Among the numerous animals for which my father attended on a Kansas farm in central America, were sheep. He always had between 400 to 500 of these wool-bearing creatures. Because sheep demanded so much maintenance, none of us three brothers, once grown, ever wanted to posses another sheep. It is not that they are not lovely little creations, but that they require some serious maintenance. But this may be why the Great One created them. He needed to give us an animal that would teach us how to care for others as He cares for us.
My once close relationship with sheep taught me to be a care giver, as well as a loyal follower. It all started in my younger years with a particular orphan. During the time of year when the mama sheep were at the end of baking in the oven new baby sheep, there were cute little miniature sheep—lambs—popping out in the dangerous world everywhere in the pasture.
There can be nothing more innocent than a cute little newly born lamb. But at the same time, there is nothing more dependent than these little balls of fluffy wool who constantly wiggle their tails as they sumptuously drain milk from their mamas. Unfortunately, sometimes either by coyotes, or the untimely death of some mother sheep, an orphaned lamb must be rescued by humans. It is then that the real adventure of sheep farming springs into life.
I must have been no more than shoulder high to a mama sheep when a particular mama sheep orphaned her cuddly offspring into the care of humans. This was my first experience with raising orphaned lambs. At the time, I thought it a thrilling opportunity to have a lamb as a pet? So I adopted and named, and thus, Woolie became my adopted friend. But before you consign yourself to running a lamb orphanage, there are a few facts of life—not human life, but lamb life—that you should know. I speak as a seasoned lamb/sheep whisper who experienced the adventures that these little innocent critters can unload on those who are so brave as to accept the responsibility of becoming the mama to a lamb.
So into my youthful arms came Woolie. He was a cute little critter from the time when his mother met her demise one fateful night when the coyotes roamed the Kansas prairie. It was in the early morning hours when my father heard the baying cries of an orphan who had lost his mother to the dangers of life. My father subsequently rescued little Woolie and brought him safely to the comfort and care of the farm house.
It was indeed exciting to nurture from a bottle this little “pet.” We warmed the milk, poured it into a Coke bottle, put a nipple on it, and then little Woolie went to work sumptuously draining every drop. At the time, it seemed that I had become the “duck mother” to an orphan of another species. Little Woolie took no concern for this difference, knowing only that I was a warm body who held the bottle that satisfied his relentless hunger. From his lambhood, therefore, he would not leave my side, always hoping for a Coke bottle full of nourishment.
When Woolie was just a little staggering lamb, all went well. But when the Coke bottle feeding gave way to the regular sustenance of abundant hay, then things began to change.
Cute little Woolie became this obnoxious big sheep who could not stay away from his adopted human herd of people. Whenever we were working on the machinery of the farm, there was that obnoxious sheep right there in our midst, nosing his way here and there in order to intrude into our business. After all, Woolie surely thought that there was a Coke bottle or bundle of hay to be discovered among the gears and bearings of the machinery.
Sometimes when we opened the door of the truck, he, as the dogs, would just jump into the cab. If dogs were welcome to do such, Woolie reasoned that he too should be accepted just as some flee-ridden dog. But after a few harsh words and an unpleasant tug on an ear, Woolie was extracted from the cab of the truck and left bewildered as we would drive away, leaving him standing there forlorned as to why he too could not go with the humans as the dogs. He surely could not understand why his devotion to follow was crushed as the truck disappeared down the road and out of sight.
If you have grown up among sheep, you know this story. Once a sheep has relinquished himself or herself to you, you cannot drive them away, and you cannot drive away from them. They are so innocent in this way. You have become the adopted mother and the bonded herd of their fellowship in this world. Where you lead, they will go. Where you are, they want to be. And so was Woolie. He was as God made him.
In about a year after I adopted Woolie, my body had advanced in growth to place my head not far above the tall shoulders of Woolie. Throughout his growth, and our encounters with one another, Woolie was able to take me through countless adventures. One of these adventures was indelibly imprinted on my conscious memory even to these sixty-five years after the experience. If my mother were still alive, she too would bear witness that what I experienced on one eventful day with Woolie, or caused to happen, became the subject of many stories she would tell throughout her years. She wrote a regular column in a local newspaper. On one occasion, she wrote of this eventful day, which if I had the original column, I would simply repeat it here verbatim.
The occasion was on a calm summer morning at our farm house in central Kansas. My mother had previously invited numerous farm wives together for her regular weekly Bible fellowship, which she commenced to teach on the day of the extravaganza. So you can picture all these refined women calmly sitting in all their made-over refinery in the living room of our old farm house. This was always a special day for the area wives to experience an occasion of social finesse. They were all there with their Bibles open, totally focused on receiving as much nourishment as possible from the Bread of Life.
But then, there was an invasion of the animal kind. The whole episode originated from my own hunger. Unfortunately, the relief to my physical duress was in the kitchen. But between me and relief was this crowd of focused women in the entire living room of the house. So I quietly came up to the front door of the house, and took a cautious peek through the cracked door. There I discovered a calm gathering of women who were seated in a circle in great solitude and concentration. But I was dreadfully hungry. I thought that I could just stealthily walk unnoticed through the midst of the multitude who were so engrossed in the subject of the hour. They would not notice me at all. If I were quite, they would not be disturbed. At the moment, hunger was in control of my stomach, and food had become an obsession that distorted my plans of invasion. Therefore, I reasoned, what would be the harm of me just quietly sneaking through their midst on my way to find sustenance in the kitchen? So hunger won out over being a shy farm boy. I quietly opened the screen door of the house. I then shuffled as quietly and unnoticed as possible through the gathering of refined society.
But then, for some reason, all chaos spontaneously generated among the multitudes. I can still remember the exact location in the living room in which I stood when the horrors of the moment broke into pandemonium. High octave shrikes from exasperated female voices penetrated my ears. Commotion turned into chaos everywhere behind me. The multitude of excited females were uncontrollably jumping up here and there, spilling cups of coffee and tea on delicate dresses and carpets. Tables were overturned and papers of class notes went flying. Clutched Bibles were turned into shields against flying debris. Pens and pencils became projectiles that were launched at the invading monster. It was as if a Kansas tornado had just entered the house behind me. Since my face was focused toward the food in the kitchen, I could not figure out why my supposedly quiet slither through the multitudes would cause such a fiasco. I was at first puzzled.
And then what was transpiring behind me was sternly announced to me by my mother. She screamed out, “Roger Dickson, get that sheep out of here!” I said, “What sheep?” “That sheep,” to which she angrily directed her stiffened index finger. When I turned around, there was my faithful disciple, Woolie, right on my heals.
Unfortunately in the midst of the social chaos of the moment, Woolie was also caught up in a moment of ecstasy. And as all sheep do when they get excited, wide-eyed and terrified Woolie now began releasing little brown pellets from his posterior. He just could not help himself. Surrounded with all the female hysteria in the room, it was only for him to have an involuntary natural response. Subsequently, smashed pellets by churchgoing shoes only intensified the hysteria of the chaos.
What had happened was that before the door had closed behind me, Woolie was right there edging his nose in before the door closed. He then instinctively followed his master. Regardless of the chaotic social environment that was transpiring, Woolie was dead focused on following where I lead. He was focused on following the one who nourished him all his life into a fully grown sheep who was somewhat fat at the time because of all the nourishment we had given him from the day he was orphaned. He was now extremely obese Woolie. He was a full grown monster of a sheep who had dared to go where no sheep had gone before, just to stay close to his master. He never grew out of his desire to follow me wherever I went, regardless of the hostiles through which he had to traverse in order to stay close.
I would do the same to traverse through the hostilities of this world to stay close to my Master and Savior, Jesus.
Suggested reading: FOLLOWING JESUS INTO GLORY