Last Sunday Cleo and I found ourselves engaged in an honest to goodness push-pull… or maybe it was a push-push… or, ok, we’re talking about sheep, it was a lean-lean. He fully anticipated a pail of tasty mixed grain to be placed before him and was disappointed (as voiced by his loud and incessant bleating) to find that I had determined to feed the goats first. Having suffered a tumble the day before from the physical blitzkrieg into my personal space by my overeager, semi-aggressive, food-driven ruminant friend, I stood my ground.
There we stood staring into each others’ eyes (his kind of creepy and intimidating because of the rectangular pupil), sizing each other up. He leaned into me with his forehead flat against my belly, applying a wealth of body weight, pushing with tenacious purpose. Still, I stood my ground, the bucket of grain high above my head. Cleo pushed again, harder. I was forced to take a half-step back, widen my stance, and adjust my balance, but still, I stood my ground, bucket remaining out of reach. I issued forth a belly-buck upon Cleo’s forehead as a show of dominance and determination. We were engaged in a scene: back-alley rumble meets barnyard. As Cleo began to bleat and bluster, I could almost sense a rhythm to his complaints and hear the words…”When you’re a sheep, you’re a sheep all the way; from the first time your shorn to your last dyin’ day,” and in that moment, I thought Bernstein or Sondheim might have been a more fitting name for this sheep rather than the one bestowed upon him at birth before his gender was apparent, and which he carried with him from his original farm to ours. Poor Cleo, a boy sheep with a girl name.
Cleo is our single black sheep, and our only boy sheep, but he doesn’t stand out, not really. Being the sheep that he is, he upholds the stereotype: Conformist, follower. If the herd is moving, he is following. Like his sisters Alice and Junebug, he sticks close to his little herd, he eats what they eat, he follows our cars down the driveway, and he runs at stampede-speed toward any person holding a bucket. Yep, they all do that. I guess you never know when a bucket might have something extra-delicious in it. While all three of the sheep get pretty excited (manifesting in a sudden alert posture, a subtle tilt of the head, unblinking eyes, and ears twitching in asynchronous fits), Cleo puts an impressive amount of gusto into the endeavor of getting his mouth in that bucket. So holding a bucket, regardless of what is (or isn’t) in it can be dangerous if done within his line-of-sight of. Sheep are generally not thought of as dangerous, but rather as gentle creatures; I have never heard these woolly pets referred to as the “piranha of the pasture” or the “gators of the glen.” But a full-speed approach of three waist-high critters of surprising strength and agility can sweep out the feet and up-end the body in a matter of nanoseconds.