I will return to a lighter theme today and relate another true incident from my past. I grew up on a small Indiana pig farm. We had other animals on the farm at times, a few cattle, a couple of ponies, several generations of chickens, a handful of ducks, a clutch of domestic rabbits, the usual collection of farm dogs and cats, and exactly one sheep. My siblings and I, being young at the time, had the habit of naming most of the animals. We were ‘Three Stooges’ fans so the original four pigs Dad started the herd with became Larry, Mo, Curly, and Joe. The cattle were strictly for the freezer and went by names like Hamburger and Pot-Roast. Only a few of the virtually identical White Rock Chickens merited names – including twin roosters called Trouble and Maker.
The sheep’s name was Babette. Babette arrived as my middle sister’s one and only 4H project. Though she stayed with us only a single season (the sheep, not my sister) Babette left an impression. Mainly, she impressed us as stupid, gullible, and able to acquire a bad habit from anyone. When we let Babette out to graze we were concerned about how she would get along with the pigs – swine can be somewhat ill tempered. This turned out not be a valid concern – at least as far as – well, Babette got along fine with the pigs. Sheep are very gregarious and a flock is a flock. But the hygienic habits of pigs are one thing for animals with straight, scant, stiff hair and quite another for an animal with thick, curly wool. We soon decided Babette would be better off grazing in the farmyard, firmly fenced away from the pigs.
It was an odd moment in the life of the farm when a couple of stray female dogs that had wandered, uninvited, into our lives (and apparently also into the life of Bandit, the somewhat surly male dog we kept on purpose) pupped simultaneously. In a relatively brief time we gave almost all of the puppies away. Remember how I told you, we had the habit of naming the animals. You can place this incident in time by knowing that a Presidential Primary was in progress and the two female dogs and the one puppy we kept inherited the monikers Humphrey, Wallace, and McGovern.
Anyway, Babette, banished from the hog lot, took up residence in the farmyard at just the moment the canine population of the estate swelled to an unprecedented 17. Remember also that sheep are very gregarious and a flock is a flock. Babette’s stint as a dog was more humorous than her time as a pig. The highlight was the car chasing. The puppies all did their very best to keep with the older dogs, racing along our front yard fence, yapping for all they were worth every time a car came down the dirt road we lived on. Babette was slower than the adult dogs but faster than the puppies, occupying a middle position in the pack. And have you ever noticed how sheep run? They travel in successive leaps, all four hooves touching in mid-air. The proper caption is ‘Boing, boing, boing’ and always strikes me as reminiscent of old Peppy Le Pew cartoons.
It remains my belief that residents of the township drove miles out of their way for the experience. If cell phones with built in video cameras and social media outlets like Facebook had been a thing at the time, I am sure the scene would have been immortalized.
Anyway – the above story is true and it left me with this firm conviction – sheep are stupid and ready to acquire a bad habit from anyone. It also gave me greater insight into God’s repeated insistence that the best metaphor for us is that of sheep needing a shepherd.
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Minister of Indian Run Christian Church