Farming at Sunset

Today was Easter Sunday.  It was also the day I fell in love with Tony.

I’ll be the first to admit that Tony is a little young for me (he’s 4); and alas, he lives too far away for us to be able to see each other regularly.  Oh, and there’s the minor matter that he’s a sheep.

Nevertheless, the signs of love at first sight were all there – that certain twinkle in his eye, the way he followed me everywhere I went, the way he let me run my hands (well, really my sheep clippers) all over his full 350 pounds of muscle, the way he kissed me on the arm when I shaved his belly, and the heavenly way his deep, soulful eyes met mine at every possible juncture – I wanted to break into song, “no, no they can’t take that away from me”.

Now, while Tony is one special dude, I’m also pretty sure that he is a ladies’ man.  The word on the street is, too, that he likes his beer.  But this doesn’t faze me – I’ve always had a distinct penchant for bad (or should I say baaaa-d) boys, and having all that charm wrapped up in so much brawn – combined with long flowing hair, a clear intelligence, and farmboy know-how to boot – well sir, what female sheep shearer wouldn’t lose her head!

Returning home in the glow of Tony’s parting glance and the setting sun of Easter on soft, green fields, I thought about how just a few months back the animals on  my farm and I despaired in the mounds of snow that buried us for so long in dreary isolation.  With renewed energy, I hauled water troughs, unloaded hay, and cleaned stalls.  Much can be done during sunset that can’t happen in the brightness of midday.  It’s a contemplative time, a time for returning home. The chickens settle in their roosts and the sheep wander back up to the barn.  The stars start to peek out, the frogs begin their singing, insects trill, and it seems to be a time for gathering, in general.

Having recently turned 50, I resonate with sunset.  It’s a time of mystery, when objects move about, animals shift shapes, and tricks are played on farmers who don’t have their wits about them, as when my car mysteriously moved 15 feet out of place (though a certain black steer was seen in the vicinity shortly before the migration).

Sunset is also a time for odd expressions of joy.

Distributing dinner that evening, I found myself followed by a small mob up through the pasture, and when the cat suddenly dashed out, he startled the horse who galloped up the hill followed closely by a loping llama and fat little Dee Dee Donkey, squealing and kicking her short legs out behind her, stirring up a murmur of goats on the other side of the fence. Sunset dancing.

Sunburned and invigorated by a day of hard shearing, I finished my chores as the last bit of light faded – and I could still feel the soft weight and smell the sweet scent of the hour-old lamb I had held earlier in the day.  And I thought, no matter how old we become, no matter how hard life gets, no matter what storms we have to weather — lambs will still be born. That seems to put life on some pretty firm footing.  Not to mention the fact that maybe, just maybe, some of them might be named Tony.