Throwback Thursday

Photo by Mark von Arb on

Today I was thinking of the first sheep I was ever around. My oldest daughter decided she wanted to do market lambs as a 4-H project. I wanted my children to explore different projects, we could learn together.

We did not have a lot of money. I could not go to a person raising market lambs and purchase a lamb for hundreds or thousands of dollars like the majority of parents did for their children showing market lambs. I talked with a man, Mr. Taylor, who I knew from working at a restaurant as a waitress, who raised sheep and market lambs. I explained my money situation to him and my daughter’s desire. He asked if I would be interested in a bottle baby as he could sell me one when one was available. I said sure, we could do a bottle baby.

In a few weeks Mr. Taylor called, he had two lambs whose mother rejected. When I arrived, Mr. Taylor told me he had tied the ewe up so the lambs could get some colostrum, and he had banded their tails and made them wethers. Great, I did not know how or have the equipment. He told me what I would need to feed them. We went to the feed store for the supplies, then took the little lambs home.

We did not have a place to put baby lambs who required feeding around the clock, so in the house they went. We build a small area behind the stairs for them to live. We heated our home with a wood stove, the only source of heat in January when we brought the lambs home. This little area was near the wood stove, they would stay warm, or as warm as we were.

Next the lambs needed names. My daughter chose names from a book series written by Judy Blume she was reading, Peter and Fudge. The one with a dark birth mark on the shoulder became Fudge. My daughter was very good about mixing the formula and caring for her lambs. When she was at school, I would feed the lambs. After a couple of weeks, Fudge became sick. He was not eating and just laying around. I knew he had to be kept warm, and eat. My daughter would heat towels on the wood stove to place on Fudge. She would sit with him, patiently squeezing the nipple to have milk run onto his tongue and into his mouth. She burnt a few towels, when she was busy feeding Fudge, and left them on the wood stove too long. But after a week, Fudge was standing and eating once more.

These little lambs followed my oldest daughter every where. They were in the house and into every thing else. She would call their names and they would come running and baaing to her. We had to start putting them in a pen or the house when the school bus came as they got on the bus with her one morning. The bus driver was not happy. The rhyme Mary had a little lamb and it followed her to school one day, my daughter had two little lambs that followed her everywhere and wanted to go to school on day.

We were cautioned not to feed the lambs too much grain too fast. We tried hard to get these lambs ready for the county fair. Two days before the fair, Mr. Taylor sheared the lambs for use. At weigh in for the fair, Peter and Fudge did not make class weight. Peter was two pounds too light, and Fudge was five pounds. They would have to show in the underweight class and not be eligible for the fair sale. My daughter would be able to complete her project. At the fair, my youngest daughter had to help with the showing, as both lambs were in the same class. My daughter was disappointed she had not done better showing her lambs. But I was happy we kept them alive to show at the fair.

Since they did not make weight, and were ineligible for the sale, we would have to take Peter and Fudge home. At the fair I was approached by a friend who was Navajo. They needed some lambs for a special family feast and wanted to know if they could purchase the lambs. My daughter agreed. She knew this project would end with the sale of the lambs. My Navajo friend took the lambs after the fair.

I couple of weeks later, I ran into her in town. She told me when it came time to bless the lambs before they were slaughtered, Grandma said they were special, and could not be slaughtered for the feast. She was a little upset, as the family had to scurry to find some more lambs for the feast. Grandma kept Peter and Fudge, gave them new Navajo names. The family had to build a fence around her hogan, traditional home for Navajo people, to keep them out. Anytime when we met, in town or at 4-H she would update us on Peter, Fudge and Grandma. Grandma believed the special lambs helped to protect her flock of sheep, and increase the lambs born. A few years later Grandma dies, and the family has a fight over who will get to keep the special lambs. These lambs were eight or nine years old sheep at the time Grandma died. It was finally settled a sister would have one, and a brother’s wife would have the other. After this I moved out of the area and no longer received updates on how these two special lambs were doing.

I do not know how long these special lambs lived. I know for my daughter they were special, for Grandma they were special and a family considered them special. My daughter was happy that her beloved Peter and Fudge were never slaughtered.


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