Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Lost but Found

Once upon a time an inspiration came to me to raise two lambs for market. It's always better to pair up animals. An occasional pig wandering lonesome in the pen won't matter. In winter a shelter with plenty of hay to burrow into will do; in summer they like to get out of the rain. Pigs make good gain however, alone or with companions. But don't be late for dinner!  You'll think it was the end of the world with the boisterous squealing. I once had a lonely pig become a family favorite. Friendly and bright, she, it was a sow, as I remember, wandered around the dooryard. In fall she dug up my garden for me, fertilizing it nicely with an occasional poop here and there to rototill in. When the meat came back from the butcher, the kids wouldn't eat it. They threw up. It was next year before I could talk them into eating pork again. That's why lamb has been in the past scarce around my place. Kids.

But you certainly do get attached to lamb meat once you start eating it often. That's when I went out and bought two lambs. Lamb costs you and I am cheap. Sometimes you can take a chance on an animal that's walking half dead. Loving care and attention can keep them alive. They're cheap. Nowadays lambs can get expensive. But the lamb died and I had to get another one. Cost me a hundred dollars, a hundred-fifty counting what I lost on the one that died. And I had to dig a hole to bury it. I am living proof of how far being cheap gets you.

Now the usual thing I always do every morning after coffee is go out to the pen and feed and water the lambkins. They are such paltry beings in God's scheme of things. They can't make a big racket like pigs can.

Already it is getting hot this morning after a warm night. The giant moon made night seem like day. I was hoping I might have fun with my new animals and get to know them a little better. I went in the barn and came out with a half-cup of Lamb 'n Kid and a bucket of water. I opened the gate to the pen. The pen is about fifty-by-fifty feet made of ordinary stock fencing. My mind doesn't work in neat geometric shapes; there is a blank spot where squares and rectangles should be. Besides, it makes more sense to hang the fencing on trees where you can. Maine has plenty of trees. Where there is no available tree, you pound in a fence post. At one time I used this pen for the bucks. It is grown up to tall grass and perennial junk now. But it has normal hayfield grass in it too. Plenty for two lambs for a little while.

I walked into the pen, called, looked everywhere. No lambs! I walked around the pen through the deep grass, looking for small fuzzy white rustling. It seemed to me that my stomping around would cause a flurry of movement. But no, nothing. Not a ripple in the hay. Next I walked around the fencing. I covered the area thoroughly. Couldn't find the lambkins. There are two gates in this pen. One is easier to get to in the winter. Rats! Looks like I left one of the gates open. It was ever so slightly cracked open. A little, pitiful trail in the grass led to it. Have I gone that far that I forgot to shut a gate. Not only had I forgotten to shut the gate, I couldn't remember when I opened it!

My wife has been complaining more and more often about what seems to be happening to my memory. It's a good thing I keep copious journals. But the topic of when I opened the fence wouldn't be a topic to journal about. I must have opened that fence though because there is nobody else around to do it. I called myself every bitter name I could think of. The lambkins had left the pen, and I would never see them again. I was sure of it. I set out to walk around everywhere, plowing through the deep grass, looking for a little trail in the woods. I looked and I looked. They are so small, I couldn't imagine they would have gone far. My heart was broken. Not only $150 down the tubes, but little as they are I couldn't imagine them surviving for long. I searched high and low. They are so small and the grass was so high. No luck. But how could I give up? Never! How could I let my little lambkins wander into a life bitter, dangerous and dark?

I took my dog Sunshine and we went for a long walk around the neighborhood. Could not spot anything. Finally I heard my wife shouting for me to come back. They had been lost in the tall grass in the pen! I was not such a failure after all! So after chores I built a little pen for them to get used to their new situation in. They were drinking water and they nibbled on their grain immediately. My wife was happy because she could now observe them doing little lamb hops and scampers. Losing and then finding is an experience that goes way back. It takes on a heightened emotional quality beyond what you'd ever imagine.

Now they are in a smaller world, their little round pen, where they cannot get lost and can easily be found. Sounds like a good plan for an old man, too. A smaller world is harder to get lost in.

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