The rap music we now play at the barn, come nightfall, may not have worked as well as I would have liked to scare away our resident cougar, but the sheep are acting more hip! After losing lambs this summer, we fixed the fences, we added a spot light, we even turned on the radio – all to dissuade predators from approaching our livestock in the dark. The alternative was to sleep in the barn with a gun. Yeah, right! Fish and Wildlife, and a number of our local hunter friends, didn’t seem to think this was such a rough request. Well, no one in our family raised their hands for camping and shooting in the dark, so the lights and music seemed the next best bet.
I was surprised when I first turned on the radio to find I couldn’t get a nice, soothing station with Classical music – something the sheep and horses could sleep to. No, the only station without static, coming in loud and clear at the barn, played rap! The sheep lifted their heads from the manger the first time I put it on. I turned down the sound some, but needed it to still ring out across the creek towards the dark, dank forests.
I can deal with some rap music. It gives me a beat to feed by, to get the hay down from the loft, to spread the grain in the feed troughs. Then I turn out the main lights in the barn, with only the spot light pointing out into the dark, and the sheep are left to deal with rappers singing about their troubles in the hood, or sex, or girl friends and sex, whatever. In the morning I will come back to count heads.
I find in the daylight, when I start my routines all over again, the rap station has taken on a head banging vigor that grinds at my sensibilities. Before I even feed or count, I have pounced on the radio to shut it off. Ah, the peaceful sounds of country life returning to normal. The horses stretch their necks over the stall doors nickering to be fed. The sheep look up at me with sleepy eyes as if they are in need of a good cup of coffee, some rising to their feet, others continuing to chew their cud. They wander to the mangers, looking at me expectantly, looking at the empty mangers. I feed them some hay to stop their wandering back and forth because I need them to stand still enough for me to count. 28-29-30- 31. 28-29-30-31. I count them twice just to make sure. Then I count the boys in the barn field 9-10-11-12. They are only protected by proximity to the light and the music as long as they lie close.
I mentioned at the start that the rap hasn’t always been good enough because this fall we lost another lamb and a ewe. We think the male lamb was pulled over a low part of the fence at the far end of the barn field, not long after I separated them out from their mothers. There was some wool on the barbed wire too high up for the sheep to rub. The cat must be full grown to have dragged a 60-70 pound lamb out of the field, over the creek, and again up the hill. We found the remains several days later and fixed the fence by adding another strand of barbed wire. Another six to eight weeks and a ewe went missing. We never found a trace of her, but the woods are dense and there are many places a cat could hide its kill.
If this cougar is working a territory, we are about due again. I have to hope there are enough deer and hunters in the woods to keep our predator at bay. No one on the road has sighted anything for a while, but I am not letting down my guard and the sheep will continue to listen to rap through the night.
It does make me smile sometimes, though, to think what the rap artists would say if they knew their tunes were not only making it into rural America, but also being used to save livestock. Sounds like a good beginning for a song. Let’s see, now, how would it go …?
Life in the sticks really sucks if you’re a sheep,
‘Cause the farmer plays loud music and you can’t get to sleep.
There’s a cougar on the loose and he’s killin’ all the babies,
It’s enough to make you cry and to really make you crazy…
It’s a start. Anyone want to run with it?
Photo from late August of lambs that had survived at least four cougar attacks
All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2007 Scottie Jones.