Life Lessons and Lamb Poop

4-minutes-old“And that is another great example of how there are so many different ways to make a living.”  My grandfather used to say that.  He’d had his share of different careers – mechanic, draftsman, lumber yard manager and more that I can’t remember.  We’d be playing Yahtzee, visiting about someone we both knew, and he’d marvel at how the world was changing and people were finding new and interesting ways to make a living.

Today the kids and I got to see a way of life that hasn’t changed much.  A dear friend invited us to see what goes on during lambing.  It was 39 degrees with low gray clouds that  just started to release snow when we pulled up to the old barn.  There were sheep everywhere, and lambs anywhere from two minutes old to a couple days old.

I wasn’t sure how Jen and Will would take to the whole thing.  It was cold and muddy and smelly and wet.

They jumped right in.

They could hardly wait to scoop up these newborn lambs.  They got to bottle feed the bum lambs – the ones that are rejected by their moms.  It requires a thick skin to do this for a living – you can’t possibly save all the rejected lambs.  I thought we’d end up with a car full of new pets.  It can be cruel, but the process is so labor-intensive and exhausting, that it doesn’t leave much time for tears over the sickly ones.

I talked to Tracy about how she does this.  She’s a mom, with three kids who returned to school today.  She was wishing they were still around to help.  There are shots, bottles, and warming lights to tend.  There is endless pacing and walking and sorting and checking and barely time to eat lunch, let alone wash hands before taking a bite of her sandwich.

Her face was flushed.

Her hair was falling out of her ponytail.

She had poop and iodine and milk and mud all over her hands and coveralls.

All I could think was, “I want her job.”  She was consumed with keeping lambs alive.  She was consumed by the process of life.  She can’t be bothered to check for text messages, or count twitter followers or blog hits, or worry whether her kids were disappointed with what the Easter Bunny brought them.  She was probably out in the mud counting lambs on Easter morning.  She doesn’t have time to kvetch about a lousy ex-husband.   She could care less about making the perfect cup of coffee – as long as it comes hot and often.

turn-of-the-century-barnI was watching these sheep birthing their lambs, and thinking of my own children and labor and delivery.  The sheep were definitely quieter and more mannerly than I was.  I was awestruck by how these lambs are birthed into a corral of mud and grass, and in a few short minutes they are on their feet, suckling from their mothers.

I remember after both my kids were born, I wanted to add the doctor and the nurses to my Christmas Card list.  I had so much respect for these people and their chosen professions.  They work to bring lives into the world, and then they go home and check their email and argue with their kids.

I kept snapping pictures and reminding myself that we were really only 25 minutes from our house.  It felt like we were in a different time and place.

Just then a 4-wheeler came into view with three smiling, dirty, laughing women spilling off as they made the muddy corner. One of the women was the doctor that had delivered Will and then, four years later, Jenny.  She had recently moved to Kansas, and came back for a two-week vacation to help her friends during lambing.  I got to re-introduce her to my taller, talking, muddy babies.

Thanks, Annie, for a Truly magical day.lamby-pie

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  1. You, my dear, are so welcome.
    I’m sure we both could have a job there in a heartbeat, if we wanted.
    Your writing of today’s events, is magical. You TRULY have a gift.
    Love you

  2. Annie is right on the money. This was fun to read.

  3. I just re-read this and loved it again. I didn’t click on the Truly link the first time. Dave was sitting here when I clicked on it today. “What in the hell is that you’re looking at?”
    “It’s Truly, Montana.”
    “There’s no such place as Truly, Montana.”
    “Well, it’s here on the map.”
    “Hm-m, let me see that.”
    Dave’s aunt and uncle ran a ranch on Truly Bench, and Dave worked there a summer or two when he was a kid. Turns out Truly, Montana, doesn’t have a zip code, but it’s there on the map.

  4. Woo Hoo!

    It’s not often we get the chance to spring somethin’ new on Uncle Dave! ;)

  5. Pat, who were the people on Truly Bench? Bet I know them…. :)

  6. Pat,
    Babe and Jim?

  7. Yep, Babe and Jim. Dave was a real handful as a kid. I’ve told him I think his parents happily shipped him off to the farm whenever they could so they’d have a break. But he LOVED it. Lots of stories about summers with Babe and Jim.

  8. My parents bought that farm from Jim and Babe and I remember riding along when they brought in the land check a couple of times a year. Old Homer lived in the tar paper house until he died, I think he was an Uncle of Babe’s?? Wow, what a small world…. :)

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