DISCLAIMER: I simply wanted to post this late night sketch with a few words and then a few became many. Whoops.
I remember when I watched Babe, one of my all time favourites, for the very first time, on a VHS cassette. Babe, the brave and heroic shepherd pig with a heart of gold – stunning the whole nation when simply trying to make his dog mamma and itsFarmer Hogget proud. If you haven’t seen it, do it now. Your heart will lighten up. It is so wholesome.
Within the movie, we learn that all sheep have some sort of international codex. Say the words, and all sheep will listen to you.
Mäh, ihr Schafe, Mäh, ihr Schafe
Bleibet treu eurem Glauben, eurer Rasse, auch im Schlafe
Auch im Schlafe
Mäh, ihr Schafe
Well, I grew up with three small flocks of fluffy animal clouds. And believe me, I tried it. Many times.
Sheep are wonderful beings. Not only are they fluffy (not quite Alpaca but still a solid 7 out of 10 on the fluffometer), they also taste great – yes, we ate them, and I despite us being rather poor, we were certainly spoiled with our meat. It came quite as a shock when I moved out and had to discover how expensive lamb is and that a student’s life and budget didn’t allow for it to be my everyday meat. Even today, I am still lam(b)enting this great culinary loss I had literally taken for granted as a kid. Sheeps are also great weather
menwools. Whenever it’s raining, look at your sheep and check out what they are doing. If its a short shower, they will seek shelter. If its rainy season, wenn sich’s einregnet, as we say in Baden, they won’t bother going under cover. Eventually, they have to get out there anyway. You see? A woolproof weather forecast, every single time. Impressive, eh? No wonder lifestock are called Nutztiere in German, utility animals.
Sheep are much more than that, though. Some of ours had very distinct personalities. Especially the three rams. Aristoteles, Brutus, and Cicero. The eldest, Aristotle, had a deep dark unfathomable face. He was always calm and observing and radiated so much authority, his flock would follow him blindly. Brutus on the other hand was exactly that: brutal. His favourite pastime was running up and ramming his forehead against the stables and he wouldn’t hesitate to do the same to anyone approaching his harem. His forehead was all swollen and rough and red and bulky and he looked like a proper hooligan. A wooligan, hehe. I for my part wouldn’t go near him. I was properly scared and rightly so. Cicero, though young and cocky, was far less aggressive, playfully testing how far he could go before my Dad and Dolly, our German shepherd, would put him back in his place. With growing age, he became more philosophical, just like Aristotle. Telling names, all three of them.
In hindsight, I am eternally grateful my Dad forced me to be a part-time shepherd every other morning before school. I didn’t transform into a natural early riser till my early twenties, so believe me when I say, I loathed it. On the other hand:
Mary Julia had a little lamb, Mara, that needed to be fed with a bottle. Whenever Mara heard me coming, there was an excited Baaaaah from the crowd, followed by some shuffling and there she was, running along to greet me, wagging her tail, like a dog. I remember, when I was sick once and couldn’t go see her, I was so upset, my Mum decided to bring her home, into my brother’s and my bedroom. Needless to say, 9-year-old me was delighted. 2-month-old Mara on the other hand was perhaps a little too excited and peed all over my brother’s English workbook he had left lying around on the floor (for further tipps on how to educate your children to tidy up their stuff, follow me). Practical as she was and unaware of any sense of embarrassment, my Mum wrote a letter to his teacher, explaining the rather odd circumstances and asking whether it was possible to order a new book. A year later, when I started secondary school I had the same teacher. As he read out my name, he looked at me, raised his eyebrows and said: „So you’re the little sister. How’s your lamb doing?” Still a better excuse than the dog ate my homework.
When my Dad fell ill, we sadly had to give up our flocks. They now live happily ever after with a nomadic shepherd and it’s comforting to imagine that Mara got to see the whole wide world.
And to end this post on a less melancholical note and come back to our key words “sleep” and “sheep”: As a kid, my favourite place to nap was downstairs in our sort-of-living room, on a sheepskin right in front of the piano. Sometimes I was so comfortably snuggled up, I refused to leave and would stay there all night. It’s one of my few thoroughly happy childhood memories. Bliss. Hope my pencil sheep has peaceful dreams. I count on it.