My wife makes fun of me because she says I would make a good shepherd. What she really means is that I can stand for extended periods of time doing nothing productive, just watching the sheep. And they don’t really do much.
Well, the sheep are changing. We have gone from a flock of 3 to a flock of 5 with the addition of two young lambs (both rams) I used to be able to go out and walk behind the sheep and they would herd easily in the direction I wanted them to go. I thought I was a master shepherd.
The babies make everything different and it has really gotten me thinking about it. The sheep used to stay at least 20 feet in front of me, but now they are more tolerant of me. Actually, I don’t think it’s tolerance, I think that it’s the babies. Now when I get within 20 feet, the babies don’t move, so therefore neither does anyone else. Then I have to get up right behind them and wave my arms and make a little noise to get them to move. And they used to all go in the same direction and now I end up with a ewe and baby that wander away and I have to go back to get them.
The reason I’m writing about this is because I’ve noticed some interesting tendencies. If I get too close to the babies, the mamas will step between me and the baby and give me a nasty look. She might even make some grunting type noises at me. In any case, the mamas are there and protecting their babies. They make it very obvious that I am intruding and it is not welcome. This is how things ought to be.
The thing is, we are trying to make the babies (that will be wethers) a bit more friendly by handling them. So I just go around the grunting mama and grab the baby. While mama is able to make it obvious that my actions are not welcome, she fails completely at really defending her baby. I pick up the baby and walk away and she just grunts and maybe makes some louder sheep noises that seem to call to the lamb (and the lamb often responds). Oh and the evil eye; the ewes definitely give me a look when I take their lambs. They will approach me, but they will never touch me.
I parallel this with my life. Do I make it obvious enough when I am dissatisfied with what is going on around me? Especially when it comes to protecting those who I’m close to, do I make it clear what is acceptable and what is not? And when things go beyond tolerable, am I willing to take the next step to really defend what is important to me?
I’m not really talking about stealing children here, I’m talking in generalities. Sheep are defenseless. I’ve heard a lot of people call sheep stupid, but I’m not convinced. They certainly act out of instinct. They stick together in flocks and when the ewes became mothers, they defended their babies… or at least made it obvious that they were upset when I took the baby away. They herd their babies away from trouble and they call for their babies and follow the baby’s response to find it. They aren’t dumb, but if you know their tendencies, it’s easy to get them to do what you want them to.
They are really a lot like humans. Look around and you can see humans traveling in flocks and reacting instinctively to stimuli. It may not be easy to herd humans, but marketers have certainly hit on what it takes to get us to buy something. I take that back. I ride my bike by a McDonald’s every morning… based on the lines that I see, it just might be possible to herd people. Mamas get defensive when you approach their babies, but I think that most human moms would put up a bigger fight for their offspring than sheep do.
I’m going to do some more sheep watching. It’s really relaxing. You should come join me sometime and help me watch the sheep.