Attention completely unintended

By Glenda Price: State columnist

I agreed to do the chores for several days. Nothing to it, I thought.

Not exactly. The animals’ pasture is being irrigated, so everybody is in the pens by the barn. Five show lambs are in the back pen and three older dry ewes occupy the front pen. An old mare named Countess and a sickly ewe, neither of whom can eat fast enough to keep up with the others, share another pen.

The show lambs are to be fed a specific amount of certain feeds, so the measurements have to be accurate. Each lamb has its own feeder mounted on the fence at the correct height. So in I go, carrying the bucket of measured feed. They glom me trying to get at it, but they’re not very big yet so I win the shoving contest and get everyone fed.

I watch them eat a few minutes, trying to figure out who deserves the name “Grand Champion.” They all look mighty fine to me.

I take the old ewes several chips of alfalfa. They almost knock me over trying to get at the hay, but I make it to the hay rack. They all outweigh me by a bunch, and one particular ewe I named Bruja (witch) is particularly aggressive. I believe her to be barren (unable to conceive) and I wonder if that contributes to her disgusting personality.

She entertains herself by shoving her companions against the fence and butting the water hose just to prove she’s boss, I guess.

I manage to get past her and pitch hay over the fence into Countess and Sickly’s hay rack.

The fences are vertical pipe about an inch in diameter with horizontal matching pipes spaced what I assume are reasonable distances apart. The gates open and close with a matching piece of pipe that slides up and down into and out of the latch — supposedly.

I fix the special feed mix and vitamins for Countess and Sickly. When I start through the old ewes’ pen they all abandon their hay and charge me, trying to get at the bucket I’m carrying. I’m doing well, but I can’t get the dang gate opener to slide. After about 20 seconds Bruja has hold of the bucket.

When I try to get it away from her the other two ewes grab onto it, too. I realize I’m about to be trampled so I do something unthinkable — I let them have the bucket.

When they’ve finished eating I reload the bucket and think the situation over. I can’t find a hammer, but a set of hoof nippers works to bang the sliding pipe loose. But I’m thinking even so I’ll never make it in time.

So I go around to the back of Countess and Sickly’s pen. Heck, I’ll just crawl through the fence. I get about halfway and realize the pipes are closer together than I thought. I’m stuck. Countess nickers and sniffs my hair, worried. I finally squeeze my body through.

I would have given a hundred dollars for a hotshot to get Bruja’s attention.