Many people believe sheep are inherently stupid. Farmers, for example, will readily recount numerous supportive examples.
But Osiris was different.
Perhaps it was because he was hand-reared; or maybe a god of the underworld was truly reborn in his woolly little coat. Whichever: Osiris sported his name long before we inherited him and his three lovely ladies. All were complimentary additions to our 2.5 acres and house purchase, but those innocent eyes and the dumb-sounding limited ‘Language of Baa’ belied a truly clever, evil heart (as we were soon to discover the hard way.)
We fed Osiris daily (even though he theoretically had 2.5 acres of grazing material at hoof.) He loved eating plums from our hands; but as the seasoned and gristly Farmer Jones (of the neighboring pasture) observed wisely: “Sheep is dumb. They’ll ‘et almost anything. No need to waste yr good plums on the likes of ‘em.” I took the hint and Farmer Jones succumbed to a beer and several bags of plums, promising to ‘watch over the place’ as we planned our first two-week getaway since new home ownership.
Funny how sometimes you can smell trouble a mile away. Or perhaps it was the unusual glare of the neighbors when we came home, or the lack of usually-friendly waves (um – was that a wave, or The Finger? Naw – everyone in our hamlet had been more than friendly two weeks ago – and we’d been gone, so there wasn’t enough time to antagonize anyone, much less an entire town.)
The answering machine message from Farmer Jones was matter-of-fact and yielded the first clue.
“Yr sheep,” he opened, “been gettin’ out and ‘et up half the gardens in town.”
We raced to the window only to observe the usual pastoral scene: four sheep grazing peacefully in the Back 40 opposite our bedroom.
The Peanut Gallery walked the fence lines and determined there were NO breaks; and so I called Farmer Jones to verify that the perps could not be ours: everyone knows sheep can’t unlock and relock gates, and our teeny flock most certainly resided safely behind bars – as they had when we’d left town.
But Farmer Jones was adamant – as was Mrs. McGillicutty next door, a Mrs. Markle (whom we had yet to officially meet – but her disembodied phone voice definitely held an unpleasant edge as she described a wanton midnight raid on her organic veggies), and the abrasive Mr. Shorts, who opened his message with talk of his NRA membership and the inherent rights of all Americans to not only bear arms, but shoot (and perhaps even consume!) midnight trespassers in wool coats. Apparently our unlisted phone number had been making the rounds of the town, compliments of the sometimes-too-friendly Farmer Jones.
Visits to the message-leavers (once I gleaned actual addresses from Farmer Jones, as we had yet to actually MEET AND GREET any neighbors) produced the uniform observation that positive i.d. of the perps was verified by a committee of insomniac eyewitnesses-turned-vigilantes. And uncovered the sordid truth: that apparently the perps could be quickly fingered because Osiris had a long-standing reputation around town as an expert jail breaker.
Puzzled, TPG again ‘walked the line’ and returned to report NO breaks in the fences.
If it’s one thing I know well (from my voluminous mystery novel reading), it’s that a successful perp WILL return to the scene of his crime – to gloat, if not to repeat the (easy) sin.
We’d been back a week when TPG was awakened at midnight by loud, overconfident (and suspiciously joyful) baaing. Having already formulated his dragnet, he had only to grab a flashlight and leap into clothes to embark on a private investigation while I slept like a baby (I’d been up late again … counting sheep…)
Under the light of the moon he observed the impossible: our ‘sheep proof’ fence went in back of the sheep barn, around a fallen cypress, and continued into the 2.5 acre horizon. Emerging from the cypress like woolly white ghosts led by The Devil Himself was a perp and three sidekicks who struggled under and through a hitherto-unknown fence break almost directly beneath the fallen cypress.
Unwilling to risk a rambunctious roundup on gopher-hole-pocketed fields at midnight, he watched helplessly as Osiris carefully led his gang of girls wantonly down our driveway, ignoring hissed warnings of future punishment in favor of a personal inspection of Mrs. Field’s new gladiola beds.
The next morn as TPG excitedly revealed the results of his investigation, I looked out the window and advised gently that he’d obviously had a sheepmare: all four sheep could be seen in our pasture, sitting around burping (…TPG said they were ‘chewing cud’ – but I knew better!)
Since it was obviously impossible (“…sheep are too stoopid…”) for them to return unassisted, ‘twas he who was obviously (and I quote) “nuts.”
I made him investigate the matter more closely and he returned pale and wild-eyed, his faith in his ‘summers on a farm in Vermont, so I know all about the habits of sheep and cows’ shaken.
The cypress had fallen, Farmer Jones later informed us, several years ago. It had collapsed a portion of the fence, but at the time an inspection had ascertained that the huge tree effectively formed a barrier “no sheep could penetrate”, so no fence rebuild (or tree removal) was deemed necessary.
What wasn’t entered into the equation was two years of stealthy sheep struggles to widen a tiny gap between tree and fence – and the effects of waaay two much time on one’s hooves. Copious amounts of wool attached to the now-sheep-sized hole told the story: our “stoopid sheep” Osiris had systematically widened his escape hatch over a period of years of patient unconnect-the-dots, led his ladies on regular raids of the town’s gardens, then led them back, satiated, so at dawn they could be observed innocently burping the day away on Mrs. Fields’ prize-winning glads, Mrs. Markle’s zucchini, and other dietary supplements to boring old grass.
The fence was fixed and a town apology was issued by way of mailbox flyer sporting a photo of a slyly smiling (he still had his teeth at the ripe old age of ten) Osiris and the caption: “Perp Apprehended/Town finally SAFE.”
And you know what?
Nobody believed us!
We City Slickers must’ve left the gate open, or unlocked.
‘Cause everyone knows sheep are stoopid….
"Yeah, you just go on believing that while I eat your Glads!"