I would say that Peg and I bonded completely, shepherdess and docile sheep, one frigid and icy New Year’s morning.
An ice storm had come in on New Year’s evening. Judd was gone on a retreat of solitude and silence, and Sara and I were holding down the fort. We woke up to at least an inch of ice covering the trees, grass, and road.
Despite the frigid weather, chores still had to be done, so I bundled up in my heavy-duty Army jacket and pulled on the black insulated Air Force boots. With a wool hat and warm work gloves, I was prepared, or at least I thought I was. It should have been a quick walk to the barn for grain, to the sheep pen for hay, and to the water tank to break up the ice and run some water.
My heavy boots slipped and slid across the icy yard and down the driveway to the barn. Bear, my black lab, “guardian of the barn,” was there to greet me. I patted his head, filled his dish with some kibbles, and refilled his water bowl. Scooping up the grain for the sheep from the grain bin I headed back out into the icy yard.
By this time, the sheep knew I was coming. Shoving and pushing each other they were trying to get close to the fence where I would pour the grain into their feeder. They were all there . . . except for one! Peg had not shown up. Quickly dumping the grain into the feeder, my eyes scanned the large pen trying to find her. Up against the fence at the top of the hill I spotted a gray wooly bundle. This was not good.
“Hey, Peg,” I called to her. She lifted her head and turned to look my way, but never moved. Slowly lowering her head, she became a wooly bundle again.
I studied the situation for a minute and decided I had to get closer to her to evaluate what was going on, but in these freezing temperatures, the hillside was going to be nearly impossible for me to climb. The west fence would be my tow rope up the icy slope, I decided.
Stillness, ice sparkling from the trees, leaves, fence. Under any other circumstance I would be mesmerized with the splendor of this scene, but at the moment my focus was on my obviously suffering ewe.
As I neared the ewe, I discovered she was in labor and was having great difficulty. The lamb was effaced. But so was one of its legs. Push as hard as she could, she was not going to get this lamb dislodged.
Back down the hill I slid to call Dr. Penner, our farm vet who had already walked with me through some of my farm crises. Peg and I were going to need help. My phone call got through to Dr. Penner at a garage in town where he was waiting for a tire to be changed. As icy as the roads were, I knew it would take him awhile to get out, even after the tire was fixed. I grabbed some towels, pulled on my snow pants, warmed my hands by the wood stove, and hurried back to Peg.
Once again I climbed the hill using the fence for assistance. Peg was resting when I reached her. Sitting down on the ice beside her, I began praying. “God, you are my shepherd, and I don’t know how to help my sheep. She is your creature, also. Please help us.”
A song came to my mind and I began to sing it softly to her, trying to comfort both of us
Beside the still waters in pastures of green,
The Shepherd is leading where all is serene;
By day and by night He will always be seen
Beside the still waters of peace.
For He’s the Good Shepherd who died for the sheep;
His own He has promised to keep.
He lovingly watches and guards while they sleep
Beside the still waters of peace.
The song comforted me as I imagined my Shepherd there with us, not exactly green pastures and still water, but lovingly watching and guarding.
My voice seemed to comfort Peg for a while. Then she returned to her fruitless pushing. I was at a loss. It had been about an hour since I had called Dr. Penner. I listened for sounds of a vehicle coming down Kitten Creek Road, but no traffic was moving. Maybe the doc wouldn’t even be able to get here on these icy roads.
Suddenly, Peg flopped her head down on the ground and appeared to stop breathing. “She is dying! I am going to lose them both! Oh, dear God, I don’t know what to do. I’ve got to do something. Please help me.”
With that, I pulled off my gloves, rolled up my sleeve, and reached inside where I had seen a leg. Never before had I had an experience like this, but I was going to do whatever I could. I had to do it! She would die and so would the lamb if I didn’t. Amazingly, I found another leg turned under and apparently making it impossible for Peg to push out the lamb. Carefully, I straightened the leg and gave a tug. Out came a very wet little lamb.
Peg lay there oblivious. Grabbing the lamb I carried it to her nose. “Look, Mama. Look at what we have done,” I squealed. Peg’s head jerked up. Giving a motherly, low and soft “meh”, she came alive again and began licking and nudging her new lamb. A few seconds later, she began pushing again. Out popped another lamb as easily as you please. I was ecstatic!
However, we had two very wet and cold little lambs. I had to get them safely down to the barn where they would have a soft and warm bed in the straw. Holding the lambs up to Peg’s face I encouraged her to stand. Slowly she crawled to her feet. Wrapping the lambs in the towels I had brought from the house, the four of us headed down the slippery hill.
Just as I got to the bottom of the hill, Dr. Penner drove up to the barn. Climbing out and shutting the door to his van, he chortled, “You did it! All by yourself! Congratulations!”
After checking out the lambs and their mother and getting them bedded down in some dry straw, we walked back to the van together. Dr. Penner had always seemed to understand my love for my sheep. “They are going to be fine, Nancy, and you did it all by yourself!,” he said with a proud smile.
I didn’t explain to him that I hadn’t done it alone. My Shepherd had been there with me the whole time. . . beside still waters and in pastures green.