I think the lamb must have sensed my discouragement with his failing condition. That, or it really did have a conversation with Greg when he came out to the barn with his gun.
The lamb had been in the barn for almost two months, trying to recover from a cut foot that had become infected. I had treated it with a dose of antibiotics. The lamb seemed to recover, but then started to lose weight. The wound had begun to bleed again. This morning when I came into the barn, the lamb was lying prone in its stall, sweaty and lethargic. I suspected it was giving up. Damn sheep – I hate it when they do that!
It was time to ask Greg for some compassionate assistance because I had an appointment in town. Could he please put this lamb out of its misery? It seemed the decent thing to do.
But, Greg is a compassionate guy and often gives second chances. He saw something when he went into the barn. He saw a lamb that just might make it if it understood the alternative. When he picked it up and told it to stand, or else, the lamb didn’t crumple back onto the floor. Somewhere along the line Greg and the lamb came to an understanding. It could live if it would live.
When I returned home, Greg met me at the door. He looked sheepish (bad pun). It wasn’t this lamb’s “time”. I went out to the barn, wondering what Greg had seen that I had missed. And there was the lamb, standing in the stall looking at me as if to say, “Fooled you! Fooled you! I will survive!!”
We were back on track, at least for today, but what a mess. When the lamb had collapsed the previous night it must have hit its head. There was a big knot above its eye where it had scraped off the wool and skin. I don’t think we had ever had a sorrier looking lamb – all skin and bones, and now battered.
I put some feed out and darned if this youngster didn’t go straight for the bucket as if I had been depriving it of food all along. Just to be extra nice, and because our daughter made up the first gruel, we started to feed a hot mash of molasses-soaked grain. There is nothing like warm porridge to put a child right, so maybe it would work with this lamb.
It became a simple farm story, really. The lamb started to put on weight; the mash was no longer necessary; and pretty soon I turned the little guy out with his buddies to fend for himself.
What’s a little unusual is that the lamb never received a name, especially after spending so much time in the barn in recovery. Maybe this was because I often have our smaller visitors come up with lamb names and we had a dearth of smaller visitors. Maybe it was because the dark of winter makes me lose some of my creative edge. Or maybe, and this is probably the closest to the truth, I know that this lamb’s life will be a short one he has no control over because I have healed a locker lamb, a slaughter lamb, a butcher lamb, whatever you wish to call him. As I have mentioned often before, I don’t name animals we eat or send to market.
For now, this lamb leads a peaceful life on pasture with his mates. Soon enough the spring grass will begin to grow and he will naturally gain weight. Then, we will see. I may put him on Craigslist as a “lawnmower” since he is no longer an antibiotic-free lamb. If there are takers, he will get a second chance. If not, we shall see. We shall see.
Photo: locker lamb riding it through the winter on our hay so they can put on some weight!
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