| In the main, the majority of life is a mundane bit of business, characterized by the routine and often painful pattern of survival and just going about one's business day to day. Occasionally, however, you will come upon an event or story which brings some charming whimsy into the mix, verifying that beauty and humor are what make life so much more than ordinary.
I was listening to National Public Radio on my way home from work the other night and I heard an interview which lightened my otherwise bleak and miserable day. Just as an aside, I heartily recommend National Public Radio to everyone. It is one of the best things in America and I give them money whenever I can so that they never go off the air. When I cannot give financial support I have volunteered to answer phones and accept money from other people during one of their fund-raising drives. The news and interviews on public radio rivals anything in any other information medium.
The interviewer was an American lady who was talking with a gentleman who farmed and raised sheep in some tiny, little village in northern England. Evidently, his village was suffering from some burglaries and he took it upon himself to patrol late at night armed only with a sheepdog and five members of his flock. Yes, he brought his sheep.
The first question the interviewer asked was what the burglars were out to steal. Was it cars and bikes and were they breaking and entering homes? The farmer told her that the thieves in question were stealing flagstones. "Flagstones?" she asked. I couldn't blame her for sounding somewhat incredulous. Evidently, this very, very old village has houses built out of some very, very old stone which is terribly valuable to someone; he didn't make it entirely clear to whom. Decorators? Landscapers? Crazed stone masons? At any rate, rough types were coming up from London in the wee hours of the morning and stealing people's flagstones. The intrepid farmer decided that he was going to do something about it, so he voluntarily trotted himself, his sheepdog, and five sheep out into the streets at midnight to patrol.
"You take your sheep with you?" the interviewer asked in a weak voice.
"Yes I do," replied the farmer firmly, "they are quite aggressive, you know, and make splendid watch dogs."
"I imagine most people see sheep as being pretty passive," said the interviewer, "I mean, not at all scary."
"You see, that's where people are wrong," corrected the farmer, "they get their ideas from biblical references and lambs and lions and whatnot, don't they? After all, Jesus was the Lamb of God, right? But that's not the way of it at all. Lambs are docile enough, but full grown sheep can be right vicious when aroused."
There was a long pause; probably longer than strictly allowed by the FCC. Finally, the interviewer emerged out of the silence to ask how he used the sheep on patrol.
"Well," answered the farmer in a voice straight out of every episode of All Creatures Great and Small you ever saw, "I send the dog up the driveways to check to see if any funny business is going on, if he starts barking, I give the sheep the command to line up end to end at the bottom of the drive to block anyone trying to escape. When they see that line of sheep they stop dead in their tracks, let me tell you."
"Do the sheep attack?" asked the poor woman in a squeaky voice.
"Not really, unless I tell 'em to, of course" said the farmer. "One time, a would-be burglar did try to push me out of the way and Bob went for him like a Tiger."
"Bob? Your sheep is named Bob?"
"Aye," said the farmer, "Bob's my best ram for scaring the bad element. He drove his horns into the fellow and he and his partners in crime dropped the pilfered flagstones and ran like the Devil was after them, Bob right on their heels. I had to send the dog to bring old Bob back."
"Have your sheep ever attacked you?" asked the interviewer with trepidation.
"One time one of the rams took a dive at me," the farmer replied, "but old Bob went after him fast as lightning. He never did it again, I can tell you. Of course, we had him castrated after that which settled him down some. He's still pretty feisty, though, he and Bob take turns guarding the door to the cottage at night."
At this point, I could practically hear the interviewer's brains start leaking out of her eye sockets. I wondered how she was keeping from laughing.
"How do the local police feel about you and your sheep?" she managed to ask.
"Oh, they are glad to have us around, aren't they?" stated the farmer. "We help them out and flagstone theft is way down. Our local constable told me that word had gotten out about me and the sheep and thieves were staying clear of the village." No doubt.
The interviewer didn't ask the question I was hoping she would; what if some local citizen stepped out in the middle of the night for a breath of air or to take out the trash or water the Hollyhocks or something? Would he suddenly find himself being chased down the lane by an enraged and maniacally bleating Bob? She did ask how the scouting sheepdog knew who was a homeowner and who was a thief. The farmer replied, with a certain note of scorn, "He's not stupid, is he?" Probably not.
All in all, I think we could use some patrolling sheep here in the States. I think they would be an excellent and useful addition to the neighborhood watch, and they could eliminate a lot of lawn mowing as a bonus. Now that I know the ugly truth about sheep I can't help thinking that it's a darn good thing that when the Angel of God came to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus he didn't stop to pick up any stray rocks or stones; if there is a Bob in every flock, it could have gone very badly.