May 8, 2014
I helped my mother with her sheep not too long ago. I worked alongside Christian, Mom’s hired hand. Jim Schaefer, the sheep shearer, and mom herself. Before we could start shearing of we needed to get them in the prepared place. Mom had long since mustered the sheep into the corral when Dad, Nathan, and I arrived, so we helped herd them across the road into the hay barn that was open to the south, for which were thankful later during shearing because it let in a nice cool breeze the whole two days we sheared.
Before we got the sheep lined up, Jim had to set up his equipment and Mom had set up a sort of makeshift corral in order to separate the white sheep from the black because we put the respective colored fleeces in their own bags for sale. I would arrive later with the back up generator and a barrel to throw the poopy wool into and by the time I had arrived, Jim had sheared half bags worth of sheep’s wool. Christian’s job had been to stuff the fleeces into the bag, but I took over his job and he bounced back and forth to help Mom and me. (Mom was sorting and keeping the sheep lined up in the race for shearing.) what my job entailed was waiting for Jim to shear off the belly wool and I’d throw it onto a special pile for the belly wool (the black belly wool wasn’t sorted as such; it sells along with the good colored wool). The second step involved taking the wool with poopy clumps tangled up in it and throwing it into the rubbish barrel I had brought up for that very purpose, although, when Christian wasn’t sorting sheep, he’d throw them in for me because he had gloves on.
When Jim was almost done shearing a sheep, I’d start rolling the fleece up under itself so when I held it up so it wouldn’t fall apart on me. When Jim finally sheared the sheep clean, I’d gather it up and go toss it in a bag.
Let me tell you about how this bag business is set up. The bag itself is nearly eight feet tall and narrow with a width of a foot. Jim brought along a structure to hold the bag that consisted of a ladder connected to a hopper that the bag goes on which, in turn, is connected to a panel that is wired onto a hastily-built corral panel of dubious integrity. You climb up the ladder and shove the fleece into it and then you jump into the bag and start stomping on it so we could get as many fleeces as we could in the bag because Jim had only brought six bags with him. Although I would suggest only jumping in there when it is four fleeces full, because it’s hard enough as it is getting out of there as it is nearly impossible without once fleece in there. I also suggest using a stick of something to press the first three down because when I land down into the bag to shove it, the ladder slid away and I became trapped with the upper half of my body in the bag with the hoop pinning me against the panel. Thankfully, they were able to hear my cries for help over the radio and got me out of there. Jim got a good laugh out that!
There were times when jumping down into the bag that I’d forget to raise my arms high enough and I knocked them against the hoop going down and let me tell you, getting out of a narrow, eight-foot bag, while only using your arms that were hurting like heck wasn’t half as funny as it sounds. Needless to say, I didn’t forget but one or thrice.
Pizza for lunch was a welcoming break to say the least. Cutting the sheep’s tails short proved interesting because Jim kept forgetting to hold onto every other sheep that needed its tail snipped; it was funny the first few times, but the novelty wore off rather quickly. After all of the shearing and snipping had been done, we moved the sheep and their lambs back across the road, leaving only the wethers slated for butcher and the rams behind to take up to the old homestead. We then began the arduous task of rolling the five and a half bags (one filled up halfway) to Jim’s pickup. It took two of us to stack all of the bags up on there and after that we loaded up Jim’s equipment and wished him on his merry way.
Two days of handling sheep fleece had made my hands all soft and ‘lotionally’ that weeks afterwards they were still like a babe’s bum and relieved that we were done with the sheep.
Stories by Dallas – May 2014