Beautiful Joe
Chapter 29


Please be aware that this book was originally published in 1894 and may contain words, descriptions, or other passages that may be considered offensive today.


Miss Laura was very much interested in the sheep on Dingley Farm. There was a flock in the orchard near the house that she often went to see. She always carried roots and vegetables to them, turnips particularly, for they were very fond of them; but they would not come to her to get them, for they did not know her voice. They only lifted their heads and stared at her when she called them. But when they heard Mr. Wood's voice, they ran to the fence, bleating with pleasure, and trying to push their noses through to get the carrot or turnip, or whatever he was handing to them. He called them his little Southdowns, and he said he loved his sheep, for they were the most gentle and inoffensive creatures that he had on his farm.

One day when he came into the kitchen inquiring for salt, Miss Laura said: "Is it for the sheep?"

"Yes," he replied; "I am going up to the woods pasture to examine my Shropshires."

"You would like to go too, Laura," said Mrs. Wood. "Take your hands right away from that cake. I'll finish frosting it for you. Run along and get your broad-brimmed hat. It's very hot."

Miss Laura danced out into the hall and back again, and soon we were walking up, back of the house, along a path that led us through the fields to the pasture. "What are you going to do, uncle?" she said; "and what are those funny things in your hands?"

"Toe-clippers," he replied, "and I am going to examine the sheeps' hoofs. You know we've had warm, moist weather all through July, and I'm afraid of foot-rot. Then they're sometimes troubled with overgrown hoofs."

"What do you do if they get foot-rot?" asked Miss Laura.

"I've various cures," he said. "Paring and clipping, and dipping the hoof in blue vitriol and vinegar, or rubbing it on, as the English shepherds do. It destroys the diseased part, but doesn't affect the sound."

"Do sheep have many diseases?" asked Miss Laura. "I know one of them myself — that is the scab."

"A nasty thing that," said Mr. Wood, vigorously; "and a man that builds up a flock from a stockyard often finds it out to his cost."

"What is it like?" asked Miss Laura.

"The sheep get scabby from a microbe under the skin, which causes them to itch fearfully, and they lose their wool."

"And can't it be cured?"

"Oh, yes! with time and attention. There are different remedies. I believe petroleum is the best."

By this time we had got to a wide gate that opened into the pasture. As Mr. Wood let Miss Laura go through and then closed it behind her, he said, "You are looking at that gate. You want to know why it is so long, don't you?"

"Yes, uncle," she said; "but I can't bear to ask so many questions."

"Ask as many as you like," he said, good-naturedly. "I don't mind answering them. Have you ever seen sheep pass through a gate or door?"

"Oh, yes, often."

"And how do they act?"

"Oh, so silly, uncle. They hang back, and one waits for another; and, finally, they all try to go at once."

"Precisely; when one goes they all want to go, if it was to jump into a bottomless pit. Many sheep are injured by overcrowding, so I have my gates and doors very wide. Now, let us call them up." There wasn't one in sight, but when Mr. Wood lifted up his voice and cried: "Ca nan, nan, nan!" black faces began to peer out from among the bushes; and little black legs, carrying white bodies, came hurrying up the stony paths from the cooler parts of the pasture. Oh, how glad they were to get the salt! Mr. Wood let Miss Laura spread it on some flat rocks, then they sat down on a log under a tree and watched them eating it and licking the rocks when it was all gone. Miss Laura sat fanning herself with her hat and smiling at them. "You funny, woolly things," she said; "You're not so stupid as some people think you are. Lie still, Joe. If you show yourself, they may run away."