When I was young, my father decided that I needed to have some chores that were totally my responsibility, and that I needed to learn a lot of things about life. One day, my Dad brought home a pregnant sheep. He said, “Vernabelle, this is going to be your sheep. You will have the entire care of her. You will have to give me all the money from the wool, for supplying the feed. She is going to have a lamb, and when the lamb is sold, that money will be yours.”
I was really quite excited, but that was one animal that had never graced our farm before, as far as I knew.
Daddy said, “Well, what are you going to name her:” I thought and thought. Well, we had been studying in school about Betsy Ross making the U.S. flag. I had been really impressed, so, I said “Betsy Ross!” Daddy just grinned, and showed me how to care for Betsy Ross.
Well, that was the beginning of a relationship that I have always treasured. I learned to feed and care for Betsy Ross, and we formed quite a bond.
The time came for Betsy Ross to give birth, and to my surprise, she had twin lambs! I was in school at the time, so I missed the main event, but when I arrived home, Daddy said, “Come see your new little lambs!” This actually seemed very exciting! ((My mother was probably upset, because I didn’t even change my clothes before rushing out to see the lambs!) “Ohhh,” I squealed, as I viewed the wobbly little lambs. They were so small, and seemed so helpless.
Immediately, I began to hold them, carry them, and, yes, learned to warm the milk and get it ready to feed them. Feeding them was not a chore; it was a great deal of fun! Of course, Betsy Ross did her share of feeding too. They just needed to be supplemented a bit.
Fortunately, both little lambs lived, and soon became very good friends of mine.
My father always ‘blew” a stack of straw in the sheep yard, when they hauled in the oats shocks and threshed the grain. The lambs and I chased one another up and down that stack. Of course, I used the straw to bed the sheep down at night.
The lambs and I developed quite a game. I would run to the top of the stack, and they would follow. At the top, they would butt me with their heads, and I would roll down the stack! The next trip, I would shove them off, and they would go rolling down. Well, my father took a dim view of this game. After all, it was he who would have had to pay the veterinary, or the local Dr., if either the sheep or I had broken a leg!
These were my first lambs, and later there were more. One of the twin lambs was a ewe lamb, so she was bred, along with her mother, but I had to say “Goodbye” to the little male lamb when h went to market.
I have no memory of any financial gain that year, but I do remember about my “lamb money” on a later year; but that is another story, and, quite another lesson!
I did learn about responsibility, about the danger of damaging the sheep, or myself. I also learned what it meant to spend so many hours with a dear friend, (my lambs), and having to tell him good-by. On the farm, there are many repeat lessons on the latter. The calves, pigs, and chickens also had to go to be butchered for food, or to the market. This was a good lesson of the realities of life, which is a difficult lesson for me to accept, even today.
Well, all of farming is not “perks” but an education of its own!
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