Thelma and Louise are friends of mine. They have been living at the farm for nearly fourteen years. They are sheep. When they were four months old, I put them in the back of my SUV, looked at them and said, “You must be Thelma and Louise, ‘cause this is your last ride”. Never saw the movie, didn’t have to, everyone tells the ending.
What an amazing journey for a person who grew up across the street from an industrial park and spent twenty-two years in Chicago to have sheep as neighbors. The journey has not been without its harrowing moments. When Thelma got gangrene mastitis the veterinarian who came to check on her said put her down, most don’t survive. Putting down a sheep is done with a gun. By now Thelma had gone through two pregnancies and I had learned the value of keeping family units in tact. It makes for happier sheep and the mamas and grandmas can teach the young ones, making my work a bit easier. Thankfully a wise elder veterinarian told me if you are willing to give her four shots, four times a day for a while, she may survive. I did just that in that bitter cold January with a flashlight in hand until the day she looked at me with those big eyes that said “if you prick me one more time I am going to deck you.” And so I learned. I learned that green grass was all they needed and clean water everyday and that moving them around to cleaner pasture kept them from the worms that cycle every three weeks or so. I learned that there was no need to feed corn; they stay plenty fat and much healthier on grass in summer and hay in winter.
Although they do get a bit of corn in the spring when I cut their wool. I use scissors, because I learned that neither they nor I are happy with tying them up and electric clippers. Oh, and when I learned that Thelma and Louise had their tail bobbed (cut short) I promised them their offspring would never have that happen to them. They need those tails as subsequent lambs have taught me.
With mutual care and love we have carried on. Yes, it has been mutual. These two grandmothers have taught me so much about respect. They have come to me as I cried and have listened to me as I cursed and have helped me to see life’s simplicity just a little more.
So it comes to no surprise that they are still the friskiest, most in your face, ‘I want hay now’ of the lot. Louise must have heard about the buffalo at Standing Rock, because she has taken to this immovable posture when I ask her to leave the hay room. I mean immovable. No matter what I do, no matter what I did in the past that worked, she does not budge. And then I have to laugh. I break down laughing, because I love being shown how ridiculous I am. Of course grandmother, you want to stay and eat some more. Who am I to rush you… so my morning coffee waits a bit and I smile at her determination and grit and know that I recognize in her what is in me.
Thelma has always been a bit more reticent, but none the less determined and she has these eyes that tell you everything her words would if she could. When I come in the late winter to sit with them, getting them used to me being so close and cutting their wool, she is always the first. She comes to me and lets me scratch her neck. As she melts into the feeling, slowly the others come around to see what is happening. She proves to them that it is safe, that I am safe and on we go.
Now there are still a few who are not eager to have their wool cut. And it shows, some with two years of wool and counting…but I am determined to win them over, time and patience permitting. Letting kindness win.
Knowing how I love these friends, you could have knocked me over with a feather to learn that people have been feeding skittles and other left over candies to their cattle instead of corn or hay – for decades. And “science” has concurred that this is ok. My friends, this is not ok. When you abandon your humanity in even the smallest ways, you lose so much. When consciousness and conscience are abandoned, no amount of excuse will bring you peace. If this is the new normal, keep it. I want none of it. How we treat one another and, yes, that includes all of life and all of matter that surrounds us, defines us. You can profess all the faith in the world, but if your heart is full of ignorance your actions will reveal the truth. Find other ways, my friends. Find other ways, but do not sacrifice the gifts of love and kindness and clarity that are your birthright and bring you joy.
That’s all for now, I must go and be with the sheep and Beauty, the mule, who is proving he likes their company and is trying oh, so hard not to have them run away from him. But that is another story.
Thanks Margaret for the grammar help. Not one of my strengths…