Voices From the Farm: Tracking the Sheep Gone Wild

May 1967 (Continued)

Nothing strikes fear into the heart of a shepherd like having your sheep disappear! My mind immediately went into overdrive, with all sorts of questions and possibilities… “How could they get out of this pasture?” or “Maybe they’re lying down in the long grass at the end, and I can’t see them from here.” These mental gymnastics went on as I made my way to the end of the pasture, once there, I saw why they escaped!

There was a line fence separating our and the neighbor’s property, and it ran through a large grove of old oaks growing on both sides of the fence. In June we had a wicked storm, which likely was a small “twister,” go through, probably shortly after the new fence was built. This small skipping tornado had not done too much damage at the homestead, although it was pretty scary. The tin roof on our small back porch was neatly rolled up, just as a sardine can lid was rolled up with a key. Here however, the storm had dropped down again, and twisted off a couple of the big oaks. One of them fell on the line fence, flattening it. It was not visible from the front end of the pasture, 1/4 mile away, but leave it to a bunch of sheep to waste no time finding this escape hatch!

I had to try and determine which way they had gone. Although, hoping against hope that I would find them grazing peacefully nearby, I did not. So I started tracking them, I found small bits of wool stuck on bushes and shrubs where they had passed. Sometimes, I would lose the trail, but searching around I would soon find a pile of sheep droppings, or more wool tufts to tell me which way they went, but there was no catching up with them.

I saw where they had gone under, and left wool on an old and pretty ineffective barb wire fence. We were in deep woods now, but I knew the general direction they were headed, so I went home and started calling my neighbors in that direction. So far, no one had seen them, but would let us know if they did.

In a couple days, calls started coming, “The sheep were here briefly, but they didn’t stay.” Reports like that kept coming in. We could trace their route by the calls coming in. They were probably 3 or more miles from home by the route they had taken through the woods, but around by the roads, it was likely at least 6 or 7 miles; and they were still moving. Those sheep were on a mission! And now I knew what it was! They were headed for the farm Hercules had come from 2 years earlier.

Hercules was taking our flock and going back to join the 48 ewes he had left behind at his old farm. About the time I reached this conclusion, we got a call from a neighbor who said the sheep were at their farm, and were lying down in the shade resting. It was very hot weather, and I’m sure they were hot and tired by this time. We hurriedly recruited a couple young nephews with long legs and they, Jerry, and I piled into our pickup and headed for the neighbors’ farm.

The sheep were still there, but our once tame sheep were, by this time, wild! We were joined by the son of the farmer who called, another young fellow with long legs, and he showed us an empty shed, which we could hopefully herd the sheep into, and then load them into our pickup.

We started trying to move them slowly in the direction of the shed, but almost immediately, they broke and ran, and could they run! To top it all off, there were corn strips alternating with hay strips, the corn was tall by now, and while we humans had to run around the end of the corn strips, the wretched sheep could run right through the rows of corn and come out in a hay strip, and by the time we got there they were at the other end of the hay strip, ready to go through the corn again as soon as we got close.

We split into two groups, hoping by this maneuver we could stop their tactic of cutting through the corn strips, but that didn’t work much better. By this time, we were exhausted, red faced, and gasping for breath, but at long last we got them headed into the shed, and shut in. Who would have thought that a little flock of sheep could cause that much trouble!

It still remained to load them, one at a time, into our pickup bed, and tie each ones’ feet together so they could not jump out on the way home, as we had no stock rack.

You guessed it! They were, once again, on their way to the dreaded Sales Barn!