Today was the kiddy barnyard for our local FFA chapter and my son had volunteered to bring some of his sheep in for the day. He has an ever growing flock of Southdown ewes and is very proud of them and enjoys showing them off anytime he can. Isaac also likes to share his love of agriculture with anyone who will listen, for that I am very proud of him. Therefore I did not mind taking time out of what is a very busy spring schedule to haul his sheep in.
Fortunately his baseball season had ended Monday meaning no practice Tuesday night. That morning I informed him that after school he was to come home and get everything ready. My mistaken notion was that an evening of preparation would make the morning of the event much less painful. I have been a parent of a teenager for six plus years now; you would have thought I would have known better.
First thing on the agenda Tuesday evening was to agonize over which ewe and which lambs to take the next morning. Careful planning was put into finding the tamest most kid and crowd friendly sheep to take. Finally, after much discussion the choice was made to take one of his older ewes and the two ewe lambs that he was showing this summer. Next on the list was to round up enough panels to make a suitable display pen.
Isaac had put some thought into this and showed me the panels he planned to load up. The panels were some that we had used for a temporary lamb fence and were now neatly piled up, thus making them easy to locate and load. A great plan except for the fact that they were extra short panels, granted his Southdowns are extra short sheep, but even a properly motivated Southdown could jump over them. I explained that I had envisioned him using some of the panels we used during lambing season on our lambing jugs.
The panels I had in mind were still securely wired into the lambing barn and required both disassembly and being moved out of the barn. Isaac was picturing a lot of work and questioned my idea. I then shared with him my vision of a properly motivated Southdown sheep leaping the fence and charging through a crowd of highly excitable fourth graders. He grudgingly admitted that my vision was a scary one and headed into the lambing barn armed with pliers.
After that task was completed it was time for supper and following supper it was time to hit the books for homework. Later that evening I reminded Isaac that we would be on a tight time schedule the following morning and I needed him to a) get out of bed when called upon and b) help me load his sheep and supplies for the day. I was assured he would be energized and motivated in the morning.
The 6:00 wakeup call went largely unheeded and I was forced to use my “Dad” voice at 6:15. Slowly clothes were put on, breakfast was eaten and we walked out the door. Surprisingly enough we were almost right on schedule. Isaac quickly caught his sheep and had them loaded on the trailer, we were even slightly ahead of schedule. As he loaded the panels on the trailer it suddenly occurred to him that he might need feed and water during the day. I pointed out to him that I had brought the subject up the night before, but I don’t think he appreciated my foresight. That was when he remembered he was supposed to bring a side dish for lunch that day.
Once I finished growling and grumbling I suggested that a nice bag of chips made the perfect side dish. Excited by that idea, Isaac jumped into his pickup and left to go select a proper flavor. Did I mention that this hasty exit left me with the rest of the chores to do, this brought on more grumbling. However, without too much more delay I was making my way to the school with three, bewildered Southdowns in tow.
Upon arrival at the school I picked out the spot that I thought made the most sense for the display and waited, and waited and waited. Finally, Isaac appeared and told me to go to another spot where across the parking lot. I drove across the parking lot, braving wave after wave of teenage driver only to find out that my original place was the right spot, requiring another dangerous trip across the parking lot. Upon arrival I took one look at Isaac and his team of fellow FFA members, wished them good luck and unhooked the trailer fast enough to make a NASCAR pit crew jealous and left.
Now for the confession, even though I had spent most of my time grousing and grumbling (because that is what Dad’s do) I was quite proud of Isaac for wanting to share his sheep. It is that kind of pride and openness that all of us in agriculture should adopt. Maybe there is hope after all.