Thursday, June 4, 2009
Lambz in the Hood
I’m lying in bed on a Saturday morning, thinking it’s about time to drag myself up for the day. Here in my north Seattle neighborhood, the mostly vintage 1940s and 1950s homes are packed pretty close together, so I hear neighbors’ dogs barking, crows chattering, wind chimes tinkling in the breeze, someone mowing the lawn, voices from down the street.
Did I hear what I think I just heard?
Baaaaaa!! Baaaaaaaaa!!! Blecccchhhh!
I scramble to my feet and peer out the window. Of course I just see houses and trees.
After hopping in the shower, I dress and walk down the street to where the sound seems to be coming from. A new fence is up around the side of my neighbor Troy’s small bungalow. And there he is. Bucky the ram.
Of course I didn’t know his name was Bucky at first. But he’s impressive. A big fluffy sheep, with dark horns that curl back to form a tight circle on either side of his head. Sorta like Princess Leia’s hairdo in the first Star Wars movie. Bucky’s standing in the penned-in yard beside Troy’s house looking lonely. (Well, maybe I’m anthropomorphizing.)
Over the next few weeks I get used to Bucky’s cries and bleats blending in with the occasional dog woofs and cat yowls. Then I notice Bucky seems to have developed a multi-toned cry. Walking by Troy’s house one day on the way home from the bus, I notice Bucky has company—Annie and Rose, two fetching, equally fluffy ewes, one white and one dark brown. Diversity!
My next-door neighbor Mike tells me that Troy has property east of the mountains and plans to take the lambs over there after breeding this spring. “At first I thought the other neighbors would be bothered by the sheep cries, but everyone seems to be pitching in and taking over their compostable veggies,” he says.
Within a few months Troy’s herd of lambs has more than doubled. Bucky got some booty and sired four baby lambs--two brown lambs from Rose and two white lambs from Annie. (Or maybe it’s the other way around.)
I go out of my way to walk by the adorable baby lambs. At first they stick close to their moms, and then they stray a bit farther and start cavorting around the pen in cute little leaps. Pretty soon I notice lots of other people stopping by to see the lambs. Parents with small children, hipster twentysomethings, old folks. It’s the Crown Hill scene. I meet neighbors I didn’t know before in front of Troy’s yard. Everybody loves the lambs.
And then I get the sad news. “Troy’s moving all the lambs except Bucky up to Arlington this Saturday to a friend’s place, where they’ll have more room,” Mike tells me. I realize I’ll miss the strangely soothing sound of a bunch of sheep as a neighborhood background noise. Something about their cries made it feel less like a quasi-urban-surburban place around here and more bucolic. It stirs something in me that I can’t quite define. It makes me nostalgic for the farm I didn't grow up on.
So on moving day, my friend Sharia and I join Mike and head over to say goodbye and help Troy. He goes out to the yard, corners and grabs a squirming, heavy Rose and carries her to his pickup truck, where he has a wooden pen set up in the back. “Can you open the gate for me?” he cries. I swing it open so he can pass through quickly and dump Rose in the truck.
Baaa! Baaaaa!! Baaaaaa!!!!!
The little lambs are NOT happy about their moms disappearing. One by one Troy gets the lambs into his truck and nails the pen shut. It’s time for him to leave. I think Troy is slightly bemused that Sharia and I seem so sad to see the lambs go. “These aren’t going to be meat are they?” I ask. Sometimes you shouldn’t ask a question you’d rather not know the answer to. “No,” says Troy.
So now Bucky is alone again. He’s pretty quiet. And probably lonely.
And I’ll think twice next time I start to order lamb kebabs.