Wednesday, February 8, 2017

At the border

At the border between sleep and waking, my mind plays with itself, frets, plan,s and worries. Some of the worries are ludicrous. Did I finish my homework for algebra? (Who knows – it was all irrelevant 50 years ago.) Will Simon like his birthday present? (Probably not as much as I enjoyed making it, but that’s okay.) Will my Muslim friends be safe? (I don’t know – all I can do is write letters and make phone calls to congressmen.) Do we have new lambs in the barn? Do we have new lambs that need help? Finally something I can actually affect.  But not by worrying. 

Most of the ewes are wandering around the pasture in the light of a half moon. I hear the lambs before I reach the barn. Inside I find two lambs being mothered by two moms. One lamb is up and trying to nurse, the other lies unlicked against a cold block wall. Our first two lambs! A joy and a possible problem.

I grab the step stool off the wall and unhook a heat lamp from the nail near the ceiling. I plug in the lamp over a jug and then go to get the lambs. The black ewe with the lamb who is nursing has amniotic fluid running down her udder.  The white ewe with the quiescent lamb shows no physical signs of having given birth. She has stolen a lamb. I pick up the quiet lamb, clutch it to my chest and then pick up the active lamb. Both ewes weave back and forth around me trying to stay close to their lamb. I open the door to the jug and lay the lambs under the heat lamp. Then I step back holding myself between the white ewe and the lambs, giving the real mother, number 27 orange, a chance to blunder into the pen. Then I shut the panel and tie the pen closed. Both lambs baaa.

Number 27 orange mutters, sniffs the lambs, and begins licking the quiet one. Satisfied, I retrieve a knife, several towels and Iodine from the barn cabinet. First I pick up the quiet lamb, hold her in my lap and dry her white curls then I cut her umbilical cord to about an inch and dip it in iodine. I place her in front of Orange 27 and dry off and dip the second lamb, a little boy who struggles to get out of my lap and return to his nursing.  The little girl still isn’t standing. I touch her nose. Cold. She probably hasn’t nursed yet. I express some of 27 orange’s milk into a cup and dribble it into the lamb’s mouth. She doesn’t even swallow. 

I dash back to the house, grab 60 cc gavage syringe, a short piece of plastic tubing and a thermometer. Back in the barn I fill the syringe with fresh milk expressed from 27 orange, slip the plastic tube into the lambs mouth, down its throat and then slowly squirt life giving warm milk into the lambs stomach. I slip the thermometer into the lamb’s rectum. The little red line stops at 97°. Too cold. A lamb should be between 102 and 104°.

I hurry back to the house for a bucket of hot water and meet Dave on the way out to find me. He gets the water, I return to the barn to feed and water 27 orange. Then I set up a new jug for the next family of new lambs.

Dave returns with hot water. He submerges the cold lamb up to her neck and we wait until she struggles to get out of the bucket, a good sign that her body temperature is up to normal - 102°. We dry her off with towels and a hair dryer. Then we feed her another two ounces of milk. She’s standing, her belly feels full, and no one else seems to be lambing. We return to the house and bed.

At the border between wake and sleep, my mind wrestles with itself. Sheep okay? Just checked. Grandchildren okay? Talked to them this evening.  Politics? Oh, that’s a hard one. But in the morning, after my first cup of Earl Grey tea, I’ll make some phone calls and share my worries –

White House switchboard 202- 456-1111
Congressional switchboard 202-224-3121
The switchboards have been overwhelmed with calls. If you can’t get through, try an email. Go to your Representative or Senators web page. It should give you an email address.


  1. Update from Ben Wideman, a Mennonite pastor in Pennsylvania about a visit to his Republican senator's office:
    Just got back from a visit to Senator Pat Toomey's Johnstown office...
    Everyone we spoke with was rattled....The phones haven't stopped since the Inauguration.... Letters are the only thing getting through at this point...postcards are better...Regional offices are a much better mail destination because they compile, sort, and send everything. DC mail is so backed up right now it takes twice as long to send things there...Personal stories matter. Tell the stories of people being impacted by arbitrary religious and ethnic legislation... Don't stop. Do whatever small part you can do to keep raising your voice to your representatives.

  2. Democracy is a living contract. We must not lose heart in the quest for a government which belongs to and serves all people. Let patience and a long memory be your ally. Keep the phone lines busy and the mail boxes full, this month, next month and next after that...