I stopped in my tracks, thinking we were playing the game Statues.
“No, I mean, don’t move from here,” Levi said, clarifying by sweeping his hand around the barn.
The little boy is in love.
Not with me but with our barn and pasture and three lambs.
Early this month Levi, siblings Seth and Rachel, and their father Morgan began clearing an overgrowth of brambles and honeysuckle from our pasture, securing the split-rail fence with a hefty wire fence backup, and prepping the small barn that has been vacant since about 2012 when our last llama went to llama heaven.
This wasn’t my idea.
When our neighbor Morgan first suggested it, I put my foot down. “No animals.”
I’ve spent too many winters tromping through the snow to feed and water livestock, I told him.
Morgan kept working on me.
“No. My mother is in her 80s. The house belongs to her, not me. When she goes, I go.”
“But who knows how long she’ll live? Could you at least pass it by your sisters?”
If Morgan is anything he is persistent.
I asked. No objections.
Still, my answer to Morgan was “No.”
“You see,” I told him, “where I used to live I raised chickens and had a problem in the neighborhood.”
Morgan grew up working on a dairy farm. He wants to instill responsibility in his four children. (The youngest, Hannah, is still a babe in wife Betsy’s arms.) Morgan assured me he would navigate the problems. He would start with lambs that would be butchered in the fall. No winter watering or feeding.
We are a neighborhood in transition. Since I moved back, one neighbor died, two left for nursing homes, and a crop of young families moved in. Morgan said the lambs would be great for his youngsters and also help build community. Morgan started doing so soon after he bought a house near ours, coordinating college students to provide a Day of Caring where they fixed screen doors, cut up fallen limbs, and replaced fence posts for the elderly residents.
On the eve of Easter, three young Katahdin ram lambs arrived. They were born in December. Most of heir barn-mates ended up on Easter dinner tables in Centre County. Morgan said they wouldn’t name the three since they would be butchered in November.
I call them the Three Musketeers or, when they’re sleeping, Wynken, Blynken and Nod. That first night they huddled in the corner of our former pony/llama barn, not exactly sure what to make of everything.
The Katahdin breed originated in Maine and is named after the highest mountain in the state. They were bred as hair (rather than wool) sheep. They don’t have to be sheared and are raised for meat. Muslims prefer “intact” ram lambs without docked tails, and that is what these are. By the way, I looked it up and the meat of sheep is called “lamb” until the animal turns 2 years old, then it is called “mutton.” Mutton is less tender, stronger tasting, and darker in color than lamb.
Within days the kids named each of the lambs. The larger, black lamb is called Gruff. The white one with brown spots on his face is Freckles. The tan lamb is Gary. It makes it easier to talk about them to their friends who walk down to get an up close and personal look at the newest neighbors.
I must admit, when I’m weeding my asparagus patch, down on my hands and knees and eye-to-eye with the Three Musketeers, there is something peaceful about the silent companionship on the other side of the fence. It hasn’t been two weeks. Perhaps, like Levi, I’ve fallen in love. Laurie Lynch
Written on Slate: “Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.” Joyce Meyer