Baxter Black: It’s The Law
On the Edge of Common Sense
There is a state law on the books in Colorado that makes it illegal for a sheepherder to abandon his sheep without notice.
A good law, really. Since herders are often left alone on isolated ranges with their entrusted band. The owner or boss checks on him once a week or so and brings him supplies. So, it would certainly create serious consequences were the sheep to be deserted and untended for any length of time.
But, to the uninformed, non-sheep people, that is, this law seems a little unclear.
It could be interpreted to mean that the herder must notify his sheep before leaving them. To prevent emotional trauma, possibly, social breakdown or obscure ovine behavioral disorders. To comply with the law, he might line them up and give a sort-of “going away” speech:
“My fellow ewes, lambs and bucks. I have called you together to make an announcement. At approximately noon today, I intend to abandon you.
“It has not been an easy decision. I lay in my camp pondering the effect it would have on the herd. I agonized over leaving something we’ve both worked so hard to establish. The caring and sincere bond we’ve formed that has made my job such a pleasure. The chuckles we’ve had and the times we’ve cried.
“I’ve asked a lot of you. At lambing, marking and shearing, not to mention the time you all got foot rot. Tough times. But you all gave it your best effort and survived. And, I think, y’all are better sheep for the experience.
“But people, just like sheep, grow and change. My needs are different, my horizons have expanded. I hope to enroll in a welding course at community college and follow my star.
“I’m leaving you in good hands, or hooves, as it were. Paulita, I expect you to take over. You’ve been a strong example to the other ewes. Always first to water, first to new grass, and always willing to listen to the baa’s and bleatings of others.
“Leadership is not an easy mantle to wear. And followers, you, too, must blindly trust your leader and follow her like…well, sheep.
“You must work as a cohesive unit, sticking to the instinctive survival traits of prey, always remembering, just like in any bureaucracy, that the group is more important than the individual. It is your strength and will prevent you from becoming another fractionated, dysfunctional herd.
“In conclusion, it was just my job. To protect you from predators; coyotes, the BLM, deer hunters and the like. But your gratitude is humbling. That gratitude is what I will carry with me from this day forward. Words cannot express my thanks for your overwhelming display of affection. After all, how many of us can claim to have six hundred ram lambs named Juan, in their honor.”