Village Life

Signs of Spring

Just now I was sitting at my computer, window open to the breeze, when I heard the sound of sheep coming down the road. It sounded like a large number, a mixture of high and low tones, both sheep and lambs. If I essentially put my head against the wall, I can see the road that comes down past my house. I did so and saw a large herd coming my way, likely being brought down from the hills where they graze during the day.

I wanted to go see the lambs, but didn’t want to be too obvious about it. It’s not like I’ve never seen sheep before. But a whole herd complete with lambs is a little outside my experience. I went to watch from the balcony, but it was too far away to see well. So I went downstairs and out the gate, meeting the beginning of the herd as it paraded past.

James Herriot always said that lambs have disproportionate amount of charm compared with other young animals. I’m not sure I can cast my vote yet, but the lambs were very charming. They were wooly and brown with random white markings. Raggedy little ribbons and colored strips of cloth seemed to indicate parent/progeny relationships. Not for the lambs sake, I believe, but for the shepherd’s.

I recall a James Herriot story where he was doing routine testing or vaccination of a whole herd of lambs. The lambs were brought inside the barn and the mothers were penned outside. He said that the cries of the lambs and their separated mothers were almost deafening. As soon as he was done, the gates were opened and the lambs poured out, baaing frantically on both sides. Within a matter of minutes all the lambs were reunited with their anxious mothers. I can’t remember if it was that the lambs know their mother’s cry or if it’s the mothers who know the lambs’ cry or if it is both ways, but somehow they are able to recognize one another based on their cries. I like the thought that family relationships matter even in the animal world.

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