Posts Tagged ‘Sheep’

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“Most people want to be circled by safety, not by the unexpected. The unexpected can take you out. But the unexpected can also take you over and change your life. Put a heart in your body where a stone used to be.”
― Ron Hall

Sheep, placid, easy-going and yet they can be as dumb as a fence post if you want them to go somewhere.  A friend once referred to a group of people who didn’t have an individual thought for themselves as “sheeple”. He was referring the “follow me anywhere as long as one of you are going somewhere attitude”.  Not very generous, but unfortunately it can apply to people who apparently are no longer thinking for themselves.

I’m sure you’ve seen the group mentality somewhere. If you are trying to give a seminar to a group like this it’s a long hard day’s work. If you are fortunate it will only be one day’s work. Believe me, the last thing you want to think about if you have a group like this is that you have th same group to face in the morning. Ask a farmer, I’m sure they have lots of tales to tell.

Yet that is not my sorry tale.  I wish it were.

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Many years ago when I was working as a uniformed police officer, I had worked a double shift.  In fact that is more than an understatement.  Being one of the very few police women at the time willing to work all those unpleasant late shifts, and wanting to gain experience from what occurs during those shifts, I found myself frequently being recalled back to work.

I didn’t mind, I enjoyed my work, as strange as it may sound to some. I felt I was doing some good to the community by trying to protect them from the undesirable element who felt free to relieve them of property, life or limb.  It sounds noble, but at the time it was simply a truth, for me at least. So being called back to work after barely an hours sleep was worth the discomfort.

Out of the previous two and a half days, that is three normal evening shifts which had run into overtime and being called in both nights, I had barely had four hours sleep. That would have been generous. It is very hard to unwind after a busy shift and even more so when you are working a lot of extra hours.

So in the wee hours of a Sunday morning in mid winter, I was wending my weary way back home along the back roads. Even in Queensland, mid winter and close to several creeks, it can be quite chilly and fog was swirling quite thickly in places. The heat caught by the bitumen roads simply increased the fog. I had chosen the back roads for the simple reason that it was a shorter route than the main road.

It was blissfully quiet, just the purring of my little Volkswagen as it hummed along the dark road. I was already looking forward to a hot drink and a few hours sleep.  Suddenly there was a “bump-bump” as my car went over something in the road. Stopping I couldn’t see anything, the fog was swirling in my path behind me. Carefully pulling into the side of the road I got out with my torch and walked back along the road.

A black sheep, looks beautiful doesn’t it? Unfortunately not when it is in the middle of an unlit road with fog swirling around you.  Dead as a doornail! Did I check for signs of life – well, it wasn’t moving and didn’t rouse when I approached it. Kiss of life – I don’t think so! For the life of me I couldn’t think why there would be a sheep in this particular area – it wasn’t a farm area after all, it was, if anything, semi industrial. There just happened to be a short stretch of roadway with a few houses along it.

I felt awful. I felt like  a murderer. Okay, perhaps not that bad but I was sick that I had run over this poor sheep. There was a house nearby which had a few windows showing lights in them.  So, gathering my courage and embarrassment I walked over and knocked at the door.  The conversation was short.

Me, “Umm, do you happen to own a black sheep by any chance.”

Middle aged man, “Oh yeah, Blackie, have you seen him?”

Me, ” Well, yes, it appears I may have run over him on the road.”

Man, ” I see, well, not your fault. He’s got out again and loves sleeping on the road at night. It’s warm you see. Bound to happen sooner or later.”

Me, “Oh, I’m so sorry, what do you want me to do?”

Man, ” Don’t worry about it, I’ll see to it before the kids get up. You just on your way home then?”

Me,”  Yes, been a long night.”

Man, “Well, don’t worry, off you go, can’t be expected to see a black sheep on a black road now can  you?  Cheerio.”

With the door closed in my face, (and I was wearing my uniform), I was at a loss as to what I should do next. Should I move the sheep? Should I fill in a report? (Shudder).  The door reopened and the conversationalist appeared with a large bag.  “Oh, still here? Not to worry, I’m moving Blackie now. Run along then.”

The sun was beginning to make its weak appearance. I was suddenly hit with a wave of exhaustion. Walking back to my car I was wondering if it would start. I mean it’s only a Volkswagen, not some heavy-duty car. How would I explain to a tow truck that I had killed a sheep and needed towing?  Fortunately my little car started straight away and I went home. I wont say sleep came easily and I was very circumspect whenever I drove down dark streets thereafter.

Not my finest hour.

© Susan Jamieson 2013

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This tale takes place about fifty years ago, a tad before my time. I can assure you it’s a real story and I promised not to use true identities as the star of the story is still with us I’m happy to report.

One hot summers day our young stock man, 30 years of age and very handsome, had been mustering his sheep all day. They had been taken up to the shearing shed to be crutched. Now I thought crutching was just clipping around the nether  regions, but apparently it is used to refer to “topping and tailing” the sheep.  Another term for it is  “wigging” and “crutching”. So, clipped around both head and nether region.

Now I’m trying very hard not to laugh at all this information, for a city slicker the mind was just not able to cope.  Come to think of it there are a few Judges that could do with wigging and a crutching or two might bring them into line, but I digress.

He had helping him his two, very well trained sheep dogs, Major and Darky and was riding his best stock horse, Blossom. After a long and tiring day he was moving the sheep back to the paddock and he was looking forward to a nice cup of tea and a bite to eat.

At that time there was  quite a bit of trouble with brown snakes in the area, nasty bad tempered creatures. Definitely to be avoided.  As they were traveling back he heard an odd sound near the horse’s front hoof and looked down. Blossom had picked up a King Brown snake with her hoof as she walked forward and it had wrapped itself around her leg. He could hear the snake whipping back and forth as she slowly walked along. A very good stock horse.

image from bushbelles.blogspot.com

So our stock man dropped the reins of the horse, which told her to stand and as he dismounted the snake slithered off into the grass. Over his shoulder was his trusty stock whip. He was pretty good with his whip and it was the best method to stop a snake before it could get close to you. Since this one was about six feet long and rather angry at it’s ill treatment he wasn’t about to take any chances with the dogs running around. The farmers lose more dogs to snakes than anything else.

He shrugged his whip off his shoulder and as he walked slowly forward let it trail out behind him.  Searching the grass in front of him he was suddenly startled to hear a slithering behind him! He whipped around to see, not the brown snake but his stock whip slowly trailing over a dry saffron thistle, for all the world sounding like an angry snake slithering after him.

image from http://www.arkive.org   King Brown Snake

Well that was enough for him for one day.

Looking a trifle green and feeling a little sheepish (I couldn’t help but include that) he gathered his reins and set Blossom on her way back to the home paddock after the sheep.

It was a good day. Sheep, all 500 had been wigged and crutched, Major and Darky avoided the snake, as did Blossom and the stock man got to ride home, pride a little the worse for wear but able to tell the tale to his family. (I hear tell he said, “It frightened the sh*t outta me!”)

As a point of interest the Western Brown snake is a shy snake and will avoid human contact. The Eastern or King Brown is very aggressive and will go out of their way to attack anything which moves near it, even more so during mating season.  As such the farmers cannot afford to take chances if they are seen and have to deal with them in the safest way possible for livestock, human and animal.

I swear it’s a true tale as tall as it may sound.


Cheers, Susan x

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