I was making my morning cup of tea (the cup I make after I decide that, in fact, a third carafe of coffee will be too much), talking to a good friend on the phone.  I paused and gasped.  Being a good friend, she asked what was wrong.

I laughed.  “I thought I saw the sheep getting out,” I said, and then recounted a tale from the summer of the sheep being in the front yard.

Then, for some reason, I went into the laundry room, and out of the window I saw them.

Out in the yard.

Enjoying the lush green grass.

“I gotta go,” I said, in what I thought was a calm-I-can-handle-this voice, and hung up.

I went out to…well, what exactly was I going to do?  My role with the sheep is usually to write about them, take pictures, and, enjoy seeing them graze in the back pasture from my kitchen window.  I’ve petted them through the fence, but I’ve never tried to herd them back into their pen.  Though I knew the theory of it, I’ve been around long enough to know my book learnin’ ain’t worth much in the face of real animals.

So I did what I always do when something is wrong on the farm and I happen to be home to see it.

I called my brother-in-law.

No answer.  Left a message, fully confident that he’d be right over.

That’s why, when the nice farmer down the road pulled in, got out of his car, and started helping me get the big ewes who were not.going.to.move moving, I assured him all was well.  (I don’t blame him for looking doubtful.  I was a sight for doubtful glances, in my sweats and slippers.)

“My brother-in-law will be right over,” I told him.

He stayed in his car a few minutes, but he did eventually leave.

I called my brother-in-law again.

No answer.  Left a message.  Again.

I called my mother-in-law.

Straight to voice mail.  Left a message.

I called my sister-in-law.

No answer.  Left a message.

At this point, the reality of the situation was sinking in:  I was on my own with 20 ewes (who were quite happy to eat in my front yard, staying well away from the blacktop of the road) and two little kids in the house.

I called my husband.  He didn’t answer his cell phone, and so I called the office.  The new receptionist answered.

“May I tell him who’s calling?”

“Yes, it’s his wife.  And it’s pretty important.

I was impressed at how fast he got on the line.

“What’s up?”

I found out later that he was pretty amused by the whole situation.  (He still is.)  At the time, I couldn’t understand why his first words to me were “Calm down.”

As it turns out, after I got off the phone with Bob and left a few more family messages, I went into the house to put on my boots.  While I was in there, I called my friend back, and I asked for a favor that will be in her top five for quite a while, I’m sure.  “Can you come over here and just…be here?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said.

The kids were screaming, though my four-year-old perked right up at hearing that there was a full-blown Adventure going on outside.  She put on her clothes faster than I’ve ever seen her, and headed out the door to help.
I had my doubts about how much help she could be.

We went outside, me with my boots and kids with their smiles, and I started rounding up the sheep, again.  There are tricks to herding sheep and getting them to go where you want them to go.  The problem is that I don’t know those tricks.

Eventually, I got the sheep in the barn…again.  (This was the third time, I think.)  I called my four-year-old and asked her to go in the house and get the scissors.  The reason I hadn’t been able to get the gate open the last time I’d had them in the barn was that I couldn’t get the knots undone on the gate.  Normally, this is no problem.  The guys carry knives in their pockets, after all, and you don’t want the sheep getting out because of a slipped knot.
My four-year-old came out with the scissors and saved the day.  She walked through the ewes, petting them as she went, cut open the twine, and opened the gate.

It was almost too easy.

My friend arrived to find the sheep in the barn.  I made a third carafe of coffee and we laughed as we savored it.

The lesson?  Asking for help — from a four-year-old or from the Mother of God — might be hard and might not even make any sense.  I’m always doubting, wondering, questioning.  What’s the point?  Can it really make a difference?  How can she really help me?

Well, maybe it doesn’t seem like she can.  Maybe the situation is beyond ridiculous, a law suit waiting to happen.  (Can you imagine some teenager heading to school crashing into a 200-pound ewe in front of my house?)  Maybe all the usual help is unreachable, phones going straight to voice mail.  Maybe the only help you’re going to get is going to come from what seems like the unlikeliest of places.

I find Mary’s touch in some of my craziest days.

The photos in this post are from the ewe’s escapade in our yard this summer.  I didn’t have a chance to get pictures the other day.  I did think about it, but decided I’d better focus on getting them back in the pasture…  🙂