Gifts from the Sheep Shed

by Robin Magaddino

I like short sentences.  I like to listen to the silence between them.  Taking a pause between one-word sentences can be bliss.  Truncated, that’s what they are, and they can create tension and urgency.  The other parts of the sentence are left to your imagination, so…

Gifts from the Sheep Shed

by Robin Magaddino

Its  five o’dark on February eighth, fourteen degrees, no wind, gentle snowfall, perfect.  I snuggle down to await the annual miracle. Lambda already claimed the private spot behind the hay manger.  Other ewes chew cud and steam up the dim barn with hot breaths.

Birth from a sheep’s point of view–Walk in a small circle.  Circle, circle, circle. Lay down. Wait. Stand. Circle. Stand and stare.  Breathe a hard blast of steam in the frigid air. Murmur a question, “mmmur?” Look down.  Lick lips and murmur. Lay down. Hold breath and strain. Leap up, spin around and search.  Lick wet straw. Murmur a question. Lick lips. Stand and pant. Circle, circle, circle. Lay down with back to wall.  Hold breath, dig in hoofs and strain, tighten, stiffen, push. Jump up and flip around. A lamb is snorting, lifting its head, kicking free of the protective amniotic sac that was home for 5 months.  

Lambda licks and murmurs garbled questions—are you alive? are you healthy?  Lamb answers with a sweet “baaa”. Lambda licks more vigorously after hearing the answer.  Lamb leaps up into a staggering search for survival. Her fluffy curls are dry within 20 minutes and Lambda gently shoves her down into the corner where she rests in a stupor.

Lambda circles once, lays down, takes a quick inhale and pushes.  Out pops a smaller lamb followed by another the same size. Lambda rushes back to lamb One.  Two and Three kick, sneeze and bleat. Lambda abruptly leaves One to begin licking noses of Two and Three.  Their heads bobble up and they bleat in unison. She leaves them for bleating number One. Two and Three protest their isolation with ear splitting bleats and kick to stand up.  Three stands, shaking like a wet dog to rid itself of the slimy coat. Lambda spins to lick its umbilical cord and tail, pulling off the sac in long strips, eating it. She quickly licks the tissue tangle from the umbilical cord and legs of number Two and up it pops.   She gives Two and Three a mere spit bath and returns to number One.

On it goes until the afterbirth is expelled and all the mess is eaten and licked up.  The lambs are directed toward the nipples and, in a few minutes, all is quiet.