We are down the road from Kadoka by the time the clock read six am. The sheep had their water removed (it would spill all over) and another half-bale of hay given to them. South Dakota went by very quickly thanks in part to their eighty mph speed limit on the interstates. We crossed the Missouri river and stopped there for a break.
After the Missouri, the land quickly becomes less wild, more domesticated. The vistas of buttes and exposed strata of rock morphs into orderly fields of grains and tidy farmsteads surrounded by windbreaks. The further East we travel, the darker the just-planted soil becomes. The ditches become greener and the trees more numerous.
We cross over into Southern Minnesota around mid morning. It is here, when the land becomes distinctly more like home, that I start musing about hefting. Hefting is a term that applies to sheep that are naturally bonded to the place where they were born. You can take a hefted sheep away from its place and it will always try to return. The most famous hefted sheep is the Herdwick. Shepherds there don’t need to worry about their sheep wandering too far away as they really sincerely don’t like to be away from home. I’m starting to wonder if there are hefted humans too. As we moved further into territory like home I began to feel more at ease. I was nearly giddy by the time I pulled into the driveway.
C backed the trailer up to the gate (I may be ok driving the rig by now but I am still NOT ok backing it) and then we went and checked the paddock for any problems. There were only a few and they were all quickly taken care of. We grabbed some more people to help unload them. As we all waited, C opened the back gate. At first they didn’t seem to want to come out but eventually the thought of freedom won and in ones and twos they came out of the trailer. And then stop. And immediately put their heads down and start to eat like they have never had a meal in their lives. We didn’t have any trouble with them trying to bolt or anything, rather they wouldn’t move probably not realizing that there was more like that in their paddock!
I can’t really blame the sheep. Where they were born and raised is very dry. Even C was kind of taken with the sheer amount of GREEN that we have here right now. I’m sure the sheep thought that they had died and gone to heaven!
C really needed to leave as she really wanted to get back to the ranch. We loaded her up with canned goodies and bottles of honey and sent her on her way.
The sheep have already found a favorite spot to hang-out. It is in a corner where two buildings meet so it is both sunny and out of the wind. I have been watching them closely for signs of bloat or diarrhea as they did have a rather drastic change in diet. But so far, they have all been good. They even seem to be getting used to me checking on them repeatedly. And taking lots of pictures. LOTS of pictures. I think I keep taking pictures of them because it is so hard for me to believe that they are actually here.
I cannot thank all of the people who helped to make this happen enough. Deb for introducing me to C, my parents for supporting me even if they might think me a bit nuts, all the people who work with C who put in the time and effort to allow this newbie shepherd her own flock. My boyfriend, Joel, for helping me do the heavy lifting. To my friends who offered support and advice. And most of all to C for her generosity and her time. Thank you.