i went to church on sunday (can you believe it?) and garret hill gave another great lesson. however, something always strikes me wrong when people at church talk about sheep. i have never been able to pin down the problem--until garret shared a story about a young man who raised a bummer lamb, and was grief-stricken when his little lamb died in a storm due to the neglect and selfishness.
i raised bummer lambs once--and sadly it destroyed my ability to ever connect with the 'feed my sheep' metaphor. in high school and college i occasionally told people i participated in 4-h. inevtably, people like my cousin peter would mock and scorn. but i told them that it was more than working on the farm--we learned photography, public speaking, participated in talent shows, and cooked dough boys for the state fair (i guess my mom figured there had to be some way to boost her children's self esteem--and a blue ribbon at the state fair for expertly cooked snickerdoodles or dough boys was as good a way as any (a dough boy, by the way, is a delectable treat cooked by spreading dough around a thick stick and roasting it over an open fire, then smothering the cooked dough in butter and brown sugar.)). i spent a good part of my young adulthood arguing to others that just because i am from Spanish Fork does not necessarily make me a hick. the following story, however, proves that i was indeed part of the 4-h (the h's stand for head, heart, hands, and hicks, i think).
i was quite young when this happened and almost the only things i remember are severely traumatic. for a genius-idea of a 4-h project, our family decided to raise bummer lambs. one of the lambs was named ozzie (in honor of the great shortstop ozzie smith, of course, but that part is not traumatic). i can't remember the second lamb's name but i'm sure paul remembers. i think he had a special connection with these little lambs. we were pretty excited about the bummer lambs, so we put up chicken fencing around a small part of the pasture that stood in front of our old house (because that's what we usually do when we get excited).
as part of our 4-h duty, every day we had to feed the bummer lambs. so the kids of the house filled large, tall glass sprite bottles with milk, attached a bottle-top pacifier thing on top, and held the bottles through the chicken fencing while ozzie and the unnamed bummer lamb drank to their content. the best part of the feeding, however, came after the lambs sucked the bottles dry. these glass bottles were incredibly durable and could easily withstand the duress that comes from high-speed contact with grass and other dirt-packed ground. paul, jonny, and i liked nothing more than throwing the bottles against the grass to see who could make them bounce farther and more. libby, who was still in diapers, decided to join the festivities from time to time (paul, am i telling this story correctly?) anyway, libby got in the way of one of our contests, and the bottle ended up in between her eyes. screaming, blood, and black eyes were parts that made up my first traumatic experience with bummer lambs.
eventually ozzie and the unnamed one were full-grown. i don't remember if anyone came with me, but i think i was with my dad when we took the lambs to the auction. little did i know we were selling the sheep to their death. i remember sitting in the stands, watching ozzie walk on the auction block; as he came out, ozzie struggled with the auctioneer as the bidding started. i watched, delighted as the farmers and ranchers in the crowd bid on his ripe and fertile meat. the bidding nearly reached $125, and i was ecstatic that our hard work paid off. it was great...i spent an entire summer making a friend named ozzie, and then, in the fall, i was able to sell him off for over $100. i didn't understand why we didn't get more bummer lambs and get ourselves a bummer lamb industry started.
i hadn't though about this macabre scene until garret told the story on sunday about a man that accidentally killed his own bummer lamb through neglect and selfishness. later, when he was called to home teach, he was set on compensating his former bad behavior by fulfilling his responsibility. what about me, though? i purposely sent my lamb to his death. it wasn't through neglect and laziness. i raised this lamb for the direct purpose of profit and death. i can imagine ozzie saying to the unnamed one, 'i am going like a lamb to the slaughter, but i'm calm as a summer's morning. if you see stephen, tell him i forgive him, because he doesn't know what he's doing'. for that reason, i'm scared every time i get a home teaching assignment. look out home teachees, soon you'll be at a spanish fork auction, sold for $125 and made into tasty lamb chops. and the entire time my dad (my original home teaching companion) will be at my side, proud of his son's 4-h handiwork.
the trauma doesn't stop there. once, we were in gunnison, utah, on my grandpa's farm hunting pheasants. every year we tromp up the main ditch and usually we actually see some roosters. then a few of us make a futile trip to the now-waterless ponds. for some reason, we always think there will be pheasants, but there never are. although i do remember brian, my cousin, shooting a pheasant at the pond, but i think that only happened because he bought 30 pheasants and planted a few at the usually-unsuccessful spot. my dad and i were hunting the perimeter and we heard bleating coming from the west bank of the pond. we found a lamb sick and lying on its side, unable to move. my dad the farmer/doctor somehow determined the lamb was beyond recovery and decided we needed to put it out of its misery. so he shot it with his 12 gauge in the head. as he turned i saw him wipe a tear out of his eye. i wasn't so much traumatized by seeing my dad cry (he cried at the end of cars, akeelah and the bee, and the fast and the furious (probably)), but by the fact that every time i came in contact with sheep, they died. and most of the time i am with my dad. so when i hear the call, 'feed my sheep' i grow extremely worried for the sheep.
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