Friday, August 03, 2007

Dodgem with a Gimmer

Life is getting back to normal, which includes such things as rounding up stray critters on the road. We do not stop for every stray animal. Sheep are very good at finding their way out and then back in again before you can get the car turned around. Also, as you can imagine, we are not always aware of whose sheep or cattle they are, and, hence, to which field they should be returned.

As you no doubt already suspect, you are about to hear about a time when we did know whose sheep they were. I often wear scruffy clothes and sensible shoes sometimes even when we go into town, but this time I had made a bit of an effort. I was wearing a dress--a sturdy washable knit, but smart enough looking, I thought, for all that practicality. I was wearing my new cardigan sweater (yes, it is August, but not warm), and a pair of red sandals. Baring my legs and sticking out my toes is a rare venture up here. I used to see photos of women wearing heavy sweaters and sandals and thought it was incongruous. It still seems that way, but I had really wanted to celebrate as much summer as I could and the sandals were my summer statement.

When we saw a sheep on the road instead of the field where we knew she belonged, we were on duty. My husband stopped the car on the road with the simple instruction that I go into the field and open the gate for the wayward young sheep to return to the fold. He would then back up the road to get behind the sheep to persuade her back down the road, and, ideally, in through the opened gate. It always sounds so simple.

It has not been warm, but it has been wet and the areas around gates, which are typically heavily trafficked, are always muddy. I moved my town garb as carefully as I could over the mucky terrain and slung the gate open inward into the field. None of the sheep showed the slightest interest in coming out of the gate, so I backed away beyond the gate on the other side at a respectable distance so this gimmer--a young sheep getting ready to become a mother for the first time in the Fall--could trot back into the field with her friends and family members.

We had our positions and we knew what we were doing, but the gimmer apparently had been reading Dickens instead of our script and she chose to be the Artful Dodger. If I had not been standing in the middle of a highway waiting for one sheep to come back in through an opened gate while anxiously wondering if several hundred might just as easily decide to come out, I would have admired the way she feinted one way and pivoted the other and dashed one instant and stood absolutely immobile in front of a large vehicle the next. It would have been easier, I think to make lamb chops than to have herded her back into the field.

After being out maneuvered by Lil Gimmer, Morris recruits me for Act II to walk alongside the car to keep her from running back. My anxiety about leaving an open gate shrills in my head. I am not persuaded by my husband's assurances about the sheeps' intentions, and I think he is allowed to make a mistake but I am not and I am the one who opened the gate. After some insightful words, I am temporarily in the passenger seat while we back up the road to the now immobile sheep. As we get closer, she makes a sprint, but at least this time vaguely in the intended direction.

She heads up the road and then looks back at me and the car. For a moment, we have a psychic link a la the Vulcan mind link: Morris has said go to this side of the car. I am eyeball to eyeball with the gimmer and I go to the other side. She breaks the link and heads down the road in the right direction with car and me as drover. This works well for a very brief interlude. She speeds up. The car speeds up. Perforce, I speed up, but this is not as easy for me in my summery little red sandals and dress as it is for the gimmer and the car. I am too out of breath to think what an idiot I must look running up the highway.

The opened gate, however, is in sight--mine as well as the gimmer's. She turns and at the last miunte makes a break for it in the opposite direction. At just this instant a man jumps out of a car that had stopped on the other side of the road and executes a well-practiced herding maneuver. The gimmer, now realizing that she has people in front and behind decides that the gate is a good choice and sails in. Once more over the muck, my red sandals and I tuck her in behind the gate and re coil the wire tie.

The much-needed recruit to the gimmer caper turns out to be a retired farmer. He and his wife, who was expertly driving the car to complete the herding maneuver on that side of the road, have retired from farming but they clearly have not lost their touch with wayward critters. After smiling and thanks we each go on our separate ways. I wonder if he misses chasing down animals or if he is just relieved.


At 3:59 AM, Blogger Hayden said...

so mysterious and difficult. a year ago I experimented w/ hiring goats to clear the weeds on my property. little did I know that they were escape artists, and that the slopes I didn't want to clamber on to cut the weeds, I'd be clambering on to chase goats. In inappropriate shoes.

At 4:00 AM, Blogger Hayden said...

thanks for the word 'Gimmer." It's a new one to me.

At 8:37 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Goats are very sure footed and can be very fast and perverse about where they go (and when). Did they eat your weeds? They are also good at that.
I climbed around the beach and wound up following a path that had to have been carvved out by sheep. It was a very narrow,zig zaggy path.
Glad you like 'gimmer' it is a col word, isn't it.

At 1:26 AM, Blogger The Curmudgeon said...

But did you track mud on your sandals into town? Or were these good conduct splotches for helping your neighbors?

At 1:44 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Fortunately for my image, we were on our way home. The mud was "good conduct splotches"-- lovely turn of phrase, Cur.


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