Beautiful Joe
Chapter 29, Page 2

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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.


CHAPTER XXIX: A TALK ABOUT SHEEP (continued)

I crouched behind the log, and only lifted my head occasionally to see what the sheep were doing. Some of them went back into the woods, for it was very hot in this bare part of the pasture, but the most of them would not leave Mr. Wood, and stood staring at him. "That's a fine sheep, isn't it?" said Miss Laura, pointing to one with the blackest face, and the blackest legs, and largest body of those near us.

"Yes; that's old Jessica. Do you notice how she's holding her head close to the ground?"

"Yes; is there any reason for it?"

"There is. She's afraid of the grub fly. You often see sheep holding their noses in that way in the summer time. It is to prevent the fly from going into their nostrils, and depositing an egg, which will turn into a grub and annoy and worry them. When the fly comes near, they give a sniff and run as if they were crazy, still holding their noses close to the ground. When I was a boy, and the sheep did that, we thought that they had colds in their heads, and used to rub tar on their noses. We knew nothing about the fly then, but the tar cured them, and is just what I use now. Two or three times a month during hot weather, we put a few drops of it on the nose of every sheep in the flock."

"I suppose farmers are like other people, and are always finding out better ways of doing their work, aren't they, uncle?" said Miss Laura.

"Yes, my child. The older I grow, the more I find out, and the better care I take of my stock. My grandfather would open his eyes in amazement; and ask me if I was an old women petting her cats, if he were alive, and could know the care I give my sheep. He used to let his flock run till the fields were covered with snow, and bite as close as they liked, till there wasn't a scrap of feed left. Then he would give them an open shed to run under, and throw down their hay outside. Grain they scarcely knew the taste of. That they would fall off in flesh, and half of them lose their lambs in the spring, was an expected thing. He would say I had them kennelled, if he could see my big, closed sheds, with the sunny windows that my flock spend the winter in. I even house them during the bad fall storms. They can run out again. Indeed, I like to get them in, and have a snack of dry food, to break them in to it. They are in and out of those sheds all winter. You must go in, Laura, and see the self-feeding racks. On bright, winter days they get a run in the cornfields. Cold doesn't hurt sheep. It's the heavy rain that soaks their fleeces.

"With my way I seldom lose a sheep, and they're the most profitable stock I have. If I could not keep them, I think I'd give up farming. Last year my lambs netted me eight dollars each. The fleeces of the ewes average eight pounds, and sell for two dollars each. That's something to brag of in these days, when so many are giving up the sheep industry."

"How many sheep have you, uncle?" asked Miss Laura.

"Only fifty, now. Twenty-five here and twenty-five down below in the orchard. I've been selling a good many this spring."

"These sheep are larger than those in the orchard, aren't they?" said Miss Laura.

"Yes; I keep those few Southdowns for their fine quality. I don't make as much on them as I do on these Shropshires. For an all-around sheep I like the Shropshire. It's good for mutton, for wool, and for rearing lambs. There's a great demand for mutton nowadays, all through our eastern cities. People want more and more of it. And it has to be tender, and juicy, and finely flavored, so a person has to be particular about the feed the sheep get."