There were seven sheep to wash, shear and groom before our grandkids Graham and Addy took them to the fair. Grandma and Grandpa knew how long and grueling the day could be. Even we didn’t know how frustrating, aggravating and panicky it could become.
It was a hot July morning, not 100 degrees F in the shade yet, but heading that direction. A young high school student, Norman, was shearing. The rest of us were prepping and grooming. My job was trimming hooves.
Somehow, the “best” sheep got saved for last. Not necessarily best in terms of quality, but far and away the leader in orneriness, squirreliness and downright obstinateness. Yet surely Molly, a 110-pound Southdown ewe, couldn’t cause too much trouble.
We washed Molly, dried her and put her on the shearing stand. Norman was duly warned. She stood reasonably well, until she didn’t. Suddenly, she kicked, danced and pranced. I steadied the stand and tried to calm her.
Norman recounted how they once attempted to shear a ewe that flipped the stand so many times they finished her on the ground. Thanks for the confidence, Norman!
Molly calmed down for a while, and then let loose another bucking fit that beat the first one. Norman persevered. Finally, it was time to trim feet.
“I’m not going to risk trimming on that stand,” I said. “She could go bonkers again.”
We have a sheep basket. Norman volunteered to help. Basically, it’s two curved metal poles with netting in between. Hook the top over a board fence, back the sheep to the lower edge, and tip her into the basket. Trim feet while she relaxes.
OK, that’s the theory.
Norman backed her up against the basket. She fell backward, and I began trimming.
But Molly didn’t stay quiet. She squirmed and kicked, feet in the air. Somehow, I made it through all four feet before she went “spazo” — a new word.
“I’m done, Norman. Tip her out.”
Norman complied, she toppled out, and I grabbed her halter.
“Uh oh,” Norman said. Never a good sign.
“Where is that blood from?” he asked.
“Dang it, she ripped her ear,” I replied. I realized her ear tag was missing. It was not only her flock tag, but also her scrapes tag. No tag, no fair.
Norman saw something white. Sure enough, it was her ear tag, still intact.
“What are we going to do?” my wife, Carla, wailed from the other stand while grooming a lamb.
“Ashley can call the fair people and tell them what happened,” I said. Ashley is our daughter. She called.
Norman was cleaning Molly’s bloody ear. Suddenly, his eyes lit up.
“Mr. Bechman, the ear didn’t rip all the way. It just ripped enough that the tag popped out in one piece. Maybe we can put it back.”
Yeah, right, Norman. You’re good at shearing, but you’re not a miracle worker.
Believe it or not, after a few minutes of tugging and pulling on the tag and ear, with me holding Molly, the tag popped back in. She had an ear tag again, even if it was in a sore ear.
“It won’t stay in,” Carla said.
Well, so far it has. Maybe it will. Stranger things have happened. Just ask me. That’s a fact!