Tea Posted November 20, 2009 Report Share Posted November 20, 2009 I am afraid my mouth got dry when I saw those ewes. They hadn’t been sheared for three years and they must of weighted 300 pounds each. Tsu my little 9 year old niece looked up at me and told me gravely, “You are going to die.” The lady that owned them hurried over to me. “Ok…..park there……no over there……oh no not like that face that way.” Tsu said a quick prayer for me as we got out of Grandpa’s old truck with its film of green algae that covers everything on the island where I live. Gunny and Cap, our dogs, got out after us and Gunny’s eyes glittered hard as diamonds at the sight of those ewes. But the Lady who owned this farm…..said to me, “Oh no you cannot use dogs. My ewes hate dogs.” I noticed Tsu was starting the hints of a goofy grin. Helping me today was going to be the entertainment of the week. I thought back over my life and nowhere did I see signs pointing to -YOU WILL BE SHEARING SHEEP FOR MONEY. However, during the recession I was able to reach back into my youth and pull out a great gift. I had been taught to shear in high school. The other wonder was that there is a shortage of shearers. The slow food movement got everyone buying sheep I guess. I truly love to shear, but with the blades, not the machine. And the pay was pretty good. I got out my old leg crook from the truck. The lady looked at it and shook her head severely, “They hate Leg crooks, too.” So Tsu and I followed the lady whom I decided was an island eccentric. She called to the small flock with a can of grain and the ewes willingly waddled to her old barn. The wind rushed through the grass and fir trees with a pleasing sound. The air was just right, not too hot. The barn ancient hand sawn boards of old growth timber. She got the sheep inside and shut the door. I had learned from previous experience that if I couldn’t use my dogs the owners of sheep had to catch their own, themselves. So Tsu began setting up my blade washing can with its hot water from a thermos and touch of Dawn Soap. I got out my antique Blades, bought from a man in South Dakota where they had lain in their original wrappers for 70 years. They were the beautiful Burgeon and Ball as bright and new as when they were first made. Sharp as I could make them. I always sigh when I hold them. I was worried about upending these ewes. They were open and so fat as cannot be imagined. They looked like a pod of woolly beluga whales. It made me sweat just to look at them. Tsu was starting to giggle a bit. The lady then pointed to a little pen and farther off a tarp laid down, where I was to shear. This is when the sheep ran out a hole in the barn. They got down on their bellies and scooted outside like so many huge fat squirrels. The lady got another can of grain and blocked the hole with a barrel and got the ewes back inside. Now, I knew why they were so fat. “You know, my Cap is very gentle, I am sure we can get them in that catch pen very quietly.” “Oh no they hate dogs…….especially my Ram, Barney, over there.” I peered over a stall door that must have once held a draft horse. I took a deep breath. If these ewes were beluga whales. Barney the Ram was Moby Dick. Tsu stood on tip toe to peer over and her giggles escaped from behind her hand. The lady then tried to shoo the ewes into the catch pen. They escaped her like it was a simple routine task. This went on for ten minutes till she got one, caught it under the jaw and began pushing it from behind in that classic reluctant sheep pose. But the ewe had other ideas and twisted somehow and the lady was then riding it astride and as the ewe shot off she gave me a single desperate glance. But I had no dogs and not even my leg crook so I smiled and pointed gently at my watch as the lady rode the bucking ewe off to a far corner of the barn. Tsu was laughing openly now. “I like going with you to shear Aunt Tea.” “I am so glad.” I told her. It was then my brother Shon Man showed up. He lived close to this little farm and must have seen my truck. Turns out this lady was someone he was trying to date. Shon is tall and lanky and follows the artistic side of the family. He asked me. “What is she trying to do?” “Put them in that holding pen. “ I told him “Tea, why don’t you use your dogs, that’s cruel to just stand and watch.” He told me gravely. Then he sighed and added, “Isn’t she lovely?” Shon walked off to help his lady love who had fallen from her ewe and was brushing manure smears from her face. He reached his hand down to her and I could see it….the….whatever it is between a man and a woman that happens in the first few timid gazes of the heart. Tsu muttered, “Oh my gosh.” In a disgusted way. Shon caught a ewe and usherd it over to the holding pen, soon all the ewes were in there looking at us expectantly. Shon whispered to me, as he dragged a huge ewe to the tarp “Do you think you can hold them?” I said shakily, “Of course I can.” He handed the first ewe off and I pulled out my shears. There is a beauty in shearing, the sweep of the blades and the way the wool comes off in one piece. But this fat ewe, the wideness of her was straining my legs and it was if she could turn inside her fat. Her fat was slack. It was odd? I was shearing a giant woolly loose marshmallow. I finished her let her go, then Shon handed me another, he whispered, “I’m taking off my shirt, think that will impress her?” “Maybe…” I answered. Tsu dipped and wiped my blades for me. “ickkk…” She told her uncle softly. Finally we got to the ram. Moby Dick. He gave Shon an evil eye. Shon went in to upend the ram, smiling at his lady love. The ram braced himself as soon as Shon put a finger on him. They whirled around in the stall for a minute or two. Shon heaving and turning the ram’s head back. The lady telling him not to hurt him, as he was a very sensitive ram. The ram’s eyes narrowed a bit and suddenly in spite of his fat he came at Shon head down and smashed him into the stall door. The door flew open and the ram tore out and smashed through the barn doors and was now outside. Tsu looked at me. My little religious girl, and said, “That son of a b----!” “Tsu!!!! Where do you hear that language?” I exclaimed. She pointed discreetly at her uncle who was on the ground. Shon man got up from the stall floor his wiry frame polka dotted with manure. Some small pellets sticking to his forehead in a decorative way. He shot a smoldering fierce glare at his would be lover, and I could tell all of a sudden Shon’s view of her had taken a 90 degree turn and was running off as quickly as the ram. And then such a course of profanity came from his lips that Tsu covered her own ears. He got up and went promptly to the truck and let out my dogs. Gunny, the Marine got right out. Cap sensing disaster in the air decided to wait in the truck. Shon made a hissing noise at Gunny who worked close and mean and backed the ram up to the barn and then to the tarp. Where Shon then rubbed his hands grabbed the ram and upended him, with a super human rush of adrenalin... “I’m holding him, shear him!” He commanded. I sheared the ram in a record time for me. And creepily the ram baaed softly the whole while. Shon was sweating a lot and the little sheep pellets began dropping off of him. After we were done, the dust had settled and Shon had donned his shirt. He still glared silent and sullen as the lady gave him a small pitiful smile. She paid me and looked at us hopefully and was about to speak. I thought to apologize, give us some homemade jam or honey for our extra work. But what she said was this. “Now can I book you for next time?” Tsu covered her ears. ( This is for you dear boards. But it will be the last for a bit!) 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