“Sold,” said the auctioneer, “to the young couple in the back.” And with the fall of his auction hammer, my wife and I were in the sheep business. We’d just become the proud parents of a beautiful, four-year old ewe.
Although I was very pleased with myself at the seemingly good deal I’d just made. I kept having this nagging suspicion. Somewhere, way in the back of my mind, a little voice was telling me that the purchase price of seventeen dollars seemed awfully inexpensive for a young, registered, pregnant sheep. But I told myself that it was probably just one of those situations of being in the right place at the right time and, God simply wanted us to have this particular sheep.
We decided to call our new sheep Mama Dorset because, first of all, she was a purebred Dorset sheep, and secondly, in another couple of months, she was going to be a momma. As we were loading her onto our cattle truck, our friend and fellow sheep farmer, Gerald, stopped by to say hello. After a couple of seconds of critically eyeing our new purchase he said, “That’s a fine-looking sheep you got yourself there.”
Gerald was one of those wise, old country sages who’d been in the sheep business since the time of Moses, so I was pleased with his assessment. But as I looked down from where I was standing on the back of the truck, in order to thank him, I noticed he was still intently studying the sheep. And as he did so, the look of concern on his weathered and ancient face told me that he was grappling with some sort of intense, internal conflict. I didn’t know it just then, but he’d seen something wrong with the animal, and he was trying to come up with a compassionate way to break the bad news to me.
After what seemed like an eternity, he put it to me straight: “Richard, did ya notice that she only has one tit?
I looked over to my wife, then back at Gerald, then back to my wife, and then down at Mama Dorset. Before saying a word, I knelt down and reached under Mama Dorset’s belly in between her back legs and felt her udder.
“Son of a gun,” I mumbled to myself as my hand verified Gerald’s discovery.
Sure enough, instead of the two nipples that should have been there, there was only one. Because my wife and I were dairy farmers, we should have known to check the udder of any farm animal before buying it, but somehow, some way, this most basic of observations slipped by us.
Standing up, quite embarrassed, and just a little disheartened by it all, I sighed. “No Gerald, I guess I missed it.”
There followed several moments of hard silence as we all pondered the situation. Then, after what seemed like another eternity, with a wisdom and grace that can only come from having lived a long and thoughtful life, Gerald decided it would be best at this delicate moment for my wife and me and our new sheep to be left alone. I thanked him sincerely for his revelation, and we all said good-bye.
But as he started to walk away, he paused for a second, turned back around, and said, “Ya know, Richard, having one tit shouldn’t affect her none though: she’s still a mighty fine-looking sheep.”
And he was absolutely right. Having only one teat was not that big a deal. All we would have to do was bottle-feed any lambs that didn’t have access to Mama Dorset’s single nipple. So we let this one minor flaw just draft from our thoughts. All that mattered now was that we were proud owners of a beautiful Dorset ewe, that it was a stunningly beautiful September afternoon, and we were as happy as two clams with our purchase.
September soon gave away to October, and as it did, Mama Dorset’s belly got bigger and bigger with the lambs growing inside her. And then, as expected, come early November, Mama gave birth to twin baby girls. We named the two previous newborn lambs Hot Dog and Lambie Pie. Because she was the biggest and strongest of the pair, Hot Dog got Mama Dorset’s single nipple and Lambie Pie got fed the bottle.
What a little joy Lambie Pie was for us. She got so when she wanted her bottle, she’d rustle around in her box and then let out a couple of cute little baby lamb baas to get our attention. After she was fed and rested, she would always want to play. Her favorite trick was to run back and forth around the corner of the living room between the bathroom and kitchen. Sometimes, she’d get moving so fast that she’d bounce along the carpeted floor on all four hooves, just like a gazelle.
She was really quite remarkable. If it was a nice day outside, we’d take her for a walk, and she’d follow us just like a little dog. It was quite a treat to see her hopping and bobbing the pasture as we walked along.
Because she had to be fed every four hours, we took her and the box with us everywhere we went. If we went to visit the relatives, we’d take Lambie Pie. If we had to travel a couple of hours to get farm machinery parts, we’d take her with us. We even took her along when we went to visit my grandmother in the city, and Lambie Pie behaved like a perfect angel. She’d stay in her box until we took her out, and then she’d run around just like home.
During the same visit, we made a side trip to visit my aunt and uncle and brought Lambie Pie with us. My cousins and their neighbors absolutely loved her. And even my dear aunt, who never a farm girl, found her to be just irresistible.
One time, after a particularly long period of bouncing and frolicking, Lambie Pie stopped, squatted, and then peed on my aunt’s carpet. My wife and I felt terrible and we afraid my aunt would put her foot down and make us take her out to the car.
But no, she just smiled as she brought out a towel and said, “You know how it is; when you gotta go, you gotta go.”
But Lambie Pie kept growing and growing, and by December, she had gotten too big for her box. Also, from our experience with cows and other farm animals, we knew she would have to start eating the same foods as her mother and sister, if she was going to grow up normally. So, with great apprehension, we moved her down to the cattle barn and into a nice little box stall we’d made specially for her.
And she didn’t mind. The first night, of course, my wife got up a couple of times and went to the barn to check on her. But she was doing just fine. It was like she instinctively knew that was where she belonged. Every morning as we turned on the lights and walked into the barn, she’d get right up, hop up and down, and bleat in her stall to welcome us.
All went fine until four days before Christmas. As soon as we walked into the barn and turned on the lights , my wife knew something was wrong. Immediately she ran over to her little pen and cried out in horror at what she saw. It was just terrible. Our beautiful little Lambie Pie was dead.