Paul and I have just returned from eleven days in England. England at the end of April can be showery but, you don’t have to shovel it and you don’t get stuck in it so it seemed perfect to us.
The hotel that we were staying in while in the Cotswold's had over one hundred acres of open farm land that they let a neighboring farmer graze his sheep on. Each evening after returning from traveling we would, carefully, cross the road into the field. You can take the girl out of the farm …
We’d begin the trek up the path made by the wandering flock. Traversing the hill we trudged, heads down so that we could try to avoid the sticky black piles. As we neared the top and lifted our eyes, looking back at us with expressions of mixed curiosity and disdain were approximately seventy-five ewes with their bouncing babies. When I use the term “bouncing” I mean literal bouncing going on.
Paul and I stood quietly enough that the moms returned to their grazing. The lambs, like any self-respecting kid, took that as a green flag for playing to begin. One moment they would be looking at us quizzically, ears completely horizontal to their heads. The next second they would levitate from a full standing position. Their fuzz-covered, thick little legs propelling them upward with a spring that could only be compared to a jack-in-the-box. Off they would run as fast as they could, their mirror-image twin right beside them.
Clumps of them would congregate; little gangs we said. Sometimes a nibble of grass, often a head butt to a gang member for good measure.
If we took two steps too close, suddenly the mother’s heads would pop up and they would quickly glare at us while calling for their wayward youngsters.
Paul patiently stood on the hillside, thoughts of resuming our walk rapidly dwindling along with the daylight. I was transfixed by the scene. Somewhere primal I recognized those mother/child interactions: knowing the feeling of suddenly realizing that your child has drifted out of sight. You try to contain the panic in your voice as you bellow, “EEEEEETTTHHAN” for the tenth time. Ethan, in the meantime, is busy racing the other lambs to the rock. However, if the perceived danger gets one step too close, even Ethan bolts for mom.
What amazed me is how fast those moms and babes could reunite. Everybody was wearing wool yet, somehow, kids found moms and moms found kids - maternal magic I suppose.
One evening we were back and watching the scene, (“again,” Paul interjects as I write this) and the moms began the round-up on our approach. Fast, furious, fur-balls zipped to their mothers sides. When they would reach her they would both, literally, ram their heads toward her udder lifting her back legs up off the ground. Moms being moms, she would simply continue to chew the remaining grass in their mouths.
There was one ewe who was continuing to yell even after everyone had gathered. She would bleat once, look around a bit and then, with the same note (this was a musical trip, after all) bleat again.
This bothered me terribly. Paul, sensing a camp-out in his near future, assured me that mom and tot would soon reunite.
As we walked, reluctantly, down the hill in the twilight, I could hear her continuing to call, as I knew she would.
All but one of my own lambs live away from home now. They are all happy and healthy but, once in a while, I can’t help but stand on our hillside and bellow hopefully for them to come home.
To all of you fellow bellowers - Happy Mother’s Day.