Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

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©Katherine Dunn.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Ladies in waiting

In which the young ewes find out the truth that all ladies do at some point in their life...and Frankie gives her views on child rearing.
"Who did you get this year?" the large white ewe asked the other. The two sheep were the oldest and most experienced of the flock, and were lounging in the morning sun, waiting for the hay bar to open.

"I usually get Joe, " said Daisy, the smaller, but older of the two ewes. She was a beautiful coco color, with a white cap on her head, which she had successfully passed on to each of her offspring in the last 6 years.

"Hmmm. Well, I guess it doesn't matter if it's Joe or Mr. T, it's all the same in the end," answered Lilly, the large white ewe. She was the only all white ewe of the flock, except for a couple tiny black spots, which on first glance always looked like dirt. She did however produce freckled youth, a delight for all, including the shepherdess and dirt farmer that lived up in the Big House.

The rest of the flock had gathered around them now, as they rarely spent more than two minutes at a time spread out too far, even in a confined area such as the back paddock. Safety was in numbers, especially when the numbers were squished together in a tight circle. Terrorists were less apt to break through, or at least less lambs would die if they did.

A lovely young ewe, a face like nobility, walked up to Lilly and Daisy. Due to her gazelle like legs and long neck, she was named Audrey, after the the actress Audrey Hepburn.

"What's it like?" Audrey asked Daisy and Lilly, somewhat ashamed of her question. She spoke in a whisper, but loud enough that several of the young ewes overheard, and squished even closer together to hear the answer.

"Is it true it goes on and on for days, without a break even at night?" the pre-pubescent Rosalita asked, wide eyed.

"I heard if you stand up while you're doing it, you'll have a boy, but if you face West while you do it, you'll have a girl," chipped in a big, strong white ewe with spotted face and stockings named Betty.

"And if you jump rope the day after it will be twins!" exclaimed her twin sister Bessie.

A shy young ewe named Fern slowly raised her hoof. No one really noticed, until finally Daisy saw her. "Yes, Fern, what is your question?" she asked, like only a mother could, for Daisy was Fern's mother.

"Does it hurt?" Fern asked.

All the ewes gathered in close to hear Daisy's answer. A pin could drop.

"Well, it's not really pleasant..." Daisy said, searching for more words. "It feels like...a..." she paused.

Lilly chimed in, "It feels like someone put a slimy carrot in your magic place, that's what it feels like!"

All the young ewes covered there eyes, and made sounds of girly dissatisfaction. In other words, a giant "EEEE-WWWWWWW" went out from the flock.

Daisy continued with a motherly voice of reason. She was after all the oldest of the flock now. It was not an honor she had seen coming, as she had always looked up to her mother as the flock leader as had the whole flock, and the people in the Big House. Daisy had come to this farm at age one along with her mother, Rosie. Together with Joe Pye Weed, they had created the building blocks of the Apifera flock. Each year, they loyally produced twins, healthy twins. And their offspring produced twins. They kept the fields healthy, and did everything that was asked of them. They provided food for those who asked for it. But Rosie died tragically, along with her daughter, Coral Bell, in the long two week Spring of Death in '09. Along with the two mothers, six children lost their battle in the womb to exist.

Daisy had never really gotten over that loss. She had carried on gallantly, without complaint, as she had two strong boys to feed while her mother lay dying. She had come into the world with her mother, and it was only right she could be with her the day she died. The whole flock was there, nursing baby lambs, sniffing Rosie and Coral from time to time, as if to say, "We're all ere with you."

So it was 6 months later, the first breeding season since the loss of Rosie, and Daisy felt she needed to be the voice of calm, just as her mother Rosie would have been. "It is just part of our lives. It does us no harm, it creates life, like all of you, and you will go on and create more life, " Daisy said. The flock stood wide eyed, and peered at each other as if for the first time they realized there was a point in the world when they did not exist. "You must never let the act itself get the best of you - you must look at it as a way to create more wonderful mothers."

"Well, now that's putting a good spin on a disgusting situation!" chimed in a gruff little voice. It was Frankie, the pygmy goat, who had wondered over hoping their might be pre-breeding ration scattered about.

"Frankie, don't scare them now, please!" said Daisy.

"If I were you girls, I'd walk right up to those smelly louts over there and just tell them straight out, "Look, big guy, you aren't getting any of my magic, no siree. Cross this line and I'll take my sawed off horns and do some scouting in your magic, know what I'm sayin', boys?"

"Girls, pay little Frankie no mind. She's just cranky because she can't have her own babies." Daisy said calmly to the flock of wide eyed girls.

"Oh paleeeeze!" said Frankie. "Who needs babies? Don't need to go through that every spring, no Ma'am thank you Stan. Child rearing is over rated. One can have purpose without having children."

Everyone looked at Olive Oil, who was beaming.

"Yes, like being Head of the Young Ewes in Waiting!" Olive Oil said proudly. Every one knew that Olive Oil, due to her size, would never be bred, and the shepherd had found the perfect job for the friendly little ewe.

"That's right, little Olive. Your role here is very important." Daisy said as she covered herself in a blanket to warm her non wool body.

A light breeze blew over them, and with it came a very strong, musty odor. Some of the young ewes started giggling, some flapped their tails back and forth. Some became quiet and shy.

"Oh brother, I'm out of here," said Frankie as she waddled off. "Hormones only lead to liaisons that can't be terminated in a timely fashion," Frankie grumbled under her breath.

The strong odor was originating about 20 feet away at a fence line, where the three rams stood, steam rising above their heavy coats.

The youngest of the ladies began more giggling at the site of the boys.

"Oh, I hope I get Chickweed again, He was a real gentleman." said Blue, a recent mother of two.

"And he made me!" said Betty, her daughter.

"And me!" said Bessie, her other daughter.

"It's not up to us who we get, "said Lilly,"The plan comes down from the Big House."

Joe Pye stood up on his two hind legs, facing the ladies directly. He paced back and forth, breathing heavily, sticking his chest out, licking his lips, dribbling goo from mouth and slimy carrot area.

"Ewwweee==eeeewwww!!!" all the young ewes squealed.

"Girls! Just ignore him. Go eat grass!" said Daisy. And the flock dispersed, even Lilly.

But Daisy stayed behind. She was caught in an autumnal moment , when the smell of the dried leaves mixed with damp air made an adult reminisce about younger days, like sitting with her mother, chewing cud, too young to recognize that things end at some stage. She wandered up to the fence line where the boys were.

"Hello Chickweed, Hello Mr. T, " Daisy said politely.

"Good day, Daisy, you're looking well, " said Mr. T. Chickweed gave her a sniff through the fence. Since they were related, they were kind and reverential to each other. Understanding that Joe and Daisy had a certain bond, Mr. T and Chickweed walked away, leaving them alone together.

Daisy and Joe stood quietly, a fence in between them. Sniffing scents in the air, and then gently sniffing each other's ears, Daisy said in a quiet, near whisper,

"I miss her, Joe."

The two stole a secret, tender kiss, like a little peck one gives a child who just cut his finger.

"I miss her too." Joe replied.

--The End--


Claire the Shepherdess said...

Perfectly magical! Thank you - that was my bedtime story!

Apifera Farm said...

ALways good to end the day with a sheep -coming-of-age story....

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Thank you for reading! The farm and my art/writing keep me hopping, so might not respond immediately. Thank you for understanding. ~Katherine & Apifera ~