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Larry and Me
A Woolly Situation
Oh I remember it well, the day Larry was born. It followed an evening of frost, sharp and crisp, with a real nip in the air. Definitely an evening to be wearing the hat and mittens. Walking the fields hand in hand with my man, taking in the evening chill, watching our breath form misty clouds in front of us. The moon looked like a round piece of Swiss cheese, with holes resembling craters, and the outer rim looking as if it had been attacked by a cheese grater.
The countryside always takes on a different air in the evening, don't you think? The yips of the fox heightens the intensity of being alone, and the badger sniffing along the shrubbery seams so sinister, even with a big strong man in tow. My man and I would often take a walk in the evening, far to busy during the daytime to take time for ourselves. Always something to do, and no time to do it in.
The frost turning the shrubbery to a flaky green and silver, you know if you reach out to touch it, the ice will melt and leave a dark limb sticking out like a sore thumb from the other limbs. In a heavy frost everywhere takes on the look of misty whiteness, absolutely beautiful, but not for every living thing.
The crows had been nesting in the copse a little way in the distance, and I had heard the farmers discussing the problems they where causing on the land. My man had suggested that he would take his shotgun and kill them, after all they where only classed as vermin.
With shotgun in hand, we sat behind the dry stone wall, a jigsaw of broken stones and I was amazed at how strong it was to withstand the weather in this part of the country. Donegal as a county, has a very differing climate. And, with no land between Donegal and America it's shores take their fair share of battering from the winds.
In the distance, we could see a group of crows fighting. They ducked and dived avoiding collision with the wall, and the squawks they made were hideous to say the least. My man fired a shot in the air and the crows dispersed, to leave what can only be seen as a dead ewe.
Alongside the wall lay two new born lambs and as we approached we could see the two lifeless little figures side by side. My man telephoned the farmer who told him "leave all where it lays and I will look at it in daylight". But as we bent down to look at the two little lambs, one stirred. He was full of peck holes and torn flesh where the crows had attacked him. He was so frail and cold that I immediately picked him up and put him inside my coat. Alas, his twin was already dead and could not be helped.
My man laughed at me, "He is too far gone", he said, "he wont survive." Now having bred horses for most of my life, I wasn't faint hearted and took the lamb home, placed him in a cardboard box under the radiator in my bedroom. Covered him with an old quilt and wrapped a warm hot water bottle along side him. During the evening, I kept the little lamb warm, and in the morning he was still alive. I filled all the pecked holes in his skin with the juice from an aloe vera plant on the kitchen window, and his more serious cuts I bathed in iodine and then honey and kept them covered with bandages. At this stage the lamb looked more like an Egyptian mummy, than anything alive. My neighbour was kind enough to give me colostrum from his ewe's and suddenly the lamb was on the road to survival.
He lay in the box under the radiator for a few days, bleating and the little tail wagging like a helicopters blades. Days progressed into weeks and the lamb got stronger and stronger. He was able to be bottle fed with cows milk and the aloe vera had done a fantastic job on his coat. He was a ram lamb and I called him Larry.
As Larry grew, his demand for attention grew also, and soon he was the talk of the neighbourhood. Children from miles around came to make friends with Larry. He was terribly boisterous and got into all sorts of trouble. He used to wait on the front doorstep, watching the traffic pass by until I returned home, but more so if he could manage, and manage he did, many times, he would ride pillion in the car to collect Craig from school.
As he grew he liked nothing better to spend quality time with mum, me in this case, and would snuggle into my back whilst I sat in the garden to read. He came to his name called, and got on fantastically with our dog Bruno. We started to feed him nuts and he would stand and beg at the back door to be fed. He had a fantastic character about him.
One day, a neighbours dog got into our garden and attacked Larry, ripping his testicle sac from his body and leaving him to bleed to death had I not come home early. Shocked to see the state the dog had left my lamb in, I phoned a neighbour who had bred sheep all of his life. He was at the house within minuets. "Fetch me two thin sticks from the tree, and a bottle of iodine and some string," he said, "I will have to castrate him or he will bleed to death", I immediately wanted to fetch the vet, but Edmund had already started the job in hand. He took the two thin sticks washed in iodine and twisted Larry's testicles like twisting a rope, with the two sticks and tied them in place with the string. I of course, was handy again with the aloe vera juice from the plant on the kitchen window sill, and cleaned the rest of the cuts with iodine. Edmumd gave Larry a shot of penicillin from his store and left with instructions to keep him warm and he would be fine. I was so alarmed at the sight presented in front of me, but surprisingly Larry survived.
Larry was affectionate if not a little too boisterous for some of the family members, tumbling them over for the fun of it. He visited the school children at Craig's school and became a lovely family pet. However, one day fate struck a blow. My dad was 82 years old at the time and struggling to walk, but always wanting to feel useful, was outside emptying the bin when Larry decided to play. He knocked my dad to the ground and I then realised that Larry would have to have a new home. Edmund came to the rescue, "I'll give him a new home" he said, "I have a couple of old pet lambs about the house, he wont come to any harm." So away went Larry on his lead and collar to stay with Edmund, or so I believed.
Several weeks later I stopped Edmund on the road to ask how Larry had settled in. "Oh that fella" he said grinning from ear to ear, "you fed him too much milk as a lamb and it tainted the taste, he will be fine tasting in stew. Plenty left in the freezer if you would like some" I was devastated, not only had I lost my baby, but cruelly I felt that I had been betrayed by someone I trusted. Driving away, Edmund shouted "he has come to no harm in my septic tank"!!
God rest you Larry the lamb. I will always remember you.