I used to get a little stressed because the sheep shearer would call me late the night before he arrived, and I would have *very* little time to get the sheep barn prepared, the sheep caught and separated, the electrical cords found and detangled, and work called because I wouldn’t be there. The shearer makes a multi-state tour from the midwest, going through the deep south (except for Texas), and hitting up, among the other states, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and Georgia, states that most people do not associate with a significant number of sheep. Since none of us have a large enough amount of sheep to keep him busy for very long, he may only be in a particular county for a half day. You better be ready. Or shear ’em yourself.
It is a good thing that I’m not working now, because I got the call that he would be in the area the day of shearing, @ 6:30 a.m. I would not have gotten the call had I been working, and the poor sheep would have had to wait until school was out in June before I had the time to shear them myself. I didn’t get to the phone in time and frantically called back, but he’d already called the next person on the list and was starting there. I’d be next. That could mean he’d be there at noon or 10 p.m. because when the shearer shows up, everybody knows that he’s there for just a matter of hours, and sheep owners that are not on the calling list have a tendency to appear out of the woodwork through word of mouth and haul their sheep in to whatever farm he’s at, particularly if they only have a few. Six here, two there, another five, suddenly seven more, and “Wait! I’m bringing the llamas!” can add up over the course of a few hours and suddenly instead of 30 he’s shearing 120.
One of my friends that has @ 40 sheep is going to be REALLY upset. She and her husband were not home yesterday. D’OH! They, like me, used to shear all their own sheep but have gotten spoiled by the shearer coming through. Their place is on the St. Mary’s river and used to be the last stop before he goes through Georgia. Today, my place was.
It is a weekend (well, just an overnight this time) with the grandkids, so SwampMan went and got them. The boys came out to the barn to observe for a little while under strict orders not to be pests.
Dylan couldn’t contain himself for long. “MEEMAW!” he said loudly. “He’s touching that sheep’s PENIS!” Obviously I was supposed to DO SOMETHING about this inappropriate sheep fondling.
“He’s just folding it over so that he won’t accidentally cut it off with the clippers”, I explained.
“CUT IT OFF?” Dylan was horrified at the prospect.
“Yeah, those clippers are REALLY strong. Your Papa was shearing sheep before and he accidentally cut a ram’s ear off. After he cut another ram’s penis off, I wouldn’t let him shear sheep anymore and I started shearing.”
“MEEMAW! He’s touching the sheep’s BALLS now!” *sigh* I explained that the ram would be much more comfortable with the wool off his balls.
“MeeMaw! He’s shaving the butthole! LOOK!” I was really hoping that the shearer couldn’t hear these exchanges over the clatter of the clippers.
When the ol’ senior ram was finished and released, I stepped forward to gather the wool, discarding the belly wool and manure tags from around the back end. “NO, MEEMAW! DON’T TOUCH IT!” screamed Dylan.
“What?” I looked up, startled.
“MeeMaw, don’t touch it!” begged Dylan. “There’s ball and butthole hair in there. It gots germs on it! You’ll get germs on your hands!”
I looked at Dylan. This was going to be a long afternoon. “Did Papa get you any food on the way home?” I asked him. I’d left Papa a cell phone message saying that he needed to go through a drive through to feed the little bottomless tummies before arriving because I didn’t know when I’d be finished and they’d be famished.
“No, MeeMaw! I’m REALLY hungry.”
“Why don’t you go in and tell Papa that you need to get a happy meal?”
“Can I watch just one more?” asked Jacob, who’d been standing there observing quietly.
“Yep.” I caught a black yearling that I’d kept from last year, but had sent her sister for slaughter. I wish I’d kept both but the feed prices were just so high. Her fleece was long and faded at the tips, a rich black to charcoal gray inside, fading to oatmeal on the outside. The wool fibers were so fine that individual little crimped fibers could barely be seen.
The boys were impressed with how small the yearling ewe was after shearing. She’d gone from a big ol’ walking overstuffed pillow to a slender little doeling after shearing. “MeeMaw, that’s so pretty!” said Jacob about her fleece. “Can I have a hat from it?”
“Sure!” I said.
“How do you make it? Is it like a coonskin cap?”
“No, it’s knitted. Out of yarn.” Blank look. “Don’t worry, I’ll show you!”
Satisfied, they ran off to Papa so that he could take them and get them food while the shearer and I, old team members by now, got on with shearing.
We finished up, then had to get his big ol’ one ton truck with the shearing rig and heavy duty Cummins diesel engine unstuck. It had slowly sunk while we were shearing.
“I didn’t know the ground was that soft!” said the shearer. “It looked okay!”
“Yeah, it does, on the surface, but we’ve had a lot of rain lately.”
“It was never a problem before!”
“We’ve never had this much rain in the dry season when you were here before!”
I went to get SwampMan to get his truck out there. He hooked up, then started spinning himself into a hole.
He got out and looked at the problem. “DAMN! I didn’t know the ground was that soft!”
“Yeah, us either!”
We had to go get some rubber mats (old conveyor belts) and put down on the ground to pull the truck out. Happily for the shearer, we were successful. He was going to help us roll up the old conveyor belts, but SwampMan assured him that that was what grandkids were for.