Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Capital B Capital S

Through a good part of February and most of March the weather pattern over our area remained unchanged, and we were greeted daily with sunshine and unseasonable warmth.
Warm and dry and unchanging enough to be able to paint the outside of a house with rollers and paintbrushes.
Now that we are into April the weather is all over the map.
Warm, cold, cloudy, windy, endless chances of rain and snow that threaten but never seem to materialize in our desert environment.
There are calls for rain and snow tonight.  Maybe it will happen and maybe not, but it doesn't really matter much.
The weather is what it is.  
During the summer I regretfully remember every day that we officially live in the desert.
 But not Death Valley desert.
Idaho desert - filled with sage and lave rock fields and large areas of gnarly cedar trees, and rattlesnakes and buttes and a place surrounded by mountains.
The rest of the year it just feels as though we live in an incredibly isolated small town that could be almost anywhere in Idaho.................

A couple of days ago it was sunny and windy, and late in the afternoon LC took Kory out into the back yard.
Usually she runs and plays and digs holes along the fence line, and occasionally she runs up and down the fence line while playing with the little rat-like dog from next door - Kory's long strides with rat-dog amusing us as she struggles hard to keep up.
It is funny to watch, and I'll try to catch them playing in pictures one day.
But on this day Kory was more interested in something else.
LC did not know what that something else was, but he watched as Kory raised her nose in the wind and focused her attention on something out towards the silos on the outskirts of town.
As LC watched our pup he also scanned the area, wondering what Kory had keyed into.
And then he saw it.
A sheep walking down the gravel road and heading towards the Hay Bale Field that is such a favorite place with our dog.
We had seen the herd just the day before, and knew that they were a couple of miles away, out in open ground immediately adjacent to Big Butte Road.
So what was this one sheep doing walking down a gravel road on the outskirts of our town?..................

LC rushed into the house and (reaching for a jacket) he quickly brought me up to speed.
We all three loaded into the Tahoe and headed towards the gravel road in search on a lamb on the........lamb.
Seeing nothing on the road we scanned the Hay Bale field, and sure enough he was wandering aimlessly in the field.
He was a young sheep.  Just a little guy.  It was obvious that he had suddenly realized that his momma and the rest of the herd was no-one in sight and that he was lost in the big, empty world of the Snake River Plain.
It was about 4pm.  In four hours it would be dark.  Temperatures at night are still down around freezing and there are still at least two packs (and perhaps 3) of coyotes that wander these lands.
If he did not find his way back to the herd, both LC and I knew that he would not make it through the night...................

LC pulled the Tahoe off the road, crossed over a downed-section of fence, picked up the trail briefly and then stopped the Tahoe in the middle of the trail.
Without a word, LC headed into the Hay Bale Field and towards the lamb.
The Tahoe was still running, Kory was barking hysterically inside the vehicle, and I stood feeling useless beside the Tahoe, unsure of what to do.
As I watched LC it was obvious that he was trying to move little sheep away from the middle of the field and back towards the fence line.
If he could get the sheep to walk down the fence line, eventually they would hit an open gate.
Open gate would have taken the little guy to a huge and wide open field that (if he walked in the right direction) would eventually take him home to the rest of the herd (which was barely visible on a hill out on BLM land about two miles away).
Click on any picture to enlarge it......................
My suggestion from the get-go had been for me to stay with the sheep while LC went in search of the shepherds.
He had not wanted to leave me out there - just in case he and shepherds missed each other along the way.  If the shepherds already knew of the missing lamb they would be in search of him.  If they were in search of him, they would have the dogs with them.
They were beautiful dogs, but my crossing paths with them when they were trained to keep anything and everything away from their sheep, would not have been a good idea..............

A few minutes after attempting to corral the wayward sheep, LC headed back to the Tahoe.
OK - let's go tell the shepherds.
Leaving little guy to his own devices, we quickly headed out onto BLM land, driving dirt double track out to the sheep wagon......................
I remembered this huge and beautiful and magnificent horse.
I fell in love with him last year when the sheep were wandering BLM in the spring.
LC beeped the horn and while we waited for one shepherd or another to appear, I snapped quick pictures of the horse and wagon.
A couple of minutes after our arrival, a young man opened the door and smiled at us.
We smiled back at him as well, wordlessly letting him know that we were friendly.
It was the same man that we had met briefly last year - a man from Peru, who spoke almost no English, who had a friendly and dark and weather-beaten face.
Between the few words of Spanish that we knew, and the few words of English that HE knew, we hoped that we got the message across to him that there was a baby sheep in town.
He smiled and nodded and headed back into his wagon.
LC and I looked at each other, having no idea whether he had understood what we said, or not..............
Pictures of the sheep drinking and playing on a hill out in the middle of desolate BLM land............
I remembered this guy as well.
Last year he was a cute little ball of fur that was hiding under the protection of the wagon:
After snapping pictures of wagons and horses and dogs and sheep, LC and I looked at each and simultaneously shrugged our shoulders.
Did the shepherd understand us?
Was he coming in search of Baby Sheep (we had invested emotionally enough in the little guy at this point that he was now named Baby Sheep capital B, capital S).
Pulling back onto the trail, we again headed back towards the Hay Bale Field.
By the time we got back close to town our capital B capital S was huddled close to a stack of long abandoned hay bales.
LC parked the Tahoe and our dog again began to bark hysterically.
As I climbed out of the Tahoe my heart melted.
It was very windy and increasingly cool, and this baby knew that he was completely lost and alone.
Together, LC and I headed towards a lost baby...............
We slowed down as we got closer to him but still managed to spook the little guy anyway, and he wandered away from us, clearly alarmed at our presence...............
LC took the left side of him and I took the right, and with arms spread wide we both worked to herd our Baby Sheep towards the fence line.
The open gate was another fifty feet down towards the silos, but we hoped that we could move him towards the freedom of open field.
And then something unexpected happened that was a game changer.
Baby Sheep stopped moving and turned to look at me.  
I dropped to my knees, extended one hand, and gently talked to him.
For a moment I thought that he might come to me, but instead LC made a lunge for him.
Scooping him up in his arms, LC smiled at me.  I smiled back.
Got the little bugger..................
Still smiling at each other, we walked over to the fence.
LC leaned over and gently dropped the little guy down to the ground.
Capital B capital S was now unencumbered by a fence.  
If he walked far enough, and headed in the right direction, he would eventually reach the herd.
Looking into the distance I could see them.  They were a long way off but they were visible, and I could hear them...................
We stood for a good 10 minutes, watching with concern as "our" Baby Sheep wandered in a space far too expansive for a Lost Little Lamb.
We quietly cheered as he headed in the right direction.
And then quietly commiserated when he changed direction and headed away from the herd.
He wasn't making good time.
Would he find his way home?
Who the hell knew?
He had to be tired.  A little guy who wandered a couple of miles away from his mother and the herd.  A little guy that had a couple of miles to walk to get back to where he belonged.
The dirt was very soft and very deep in that field.  
It had been tilled extensively during a time in the past when this land was actually irrigated and growing.
After watching him for 10 minutes, LC and I again looked at each other with concern.
And then decided to drive back to the house, get the truck and head out onto a soft tilled field.
If he was steadfastly heading in the right direction we would leave him be.
If he was floundering we would try to load him into the bed of the truck and drive him home...............
A very quick back to the house, a quick trip for a short distance on gravel road, and LC pulled the truck off the road and headed onto the soft soil.
It sank immediately in a foot of soft dirt and we bounced heavily across the land, thankful that we had a sturdy four-wheel drive tank-of-a-truck.
After five minutes of teeth-rattling and rough driving we found ourselves beyond the soft, tilled ground.  
Driving was easier, and as I began to scan the endless beige land in front of me I saw the shepherd.
He was slowly riding his magnificent paint, with five happy dogs following along who were obviously enjoying their great adventure.
More sign language, more smiles and nods that again left us wondering whether the young Peruvian understood the update we had given him.
Regardless, he continued wandering, the dogs continued wandering, and we continued wandering, all in search of a lamb-on-the-loose..................
And then we found him.
In the middle of wide open and seemingly endless land, slowly toddling in the more-or-less right direction, but looking like a Tired Little Lamb.
Again my heart melted.
Poor little guy.
I just wanted to see him home with his Sheep-Peeps.
LC beeped the horn, and we gratefully watched as the shepherd and happy sheep dogs turned in our direction....................
One tired baby................
Things suddenly happened quickly.
Kory began to bark hysterically.
Truck suddenly was surrounded by happy and excited shepherd dogs.
They looked friendly and beautiful enough from the safety of the inside the truck, but I knew that they were totally focused on the safety of their herd when they felt that the flock was in any kind of danger.
Friendly Peruvian shepherd smiled and waved and thanked, and then headed towards tired baby...............
LC and I were both smiling.
We sat in the middle of BLM land watching with great satisfaction as the shepherd and the dogs slowly and methodically and effortlessly moved the Baby Sheep in the direction of the herd on the hill.
The dogs would see to it that he got safely home..................
This entire episode happened because of Kory.
If she had not sensed from the house that there was something on the roadway on the outskirts of town, we would never have known that a Baby Sheep (capital B capital S) had wandered away from the herd.
It would very likely have died from exposure or coyotes.
It will die eventually of course.  Lamb chops on somebodys' plate mostly likely.
But not on this day it wouldn't.......................

You cannot do a kindness too soon, because you never know how soon it will be too late............Ralph Waldo Emerson

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