Most people are not familiar with sheep. Certainly, the Humane Society isn’t… I mean, have you ever heard of someone calling “animal control” because of incessant baa-ing, or a violent attack-lamb coming toward them?
In the “horse and cattle country” of Colorado, even many farmers aren’t familiar with them. It’s much more common to have goats. Goats are actually trainable, they have their babies rather easily, and sweet goat milk (fresh and ice cold) is amazing and can be used for humans and baby animals alike… Sheep, however, need much more assistance when giving birth, they tend to follow each other (not as individual as goats), and rely on constant, perfect fencing (or they will get out and keep going….). Also, most breeds of sheep need to be sheared, which is a lost art for the most part in America; and many people don’t have an acquired taste for lamb (in the United States) or know how to spin and weave wool. They are livestock, and oftentimes we would jokingly say that our chickens were more intelligent then they were…
But I loved them.
I couldn’t explain it, but there was something about their innocence and docility that endeared me to them. I taught myself how to shear them, after observing one local expert shear our sheep several years in a row, and I even learned to spin and weave (hey, you’d be amazed at what you can learn from YouTube!). After five years of raising sheep, I reached a point where I felt that I always wanted to have a few lambs and sheep around… not a larger flock like we had had in the past when we had more acreage, but three or four, to suit our smaller ranch and to keep the farm chores at a more manageable level.
We had three lambs… And I had raised two of them from birth. And by “from birth” I mean that they spent the beginning two months of their lives between our kitchen and with their mothers, while we bottle-fed them. We also had a baby miniature goat…
They each had a name, and even though livestock are not considered “pets,” we viewed every living being on our farm affectionately as part of our little ecosystem, everyone working together in peace and harmony for different purposes. In truth, I simply loved waking up to the sounds of clucking hens, the rooster’s crow, the lambs baa-ing… right alongside my collie greeting the day with a few barks, the barn cats hunting for rogue rodents, and the native birds chirping. Living on a farm is hard work, but those morning sounds of nature are an experience to behold!
That Saturday in January, I couldn’t stay inside while strangers invaded my farm. Being a peaceful person, I figured that conversation could resolve most misunderstandings…
I stumbled down my front porch steps, barely able to feel my cramping, bleeding body’s protest. I limped to where all the strangers were, near my lambs and baby goat we had just adopted….
But they were not interested in conversation.
There, outside my barn, I sobbed and pleaded with them… Please, please tell me what is happening… They ignored me. I was ‘nobody’….
There, they took “AbraRam,” “Frosty,” “Shadow,” and “Angel”…. They took them, like factory drones moving inanimate objects… They took my baby lambs and baby goat, and they loaded them onto the steel livestock trailer….
I could hear them baa-ing inside, and I was cautioned to keep back, to stay away. I felt like a failure as a “shepherdess,” unable to protect them. My husband had raced back from Denver after I frantically called him, just as the entire entourage were getting ready to leave.
No, we were not told our rights; no, we were not given a reason for what was happening… It was all a blur… a crazy, nightmarish blur.
One detail that intrigued me was the last sentence said to me by the police officer. She looked me in the eye and said, “we know you are good people… ” I never forgot that, and I wondered, when there is a crime, do they say “we know you’re a good person” before arresting or charging them or seizing their property? Was it possible that there was another “force” behind these events, another group, another party, other people who had nothing to do with the police force?
Her words gave me a strange sense of hope blended with confusion, at least for a brief moment.
One by one, the vehicles drove off. First the “official” cars, then the trailer with my lambs and baby goat, then the pickup truck, then the remaining civilian vehicles… My mother left as well, giving me a look that daughters and mothers often have when they love each other, where an entire paragraph can be spoken in one look…
I stood by the gate, near the entrance of our property, and all fell eerily silent. A small cloud of dust from the dirt road was all that remained after they left… Where once life had bustled and moved and laughed and grew… my farm was now like a hollow gravesite.
…Much like my womb, which had also been emptied less than two days prior…
I stood there, bleeding, an innocent lamb blind-sided and powerless… hunched and bewildered, just myself and the dust and the silence… And a profound sense of horrific abandonment came over me. I was alone. My father didn’t (couldn’t) stop them, my husband couldn’t stop them, the law didn’t stop them… the doctor couldn’t stop me from losing my baby… Friends, neighbors… They were unaware… And God. Where was God?
There I stood, emptied, humiliated, alone.
(… to be continued…)
Below… The last picture we have of our lambs before they were taken from us: Frosty, AbraRam, and Shadow.