Friday, April 24, 2009

Myrtle's Mom


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Friends who raised sheep called and asked if we wanted to raise a spring lamb? Excited, sister and I pleaded, "Mom, Dad, can we?" Living in the country, we had lots of room, and we'd never raised sheep. It would be an adventure. They nodded in agreement.

A few days later our friend arrived with a long-legged bundle of curly white wool in his arms. We frowned at how little she was and asked why she was taken from her mother. He said, "She wasn't taken, her mother wouldn't feed her. She was rejected."
Our jaws dropped. What? We thought all mother's were like ours. It was unimaginable a mother, any mother, could/would turn her back on her own.

Dad fixed a place in the cellar with a heat lamp. We traipsed down first thing in the morning to bottle feed her and after school. Mother fed her during the day. The heat brought out the ticks in her wool. One moved over to my sister's head. Mother found it when washing her hair, removed it and placed it in a pint jar where it lived more than 30 days off sister's blood. Yuk! And it wasn't even Halloween.

When the weather warmed, Myrtle graduated from the cellar to the yard bouncing around stiff-legged, as if on springs. She liked to be chased. When we caught her we rolled around on the grass. Squeezing our fingers in her wool put lanolin on our hands. Mother appreciated it the most. Under her fertilization our lawn improved, and she became our watchdog. Guests at our gate didn't try to enter when she bobbed her head in butt mode.

Being an active 4-H family, Myrtle became my project for the county fair. Hours were spent training her to walk with my left hand under her chin and my right on her rump. Many leaps were attempted before she learned to cooperate and stand still with her feet evenly spaced.

In August I bathed and curry combed her until she was fluffy. We gathered our sewing and baking projects and Myrtle and went to the fair. I walked into the ring holding her under the chin and on the rump and stopped in presentation. She stayed calm. I knelt on one knee. The judge felt her hind quarters and fingered her wool. We waited. Low and behold we earned a blue ribbon for showmanship. I still have it.

Fair animals were sold at the close of the fair, unless they were champions and going on to higher competition. Not Myrtle, she lived with us several years. Wherever we went she was right behind us.

The smell of wet wool reminds us of our friend and pet. I've not eaten lamb or mutton since. Spring lamb means a bouncing, playful bundle of wool in our yard, not on my plate. And mint jelly is fine on toast.

2009 Red Convertible Travel Series

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