Saturday, 28 July 2012

How to Rear a Well-Adjusted Lamb

Life’s tough, and the world is a cold cruel place. I understand this. Does my little lamb Baby Cakes understand this? I don’t know. But I look into Babby’s eye when she rests her chin in my cupped hand and I think ‘the whole world is here, the whole world is in this eye’.

Lesson: Do transfer your existential angst onto your lamb. They’re orphaned, so they’re vulnerable and will absorb your emotional instability readily. Enjoy creating your legacy.
Babby’s whole life this far has been a series of “What fresh hell is this?” episodes. Her mother died, she and her twin brother were found crying over her cold carcass. Her brother died, I found her crying over his cold carcass.

Then her tail was banded but her distress and discomfort was so great that she ended up having the whole thing sawed off with a cold knife. Lots of blood flowed from her hind quarters. Two days later maggots were found occupying the stump. This is strange; given that it is mid-winter and there are seemingly no flies, but Babby was a problem lamb from the get go.
Lesson: Do worry if you see your tail-less lamb rubbing her junk all over spiky shrubbery in an unusually agitated manner. It may mean maggots have moved in. Don’t worry about blood splatter stains, though. In fact, adopt a laisser-faire attitude toward all excretions and emulsions. They will be plentiful. Your gag reflex will adapt.

Babby was terribly lonely without her brother Boo Boo. She cried. She didn’t want to be alone in what was their yard anymore. I put her there and she panicked. She raced the length of it and then she jumped the fence and came crying to the kitchen door. After this scene repeated itself ten or twelve times I relented and let her roam free. Her idea of roaming free consisted of loitering on the front veranda. This is now her home base. By day she denudes overhanging shrubbery and destroys potted plants, by night she sleeps under my bedroom window and snores gently.
Lesson: Brothers make lives better.

Sheep are burdened with a reputation for being brainless. This is entirely unwarranted. Sheep are furnished with sufficient brains to suit their lifestyles. How much mental exertion does it take to stroll through pastures grazing and socialising and cultivating fine fleece and once a year yielding to a muscular shearer for the entire term of your life? Not a great deal. 
Any more than what they have would be wasteful. Any more would turn them into pigs. We don’t want that. We know what happens with pigs – they loll like crocodiles in their own stinking slop waiting for their caretakers to trip and fall, or suffer a stroke in their presence, AND THEN THEY EAT THEM.
Pigs are sinister and cannot be trusted. Also, their eyes are beady and grotesque. There is no whole world in their eyes. There are appetites in their eyes. Also, Orwell was right. There is every chance that, given the opportunity, pigs will rise up onto two legs and morph into totalitarian tyrants.  
Lesson: Piglets are sweet but pigs are scary. Given half a chance they WILL attempt to take over your farmyard. Keep pigs at your own peril. 
I have many anecdotes about pigs, and most of them are alarming.  Some are unsavoury enough to render them unfit for publication, even in a two-bit blog such as this. Growing up in the Bega Valley, our nearest neighbor was a pig farmer. As a side-project, he captured deadly snakes. The area was rife with death adders. They are a particularly lethal and grotesque snake. He was highly paranoid and heavily bearded, and he lived in dilapidated hermetic squalor. At one time, he had a prize sow. He had named her Lady Diana and she was the jewel in his crown. He treasured her so much that we speculated he installed her in his ramshackle house of a night to provide her with the comfort befitting a treasured and royal pig. He can’t have, though, because one night wild dogs came down from the bush and killed Lady Diana.
Things got a bit strange after that. Eventually, neighbourly relations broke down entirely. 
There are lessons here too numerous to count.
I watched some trashy reality show once; I don’t remember which but it was about repo men in West Virginia or some hick place so obviously it was excellent, and in it there was this large and amorous woman called Big Juicy and she said “I’m gonna lay his ass down and whomp on him like a damn hog on slop”.  
There is a peripheral lesson here and it is this: Don’t ever question whether you watch too much television. There is no such thing as too much television. If anyone else ever questions you, do as I do. Say “I read good books and I watch bad television.” Keep a few additional derogatory and patronizing comments about what you assume (rightly or wrongly, it doesn’t matter) the accuser reads up your elitist sleeve in case an argument ensues. Colleen McCulloch, Ken Follett, Bryce Courtenay and Dan Brown are always reliable vehicles for discrediting a person’s intelligence entirely. 
Anyways, sheep are very underrated. My favourite feature is their hair-trigger twitchiness. They are always prepared to bolt; they keep themselves in a state of cat-like readiness. And don’t let their boxy, bony-legged appearance fool you. They are fit. I drove my car at speed through a flock of sheep the other day and one tripped, at full tilt, lost its footing, rolled, flipped and resumed its footing all in a split second. It was as athletic a maneuver as any NRL winger could manage IF HE WAS LUCKY. I was so impressed I tooted my horn.
Lesson: Sheep appreciate positive feedback as much as the next animal.

For a while there Babby was my lamb of the various sorrows. Lambs are supposed to be international symbols of youth, innocence, sweetness, and all those nice things. Babby was young, yes, but she was sad and scared, lonely as a cloud. Things changed when I got a calf.  I called her Claudia. Babby thinks she is the sun and the stars. The whole thing is like a love story out of a Nicholas Sparks novel.  
Lesson: Occasionally, things actually get better. Shocking, I know.

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