Riding 29 year old Sandy in 1997

Friday, July 27, 2012

When sheep aren't sheepish.....

I was nearly cut in half by a sheep the other day.

Yes, a sheep.  My sheep, the one whose first haircut was described here a few posts back.  John Deere, my weedeater.

I sometimes tie him out to eat weeds and with the monsoon rains and my regular watering of my orchard (I have the drip system on timers now) the weeds had gotten nearly waist-high lately so I got the cable system and rigged it up in the orchard.  This system is a 100 foot cable that I ran from the orchard fence to the big tree on the other side, wrapped the cable around it a couple times, then wrapped it around a second tree about 10 feet away and tied it off.  (The orchard isn't 100 feet across so I had to use up the excess cable.)  There is a pulley that runs on the cable, and a second cable snaps to the pulley and the other end attaches to the sheep's collar.  You've probably seen dogs tied out on a system like this.

So I've had John out there for a few days eating the weeds.  Monday night we had a hellacious thunderstorm, lots of lightning and rain, and I chose to leave him where he was rather than risk my life trying to bring him in during a lightning storm in the pitch black.  He's a sheep; sheep are out in storms all the time, he had trees to shelter under.

He survived the night.  The next day I had a friend here helping me convert my guest bedroom into a room for my female cat, Alfie (long story), and on one of our trips out to the garage to get something, we noticed that John was very agitated and there was a bit of thunder and it looked like a storm was going to hit.  So I decided to take him off the cable and put him in his pen, where he has a little roof to get under and he's close to the horses where he feels safer.

John is not a tame sheep.  He does not come when called.  To catch him, I usually have to corner him.  I keep a one-foot piece of lead rope hanging from his collar, and usually once I catch him he will walk on leash like a dog.  To catch him when he is cabled out is a bit of a challenge because he runs from me until he hits the end of the cable -- and then he doubles back.  If I'm between him and whatever he is tied to . . . well, it can get interesting.

It got interesting Tuesday.  I walked toward him and he turned and ran toward the big tree that held one end of the cable.  I walked quietly toward him while my friend Marty stayed outside the orchard to avoid making him any more nervous than he already was.  He ran to the tree, turned around, and started back toward me.  As he got near I grabbed the tie cable.  And then the fun began.

Instead of continuing to the west on the north side of the long cable (I was on the south side of it) he turned back with me holding the cable that was attached to his collar and before I could realize what he was doing and get out of the way, he circled me.

The long cable was hanging about waist high at that point.  When he circled me, the tie cable wrapped across the front of my stomach, and when he completed the circle he had me trapped against the long cable -- right at the pulley.  He came around again and as he tried to run to the west, he dragged me and the pulley with him.  My polo shirt got caught in the pulley, which effectively anchored us all in that spot, but I was being painfully pinched between the two cables.  

I lost track of the action at that point.  I remember him rearing up (I was desperately trying to drag him back around but couldn't because I was trapped) and kicking me once; later I found the bruise on the back of my right arm.  

Once Marty saw I was immobilized and trapped, she came in and managed to get hold of the sheep and lift him off the ground enough to prevent him from moving.  I squirmed out of my shirt and got free of the cable and quickly detached the cable from his collar and grabbed his lead rope.

He was agitated all the way back to his corral but I got him put up.

Marty couldn't get my shirt out of the pulley so we went in and I looked in the mirror at the result of this ordeal:

Where the cable pinched my left side, just below the ribs, the red streak is of the nature of a rope burn

The next morning I went out to see about cutting my shirt out of the pulley.

The yellow thing dangling in the center is my shirt, hanging from the line

See where the shirt is and realize that my skin was right under the cloth

The dirt area on the front shows where the cable was wrapped around my waist in front as he ran around me

I freed the shirt by manually rolling the pulley backward and then pulling the shirt out after it had backed off some

 Ironically, a couple days before this happened I had noticed that John was tangling up in the 12 foot cable he was attached with and was having trouble freeing himself because the cable was getting some permanent bends and kinks in it.  I was worried he might cut off circulation to his leg one day; I freed him Sunday and I think the cable had been around his leg long enough and tight enough to put the leg to sleep.  He was limping for awhile after I got him out of it.  So I doubled the cable and shoved it through a six-foot section of garden hose so it couldn't wrap around him any more.  It worked great and he no longer could get the cable around his leg.

I shudder to think of what might have happened if I hadn't done that, and he had been able to loop me two or three times with that narrow cable.

What saved me from worse damage was the fact that the tie cable was run through a piece of garden hose
But if you look at this last picture, up where the thing attaches to the pulley is a section not covered by hose and has two snaps, one snap is attached to the pulley and the other snap is snapped to the bottom of the first snap.  It was THIS part of the cable that had me in a vise and caused all the bruising.  

I iced the injuries right away the day it happened, but today is the third day after and we have reached the painful, itchy phase and the bruises have colored.  

So this is the end result of the damage done by one skittish and strong sheep.  I now have a 12 foot lead rope on him that I can get hold of and use to pull him away from the long cable before I take hold of him.  Don't let this happen to you:

And that, painfully, is the latest from the Ranch.

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