Monday, May 21, 2007

Baby Got Back

I knew I had returned to Nerd Country from New York City when I had my head almost shoved into a sheep's butt while shearing it.

Not 24 hours earlier I'd been breakfasting in a chic NYC deli on Broadway (scrambled eggs with tomato and salmon on foccacia bread, thank you very much), and yet at 10:00 on Saturday morning I found myself wrestling with Chubby the sheep. (The juvenile among you can now insert your own "Jeff got a Chubby while messing with his sheep" joke here. There now, feel better? Good.) His coat had not been sheared the year before, and it had gotten to truly Bob Marley-esque proportions, looking like some dreadlock-ridden Bubba Gone Wild. He was miserable in the heat, and the brutal 100-degree stretch hadn't even started yet.

So Annie got on Craig's List and put out a call for anyone willing to come teach us how to fleece a sheep. Taylor, a local high school student, answered and agreed to come out. Miraculously, Annie had a horse clinic to attend on the appointed day, leaving yours truly on sheep-wrangling duty. Luckily Chubby is pretty friendly, so between Taylor, her mom, and me we got him haltered and tied to a post in the barn.

Now, for the record, sheep don't much like being sheared. I can't blame them, the electric blades are kind of loud, and being tied up without a "safe word" isn't much fun. Plus, you know, sheep are pretty much born looking for a place to die, so they're scared of most anything. I don't believe electric shears resemble a cougar, but you never know what the world looks like to an herbivore.

Taylor brought three sets of shears, which is good because they get overheated very quickly, especially with a coat as thick as Chubby's. After three hours we had him mostly done, leaving just the neck and his belly for comfort while lying down. I got the privilege of doing his rear end, as I mentioned earlier, and believe me, there are few things more fun than holding down a sheep while trying to apply a buzzing, clacking, black set of shears to his holiest of holies. I'm pretty sure I need to go to confession now.

Anyway, since Chubby was done we had a choice -- call it a day or go for the Twin who had a pretty thick coat of its own. I say "its own" because, frankly, I don't know how to sex a sheep. (Yes yes, "Get it on the fence first," very funny. Go away.) Whatever its gender, the Twin had about half its fleece still stubbornly clinging on, and being a guy I said, "Well, we're here anyway, might as well give it a shot."

Ten minutes later, as I flung myself bodily through the air and landed with a thud on the Twin while it desperately tried to escape, my glasses crushed somewhere in the poop-laden pasture, I started rethinking my sticktoitiveness. Taylor gamely slipped the halter on, but as soon as I got to my feet, off ran the Twin.

Ten minutes after THAT, I finally gave up. One more flying tackle let us get the halter off, and for all I care the Twin can sweat to death. At least this time I didn't pull a muscle chasing livestock around the place. They say sheep aren't very bright, but last I checked, I was the one with broken glasses, skinned arms, and a face full of butt-wool while the sheep were contentedly grazing.

Just another day in Nerd Country, miles -- and worlds -- away from New York City. It's good to be back.


carlsonjok said...

I presume, since the horses are Annie's gig, that she is on her own when it comes to sheath cleaning? I've managed to avoid that one for 9 years now. I just can't do it. It just seems that there is anything wrong with that.

Jeff Hebert said...

We're total sheath-cleaning wimps; we leave it up to the vet to do. Or if we can lure an unsuspecting, less-squeamish friend over, we sometimes get them to do it. Our friend Terri grew up on a farm in Minnesota and she's not shy at all about anything, whether it's gelding goats or cleaning sheaths. We try to have her over regularly so we can foist our gross work off on her. Luckily she's a sport about it!

Rob Rogers said...

I knew I had returned to Nerd Country from New York City when I had my head almost shoved into a sheep's butt while shearing it.

Now, see, I read this and wondered just what you were doing shearing your own head. Okay, not really.

Funny post, Jeff. I think one of my favorite things about it is the discussion you and carlsonjok have in the comments about the sheath. I have absolutely no idea what this means and I think I'm very glad that I don't know. My imagination is making me shudder enough as it is.

"zxetzuh" is my verification word and the sound Jeff's head made slipping away from the sheep's butt.

annie'sbuddie said...

Didn't you say before that the equine DENTIST did the sheath work? I'm still trying to figure that one out.

Jeff Hebert said...

Didn't anyone ever tell you boys have teeth down there? Sheesh.