Our farm now has a sign dug in under the cedar tree at the side of the driveway. It’s a subtle sign to let folks know they have arrived at the right place. Not showy or new looking, the old barn boards blend in with the greys and browns of the tree trunks and Rhodies. From far away, our farm name doesn’t quite stand out and the sheep decorating the bottom corners look peculiarly like clouds, oddly brilliant in the backdrop of the rustic wood.
As you turn into the driveway the details of our sheep emerge with round bodies and almost human-like faces. There are two of them, both staring out from the sign, one in the act of leaping, the other planted on the ground. To me, this is country art at its best because the untrained artist has taken an animal she sees daily in the back orchard and characterized its most salient features into a two dimensional drawing.
This particular artist is our youngest daughter, who’s goal in life is to be a vet. Burned out from taking Organic Chemistry in summer school, I tapped her for the sign while she was home on a 5-day break. When Annie is not studying, and she is with us on the farm, she either reads, watches TV, takes long walks, or creates artistic things. We have a swing in the apple orchard (where the sheep hang out) with a rooster painted on it; a concrete tile near the front door with a desert sunrise made of cut glass; a mosaic of a sahuaro cactus in the kitchen, and she even taught herself to knit by reading instructions off the Internet!
The images she creates are places she loves and animals she has touched. Arizona is in her heart, even as she wades barefoot through our creeks in the summer looking for crawdads and special rocks; animal care is in her soul, even as she fosters our baby chicks on her shoulder and leads them around like the Pied Piper through the grass.
It’s great to have her home because she helps with feeding and has a keen eye for animal problems. This is the daughter who sang to the ewe the first summer we were on the farm. The dogs had attacked the sheep and bitten off an ear. After Annie and I dragged her from a deep pool in the creek, I ran to the barn for medical supplies and a halter, while Greg set out to round up the other sheep and bring them close for comfort. Annie sat, with her arms around the ewe’s neck, holding her still and trying to calm the situation. I’m not sure it was a lullaby she sang, and the kid is tone deaf anyway, but it seemed to soothe the moment.
This is also the kid who hand-raised our rooster Peeps. They would watch TV together with Peeps nestled into Annie’s shoulder, picking at her earrings or sound asleep, as babies are want to do. She also raised our young hens, Frankie and Johnnie, last summer after we pulled them from their shells, teaching them to follow her around the house and the yard. Our Arab horse, Moralecia, was Annie’s horse growing up and when we described Moralecia as fat, Annie would come to her defense and call her “big-boned”. She is also the daughter who sat beside our dying, older dog and sang her into a peaceful, forever sleep. Who wouldn’t want a vet with a heart like this?
As people on this earth, we all leave pieces of ourselves in the places we have lived and in the hearts and minds of people we have touched. Leaping Lamb Farm has Annie’s imprint scattered through the property, starting at the sign and spreading out to the fields dotted with livestock (and bug-scratching fowl). I hope, for her, the painting of our sign provided her brain with creative relief. For our guests, our friends, and our family, it has provided us with a sign post that we are home.
Top photo: Leaping Lamb Farm sign; Bottom photo: rooster swing in the apple orchard. Artist: Emery (Annie) Jones
All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2007 Scottie Jones