Off the Paved Road Not from Old McDonald's Farm

"... What was once probably a 250 pound piece of mutton turned into a 600 pound lead weight and there she lay right in the middle of Pole Creek...."

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Not from Old McDonald's Farm

Now you have all heard about Old McDonald who had a farm but in my experience there is one critter that Old McDonald could have done without. That is right, the SHEEP. I think most of us who grew up around a ranch have had the experience of the old ram who rolled us head over tea kettle when we were trying to sneak through the buck pasture and didn't quite make it to the fence on the other side. I can remember that event all too well, and from that moment on I have never been a real big fan of those sweater making varmints. I have no idea what got into me that day as I rode across the alkali butte and spotted that homely looking ball of wool, but it is definitely one of my weaker moments in life.

I had heard them talk about her often as the queen of the Pole Creek Butte, but I had never had the chance of a close encounter. She had supposedly roamed the butte for nearly three years and God only knows how she had made it through the severe winters all alone with minimal feed, but also the fact that the country is loaded with coyotes. Every once in awhile, from a distance, you would see her grazing along the hillside during the early morning light and then for even weeks at a time there would be no sign of her.

It was a cool September morning as I rode along the east side of Pole Creek to kick some cows across the river and relocate them into another pasture. The sun was just peaking up over the horizon and I was trotting along at a steady pace on old Chief when up in front of me I seen a flash of what looked like an overgrown jackrabbit. Well, by the time I made to the crest of the ridge I could spot the old girl heading up the next hill just as fast as her little legs would pack her. Now most of you remember how quick sheep are (quicker than we can get across the buck pasture) but this old girl was packing a load and couldn't move nearly as fast. I am talking about a load of more than three bags full. I have never seen so much wool on a sheep in my entire life. It was literally dragging behind her with all sorts of weeds and sticks entangled in the mess. She stopped about half way up the hill to catch her breath and when she turned to look at me I could not even make out her face. Now old Chief had never seen such a thing and to my surprise he did not bolt and run the other direction. But do you think I could have gotten him an inch closer to the woolly old ewe. Not on your life.

Only one thing came to my poor little mind and that was to capture the old girl and give her a shearing. Well since Chief would have nothing to do with the capturing part I took down my catch rope and was in hot pursuit of the old girl afoot. As she headed over the hill I could only imagine that she must have a secret hideaway, since I was sure I was not her first predator. When I topped the ridge I just caught a glimpse of her dropping into a steep ravine which shifted into a series of deep cuts from years of erosion. Believe it or not I was gaining some ground just like Bobby Labonte, when all of a sudden she went completely out of sight. As I approached the scene of disappearance I looked about 4 feet below me and there she was side centered (something like high centered but by the sides of her body) in the bottom of the ravine. She was literally as wide across as my arms could reach and had gotten wedged with her little legs still trying to go a hundred miles an hour.

What hit me next was not the fact that I was insane for messing with a stupid sheep but the SMELL. Wow, no wonder Chief would not get any closer. It was like hitting a brick wall of who knows what. As awful as it seemed at the time, I survived, but it was nip and tuck for awhile there. Well, since I was committed at this point, at least to help her get out of the predicament she was in, I decided to put my rope on her so that I would at least have a handle on her when I got her out of here. Not knowing exactly what to do, and more importantly not really wanting to touch her, I finally found an old fence post and proceeded to pry her head over heals down the gully until we got to the bottom. There was definitely no messing around once she knew she was free and off we were again, but at least this time we were headed in the right direction. That would be the direction of the road on the other side of the creek to where I could get a pickup and haul her home. She was doing rather well as I kind of trotted along behind her and kept her hazed over along the edge of the creek.

Pole CreekNow this is where it gets real interesting, and since I had not put a whole lot of thought into it I guess you can say it was my own fault. I found a pretty good spot to cross the creek but in no event is a pretty good spot good enough for a sheep who has not been sheared for three years. When she hit that water she sunk like a rock. Her legs literally collapsed before she got half way across. What was once probably a 250 pound piece of mutton turned into a 600 pound lead weight and there she lay right in the middle of Pole Creek. With only her head above the surface of the water I pulled and tugged and pulled and tugged but there was no possible way I was going to move her. I guess there was no other choice but to get some help, so I headed back for the ranch when a smile came across my face thinking of how she needed a bath anyway, so I let her soak. There was no doubt in my mind she would be there when I returned.

About two hours later I returned with the truck and some more muscle, and I guarantee you she had not moved an inch. With a little more manpower we where able to get her across the creek and up on the bank. I was able to back the truck down into the creek so that we could drag her straight into the back of the pickup bed and off we were with our new wringing wet friend. We literally rolled her out of the back of the bed and into the barn where I packed her food and water for about three days before she ever dried out enough to stand again. Boy, was she wild. She would bounce off of the walls in the barn every time I went down to feed, so I decided to turn her out into the corral before she tore something up. You guessed it. The next morning she was gone. She had broke a pole on the bottom rung of the corral and I have not seen her since.

I did spend some time looking for her since and I have thought about her often wondering if she is still alive, but one thing is for certain, that is only a story that could have happened "off the paved road".

Till Next Time….
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Click on small thumbnail pictures to see a larger version. Copyrights: Photos by James Rogers, 2001. Graphics by Pinedale Online, 2001. All content copyrighted by Pinedale Online. No part may be reproduced without permission.

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