Monday, 27 November 2017

A Jump To The Left

Some time back, I wrote about two of our rams (TwoMega-Nits of Ram) getting their horns entangled like one of those party puzzles. Back then, the first pass at fixing it was after dark after a five hour drive. Funny how the same things come round.
Butch as a youngster, with his mother - 

This time I there was no long car drive, just a busy day mixing concrete and building a flight of steps. Come evening, my partner went out to feed the sheep and I decided to take a shower. Usually, I wouldn’t step into the shower until sheep-feeding is done, just in case there’s a head stuck through a fence, or one of the regular troublemakers is in the wrong field. This time, I went for the shower anyway, because it’s so long since anything actually went wrong, and because I really, really needed to spend some time under a relaxing spray of hot water.
Butch (top right) as a teenager. hanging around with his mates, Panda and Monk

At least I was out of the shower by the time my partner called from the back door.
Butch hasn’t turned up for food.
That’s sort-of unusual. Butch is our oldest ram (his half brother Monk is several days younger) and really likes his food. However, since his fall from the exalted rank of Alpha Male (Because when you’ve reached the top, there’s only down left... ), everybody tries to beat him up, including one of the wethers. Worse still, he’s only got one horn intact – the right side broke a while back so there is only a stump. Despite being a foodie, Butch can be put off coming to the gate when the evening feed is being put out. And at that time of evening, with the light almost gone, spotting a mid-brown ram amongst the shadows across a couple of acres of field can be difficult.
I pottered around the house, finding clothes, whilst my partner went to finish dealing with the rest of the sheep. After all, Butch might still turn up...
Or not.
Quarter of an hour later we set out with a lantern to search the field where the rams spend the winter. It is our largest open field – no gorse bushes in the middle – but it slopes and undulates, creating a number of shallow dips where a ram might hide. It also has a corner where the fence has been heavily reinforced following an escape attempt some years back, so we started there.


Butch. keeping his right side to the fence
Good choice. That saved us a lot of tramping around in the dark. Butch was not actually in the corner but a short distance out, huddled against the stock netting. Whilst his right horn is largely gone, he still has the full corkscrew on the left and what he did was...
Actually, I have no idea what he did. I suspect it started with a jump to the left, but somehow he had threaded that corkscrew horn into the fencing. Given his age and weight, I really can’t imagine that he turned a couple of somersaults to do the job, but it was quickly obvious that just moving him backwards and forwards was not going to unscrew him.
There was only one thing to do – pick him up, turn him on his back, and just keep rotating until he came free. That sounds simple, but Butch probably weighs somewhere in the region of twenty-five to thirty kilos (small by modern commercial sheep standards, but still about the same as a sack of coal), has no convenient hand-holds, and really, really hates being picked up, let alone turned upside-down. He has various ways to express his displeasure, but once I had him toes-skyward he went for the kick and flail option. So, to recap – pick up twenty-five kilos of uncooperative sheep, turn him over, take great care to not break his neck, nor get kicked in the face, and then untwist his horn from the fence. No, wait, I left out a few details – do this in the dark (OK, there was a lantern, but it doesn’t matter where that is, the glare gets in my eyes), without injuring myself, and in clothes fresh out of the cupboard. With the other rams gathering round. That’s it. Simple.
A ram, twisted into a fence, in a mood – a whole new meaning to cross threaded. I can also tell you from close, personal experience, that a sheep hoof does not fit inside a human nostril, and that it really stings when a grumpy ram tries to disprove that idea. I can also tell you that it doesn’t matter which hoof. At the time, I said forceful things that might be paraphrased as ow, that hurt you pesky little rascal.
When it was done, there was only one more thing to say.

I need another shower.

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