Sunday, July 22, 2007

A Startling Sight

I wrote yesterday about things that never cease to startle me. One of those is large animals lying on their sides.

Sheep are upright animals. The only time they lay flat on their sides, neck on the ground, feet stretched out together, is when they are currently or soon to be dead. Because my main body of experience, and my deepest connection, is with sheep, I forget not all animals are this way. So when I see a large animal with its legs stretched out, my heart stops and I get that sinking feeling that something is terribly, terribly wrong and I begin mentally to prepare myself for either intensive care or digging a large hole.

Freckleface the llama, for example, frequently stretches out for a nap on his side. EVERY time I see him in this position, I think, "oh, no--the heat finally killed him." It is real panic, real certainty that he is dead. And it is panic doubled by my understanding of the size of hole required to bury a llama, compared to a sheep. I call his name...the mound of white and red mottled fur blows in the breeze, but there is no sign of life from a distance. I walk closer, my heart in my throat, sure that this is the one time he isn't tricking me. I call his name...again, louder. Nary a twitch.

I fumble with the gate latch. He lifts his head, looks around at me using more joints than any proper neck should have, waggles a scornful ear at me, heaves himself to his feet, and makes a leisurely trip to his dung pile to relieve himself.

Jasmine, the pony I once had on the farm, did the same thing.

The other night while I was enjoying the dark of the pasture, I walked clear out to the center of the pasture to check the fences where the various paddocks converge. As I turned to walk up the lane towards the house, something large and dark in the pen where the sheep were grazing caught my peripheral vision. That feeling of dread..."oh, no, I'm going to have to dig a grave" ...came over me.

But what WAS it? It looked like a cow. It was too big for a sheep. It was even too big for Freckleface. And it was BLACK. Nothing on the farm is that big, and black. Where had the Angus cow come from? Puzzlement began to replace dread as I walked toward the darker lump on the dark pasture. I could see legs, a neck, a bulging belly.


Then I realized that my newest volunteer, TB, had cut a hundred feet of 4" diameter corrugated black plastic drainpipe into 3' lengths for me, to use for insulating metal t-posts for use with electric fence wires. I'd decided to leave the pieces randomly piled in the pasture until we worked on the fencing project again.

My "dead cow" turned out to weigh just a few pounds, not the hundreds I'd been bracing myself for. What a relief! Joke's on me (it usually is, might as well enjoy it)

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