Thursday, August 2, 2012

How Wars Get Started

I consider myself peace-loving and I am anti-war but I understand how wars get started.

People in the cities think they will move to the country and live happily ever after, with few diesel smells, hardly any blaring from horns and sirens, expecting the stillness of antelopes and immense blue skies and over it all, at night, the absolute wonder of stars.

It doesn't work out that way if they move into a zone that accepts agricultural activity.  Agricultural activity includes livestock.  Livestock are smelly and noisy and you either learn to adjust and accept this or move back to town.  Otherwise, you might be starting a war, if not just making country people unhappy.

I heard one story about city people who moved into the country.  The farmer who owned land next to them for years kept his donkeys pastured not far from where the city people now lived.  At five every morning, the city people woke to the braying of the donkeys. To them it was a nuisance, and they insisted the donkeys be moved far away.

I have neighbors who don't like the smell of sheep.  No matter how clean the shelter is, there is a distinctive odor.  Sheep farm just like people.  For a sheep breeder, I love the smell of the raw wool.  And they are noisy.  When they hear me moving around out doors, they talk to me; they wail, they get lonely and are often begging for more food or more attention.

The sheep dogs bark constantly at whatever they consider to be an intruder.  That is their job.  It has been bred into them for centuries. They are territorial.

On Tuesday, my friend Annie and I were cleaning out my upstairs.  She was hanging out clothes, sheets, and sheep skins to air out on the died fence just a few feet from my room.  Nadia my Great Pyrenees was up in the sheep pasture and barking.  Nadia is a quirky dog, with her own logic and sense of duty toward the farm.  But this neighbor comes out and starts screaming at her to shut up and then starts throwing rocks at her.  Nadia is on my land and she is doing her job.

Annie calls to Nadia and she stops barking for a moment.  But the guy starts scramming at Annie and throwing rocks at her.

This is a Tuesday evening before darkness settles in.  I wonder, "Is he drunk?"  Or is he so absolutely self centered that he thinks the world turns around him.  Dog bark.  He is about an acre away from the dog and an acre away from my house, so what's his problem?

Was I supposed to start throwing rocks back at him?  Get out my rifle and start shooting?  This creep had just assaulted my friend and screamed profanity as he did so.  If he racked like this to a mere dog's barking, what was he thinking when the lambs complained, especially Bummer, who wants to be among people and not with the flock of sheep?

Annie and I kept on cleaning my room, with the door open for ventilation and the coming and going of house cleaning: shaking the dust mop, smacking the sheep skins free of dust and then bring everything back inside, some things going to the washing machine, others back on to shelves and dressers.

After about a half hour, the neighbor comes back out and yells over the fence, "Sorry for losing it!"

I was glad to hear this.  But I also remain concerned.  In his nasty mood, this guy could have hurt my friend when he hurled rocks at her.  It was a totally unprovoked attack.  I hope it doesn't happen again.

It was on a Sunday

It was on a Sunday morning that Xerxes did not come down to the lower sheep shelter for breakfast.  It had to be serious.  Xerxes does not miss breakfast.

I let Xerxes and two of the ewes roam where they like on the fenced seven acres.  They sleep in the woods and browse as they like.  I had no idea in which direction to go hunting for him.  I figured that if he heard me calling him, he would make enough noise and so I would have a hint about where to start looking.  Neither of those so-called sheep dogs were giving me any help.  On the other hand, their complete lack of anxiety was reassuring.

I started hiking in a southeasterly direction and soon gave up.  My arthritis was not going to let me climb around the slopes.  Lunch came and went and still no Xerxes.  I tried to get help from friends but no one was reading their email, or they were out of town, or they were working a three-day shift.

Dinner came and went and still no Xerxes.  I sent email to Keith Hamm who usually works on the fences.  He was going to come out on Monday morning with a helper to fix the front gate of the sheep shelter.  Xerxes had smashed it in and broken one of the hinges.  Keith and Danny would also go look for Xerxes.

I had an anxious night.  But people with livestock and a lot of land to cover do the best they can.  And when Keith and Danny came, they found Xerxes right away, in the opposite direction of my hike.  He was entangled in fencing.  They cut him loose and he high tailed it for the feeder.  They had to corral him and catch him again because he still had wire around his neck and one leg.

Xerxes is generally a calm guy and he lay without struggling while Keith held him down by the horns and Danny carefully clipped away at the wire.  At last, Xerxes was free.

He has been fine.  His appetite has not been affected.  He is back to bashing the gate.

Sometimes a very young am with horns will get his horns caught in the field fence but Xerxes is almost two years old and has never done that.  I did once have a ram that did this a number of times.  Each time I had to hike up a steep slope and cut him free and then had to patch up the fence that I had had to cut.  I got so disgusted with this that I told him in no uncertain terms in my most annoyed-mother tone that if he did that one more time, he was going to the you-know-where USDA approved facility.

He never did it again.

I have no idea how Xerxes got stuck in the fence.  Maybe something spooked him and he ran into it, became more frightened, and then could not get out.  But however that happened, I don't think he will get into it again.  Besides, he is supposed to go to a new home soon.  There was a very pretty boy born on the farm this April.  I want to keep only one ram and have decided to keep this new guy, who will be named Hobbes.  His fleece is spotted and has a lot of crimp.

And he hasn't bashed in any gates yet or caught his horns in any fencing.