I was raised on a sheep farm in southern New South Wales. My father had more than 3,000 sheep, all of which had to be drenched, shorn, moved from one place to another etc. Guess who had the task of helping to do this? That’s right… Me!
I hated sheep with a passion as I thought they were one of the most stupid creatures put on earth. The only thing I liked about them was if they were in a nice juicy roast or cottage pie.
Most school holidays Dad would arrange shearing time so we could help out. It was unpaid labour, if you will. “Do not leave any lambs behind,” he would say at lambing time. As cute as lambs are, they were the bane of my life back then.
I would ride my horse out to the designated spot, round up the sheep and lambs and continue to drove them back to the home yards. Pretty soon a lamb would lie down in front of me. Once a lamb lies down, it is very difficult to get it moving again. So difficult in fact that the only way was to put it up on the horse, in front of me. It was quite a task for a 12-year-old to lift a lamb onto the horse’s back. Mine was not a pony, it was a 15-hand high horse.
Once the lamb was in position I then had to mount up again and continue to drove the sheep, while at the same time holding the lamb. Next minute, there was another lamb down. Oh well, two I could manage up there with me — one on the front and one behind. Luckily the horse was well trained and knew what to do as my hands were full of lambs and none spare to hold the reins.
The real problem started when another, and then another lamb went down. The only thing to do then was for me to walk, very grudgingly I might add, with the five lambs laughing at me from up on the horse’s back. Sometimes the walk was a few miles, the weather was usually hot and there were no mobile phones back then so calling for backup was not an option. By the time I arrived at the yards I was usually plotting all kinds of terrible things to do to those lambs. Of course I never did mistreat them.
Dad was always happy that I had not left any behind and praised me on my efforts. I vowed and declared to never have anything to do with sheep when I grew up.
Yet, last year I inherited a 16-year-old sheep. ‘Old Baa’ is his name and he is kind of cute. Then just this past Christmas I saved a young lamb from starvation. ‘Little Baa’ I call her.
I do not have to drove these two anywhere. Someone calls in to shear them. They live in luxury, getting spoilt with lots of good tucker and treats.
I guess sheep really can be oka animals to have around when one does not have to chase them everywhere.