Three counties north of our Flint Hills farm in Morris County, Kansas, the umbra swept over the village in which my grandmother was born and then over Atchison, where I lived as a lad, but here the umbra could not be seen.
All we got was penumbra and it was cloudy besides, so the skies darkened for a brief period of time. In July, we had opened and begun to use a pasture of native grass, some thirty acres, and as a routine matter at mid-day half our flock had been coming down to their night pen to snooze under a mulberry tree. Often the shepherd snoozes too. Flora, Tibbie, and Fife, the Great Pyrenees guardians, stay in the pasture, so I don’t know what happened there. But as dusk drew on, the mulberry tree sheep leapt to their feet and ran back up the hill to the pasture, thinking, perhaps, that if night was falling they should complete their eating.
Pretty much a non-event. The real event occurred on September first.
You will recall that the gestation period for a lamb is 145 days, and that sheep whose ancestry is from more northern territories tend to begin breeding later than sheep from southern areas. Our Border Leicesters—that’s the border between Scotland and England—clearly are more northern than otherwise and we have agreed with Border Leicester folk in Minnesota that September 21st is the date to mark the calendar to separate the rams from the ewes lest we have lambs in January. A cautious Border Leicester breeder will mark September 15th as the day of separation. In Kansas a late April lambing seems sensible, rather than January, and if that’s so in Kansas, in Minnesota…
On September 1st, it was obvious that Rafael and Brown Mom’s Son were marching to a different drummer, and worse that their advances were being accepted. Straightway we lured the lads aside—oats can be a compelling bribe—and put them in their own quarters, two fences away from the females. And then straightway we emailed our friends in Minnetrista. Back came the answer: ours are doing the same thing and we’re just now going out to pull the bucks.
Were we in time? Come January, we’ll find out. What we won’t find out is why, even though we can factor in a new pasture and a summer sometimes rainy, because six hundred miles north, those things did not pertain. Surely a darkened disc covering a bright disc, all behind clouds… surely that had nothing to do with it.
Copyright Jerry Wigglesworth, May 2017