Lambchop's Revenge

This all happened a couple of years ago, but I just got done reading some of Scylla’s life on the farm vignettes and felt compelled to share. By the way, as a structural engineer, I should probably chastise the great and powerful Scylla for using his hydraulic jack like that. But you know, being a guy I would’ve done exactly the same thing (I have enough scars to prove it). Glad he’s okay.

My soon-to-be wife used to live on a farm located on Long Island sound. Part of her living arrangement called for her to occasionally take care of the animals while the owners were away. At the time, said animals consisted of two geriatric horses, five eclectic sheep, and two bashful miniature donkeys.

One weekend, the owners are getting ready to go away for a few days and happen to mention that one of the sheep isn’t doing too well and might buy the farm anytime now. We naively ask: “So, what do we do if she dies?” The answer: “Well, I guess you’ll have to bury it <- foreshadowing.” Everyone has a good laugh over that.

The next day, the deathwatch sheep is looking baaaad (sorry). The other sheep are knocking it around so that it doesn’t get any food (Have I mentioned that sheep are vicious bastards? Don’t trust 'em, they’ll turn on you like bad cheese)

We go out for the day and come home to find an ex-sheep. It would be a lot funnier if I could report that it was on its back, legs up in the air in the classic “I’m dead” pose, but no, it was just curled up next to a tree.

The clock is ticking. It’s after six o’clock on a hot summer day. We have about two hours of light left and the weathermen are calling for rain starting that night and lasting for the next few days. As we see it we have four options:

  1. Do nothing. “What dead sheep? We didn’t see any dead sheep.” Only problem here is that eventually we would have a wet rotting dead sheep not fifty yards from our bedroom window. Not to mention the possibility of Day of the Dead style cannibal sheep.

  2. Cover it with a tarp and do nothing, thus leaving the problem for the owners. See above minus the cannibal sheep part.

  3. Throw it into the sound. Good for laughs, but we didn’t want anyone going down to the shore for a leisurely stroll and finding a rotting ruminant washed up on the beach.

  4. Bury it.

Before anyone comes up with any other more-creative uses for a dead sheep, I should point out that we were going to be married on that property the following year, so we didn’t want to cheese off the owners with a less than dignified solution (i.e. our own Land of the Dead Sheep web site, or dressing the sheep up in provocative costumes).

Now, my previous gravedigging experience has been with much smaller things (those too big to flush). A few shovel-fulls of dirt, a moment of silence, and it’s Miller time. Turns out sheep require a slightly larger hole. We estimated that we wanted a hole six feet long by four feet wide by four feet deep (any shallower and we were worried about night scavengers coming in for a meal). That’s slightly over three and a half cubic yards of dirt I had to move.

Had it been my house, I would have had access to many fine digging implements (and had it been my house, there wouldn’t have been a dead sheep in my yard). As it was, the best we could find was an old, dull shovel in the gardening shed. I grab that thing and commence to digging. Over the years there had been a few burials on the property (mostly horses), so we kinda knew where to dig and hopefully avoid an occupied spot.

About 20 minutes into it, my wife remembers that the owners have a tractor with a bucket on the front. Maybe we could use that to dig the hole. We spend a lot of valuable daylight looking for the keys and figuring out how to drive it. Granted a newbie on a tractor had so much potential for comedy, but alas, I figured it out. I drove up to the hole thinking I’m gonna be Joe Construction-Guy, but as I put the bucket on the ground the only thing coming off the ground was the tractor. Oh well, at least it had headlights so I could finish digging the hole, by hand, in the dark.

Much later we had ourselves a fine hole. It turned out to be pretty easy digging and we didn’t run into any previous occupants.

The next problem was moving the sheep from point A to point B, a distance of maybe 200 feet over fields and paths. Having never picked up a sheep before, I was woefully unprepared for how much a dead sheep could weigh. Just carrying it was not an option. I am not a small guy and have spent some time in the gym, but even if there were two of me, it wasn’t enough. As it happened, it was just me and my wife who is a fine specimen of woman but not a powerlifter.

Our next thought was to throw it in a wheelbarrow and wheel it over. It times like that I wish someone was there with a video camera. The sight of two people trying to lift a stiff dead sheep into a small unbalanced wheelbarrow would have been hysterical afterwards, however it was so not funny at the time. I could lift my end just fine, but my wife couldn’t get her’s off the ground. Plus someone had to steady the wheelbarrow.

Finally we dragged the sheep onto a tarp and managed to get it into the wheelbarrow. It wasn’t pretty (or balanced), but we wheeled it over and dumped it in. At this point the tractor did help in pushing dirt back into the hole.

About ten o’clock that night we finally finish up just as it starts to sprinkle. We laugh about it now, but it was many months before I could enjoy lamb chops again.

…That’s it? That’s the end of the story?

When you put in that “‘Well, I guess you’ll have to bury it’ (foreshadowing)” remark, I thought you were leading up to some kind of “And then the owners returned, and we learned that…” surprise ending.

The tractor with bucket couldn’t be manuvered over to
where the sheep was for lifting or dragging purposes?


Actually we did think of that. But the sheep was in a pen surrounded by a rather stout fence. The gate was only wide enough for the wheelbarrow.