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Joy of Medina County Magazine | September 2020

THE READING NOOK

Dead Sheep Don’t Breathe by Amy Barnes

B

ees droned nearby in the hot Oklahoma sun. As the water from the hose caused bits of grass to swirl in the stock water tank, my eyes drifted toward the dark silhouette of our dead sheep lying in the dark shadows of the barn. It had been a great disappointment to the family when the sheep died because she had been close to birthing her lamb. On a farm as small as ours, the death of a pregnant ewe was a huge loss. Sweat dripped into my eyes as I watched the side of the dead sheep rise ever so slightly and fall. I stared. Again, the sheep’s side rose and fell, so slowly and so slightly it was almost unnoticeable. I wiped my eyes and stared hard even as my feet started walking, then running toward the sheep. Dead sheep don’t breathe, my mind kept saying. I knew the adults had declared her dead a few days before. Only the intense heat and hardness of the soil had kept us from burying her. Yet, it became more and more apparent the closer I got that she was moving. I stood over her and stared, and watched a dead sheep breathing. I knew logically that this could not be happening. I thought it was a trick of the heat. I turned and, forgetting the 100-plus-degree heat, I ran, ran faster than I had ever run in my 15 years of life. When I made it into the un-air-conditioned farmhouse, I could not draw breath enough to say more than, “breathing...sheep...dead sheep...breathing.” My aunt looked at me. She just looked at me. Then she ordered me to calm down before giving a full account of myself. When finally I had managed to get my story out, she looked at me thoughtfully, not moving. She

photo by Sam Carter

never thought one should move more than necessary when it was hot. Slowly rising to her feet, she made her way to the paddock with me impatiently bounding by her side. Inside my head I was screaming...a dead sheep is breathing! By the time we got to the sheep’s side, I thought I was going to explode with anxiety and overheating. Sue looked at the sheep. She walked around the sheep. She stared at the sheep. Then she ordered me to stay by the sheep. She returned with a syringe of fluid that she plunged into the sheep. The sheep came out of her coma enough to bleat weakly. Within a few hours, she had given birth to twin lambs. As she lay dying, we managed to get a little of the colostrum from her udder into the little frail lambs, and we thanked her for her gift to us. I promised her I would take good care of her babies for her. I don’t know if she heard me though, she was gone from us so quickly. She had never even stood up the whole time. Just laid on her side and birthed the lambs. I kept my promise to the momma sheep. I raised the two lambs by bottle, I was even continued on Page 12

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Joy of Medina County Magazine September 2020