creatures, unsure who went with who and desperately trying to maintain the norm.
It didn’t settle for a while, but Sheepie puffed up first. Herbette, being a bird of natural curiosity, came over to check Sheepie out, and soon it became apparent that the emu and the sheep would go together. The roo’s didn’t want to be part of their mob, but they did accept the unlikely black feathered and white woolly duo.
And everything was as it should be.
Every year though Sheepie had to be shorn, which created another ridiculous spectacle of fully grown men (and sometimes women and children) chasing one sheep, to get one sheep into the 8 stand shearing shed, to shear his wool off. And every year, without fail Herbette would freak out when her sheep returned without his wool, all white and small, and would run away from him while he chased her with his inbuilt mob mentality. And after an hour or so, all would be as it should be.
Sheepie died yesterday. My Dad sent me this poem via email to let me know….
I knew that he was gone
From a distance at sunrise
He had appeared unwell
So it came as no surprise
His appetite was over
His breath came as a puffer
I thought to put him down
I did not want him to suffer
In human years I reckoned
He was all of ninety eight
His used by date had gone
And age had sealed his fate
His emu mate was watching
As I carted him away
We turned another page
On this hot November day.
Here’s to Sheepie and the ever-changing funny little menagerie of creatures who go together in the craziest of ways.