Where the Sheep Went (Part 3)

    The three young sheep trotted right up to the fence where the sheep paddock met the cow paddock. The fence posts were of old, thick timber and stood taller than the sheep. A timber rail stretched along the top of the fence, apart from one short section where the wood had rotted and collapsed. Below the top rail, three evenly spaced wires prevented any animals from straying into the next paddock. Candace stepped forward and nudged the middle wire with her nose.

 “What do we do now?” said Shem.

 Delilah trod the ground where she stood and breathed quickly. “We’ll never get past the fence.”

 Candace stepped back and looked at the wires. She tilted her head, then looked along the fence to the right, and then to the left. She stepped forward again, put her head down and pushed against the bottom wire. “Hmm. I think we might be able to squeeze under here. This wire is a little loose. What do you think?”

 Delilah shook her head. “Oh dear, going under the fence. Can we do that?”

 “If you’re going under the fence,” Shem said to Candace, “then I am too.”

 “Here,” said Candace. “You stand beside me, Shem. Take this wire in your mouth and lift it a high as you can.”

 Shem stepped up to the fence, bit the lowest wire and lifted his head. The wire raised a few inches.

 “Great, Shem!” said Candace. “Hold it there.”

 “Uh-huh,” he mumbled through clenched teeth.

 Candace bent down and ducked her head beneath the wire. She pushed forward until her shoulders wedged stuck, then got down on her knees and flattened herself as best she could. Inch by inch she nudged her legs forward—left, right, front and back. With her body halfway into the cow paddock, the wire had combed her wool back flat and dug into her skin. She huffed and bleated and strained to no avail. “Shem, can you lift the wire any higher?”

 He heaved and raised the wire another half-inch.

 “Quick Delilah,” said Candace. “Push me!”

 “What?” said Delilah.

 “Put your head down and butt me like how the rams fight.”

 “Maybe this wasn’t a good idea,” said Delilah.

 “Go!” growled Shem.

 “Do it now,” said Candace.

 “Oh, all right,” said Delilah. She backed up a few paces, put her head down and ran at Candace, headbutting her in the rump.

 “Yes, that’s it,” said Candace. With a fierce wriggle she freed herself and crawled forward, out from under the fence.

 Shem released the wire and panted for breath. “You… you did it.” His eyes widened as he looked at Candace standing there on the other side.

 “Candace!” bleated Delilah. “You’re not in the sheep paddock.”

 “Your turn,” said Candace. She grabbed the bottom fence wire in her mouth and raised it as high as she could.

 Delilah stared at her and took a step back. Shem ducked his head beneath the wire, knelt and crawled through. He was a little smaller than Candace, and much stronger, so although she could not raise the wire as high as he did, Shem wriggled his way across without too much trouble.

 “All right, Delilah,” said Shem. “You can come through now.”

 Delilah looked behind her at the flock in the sheep paddock, the turned to face Candace and Shem, who were both holding the wire up for her. She crouched low, closed her eyes and crawled under the fence. She was the smallest of the three and made it across with the wire barely touching her wool.

    Candace, Delilah and Shem looked out at the paddock before them. To most people, and even many animals, it would have appeared much the same as the sheep paddock. To those three sheep, however, it was another world. The cow paddock smelled different, more like cows. The grass grew a little taller, and big hoof divots pockmarked the shallow, soggier patches. There were more flies and fewer grasshoppers. Rather than the familiar, comforting clumps of pebble-sized droppings, the ground was dotted with mounds of manure each big enough to fill a pie dish. And then there was the cows themselves. From a distance they had seemed large, but up close—they were giants! The smallest ones were as big as fully grown rams. There was something else about them. They were wary, almost distrustful. With judgmental eyes they stared at the young sheep. A sheep would never look at anyone like that. Delilah tried to hide herself behind Candace and Shem. Candace took a step forward and inadvertently put her hoof down in half-dried cow pat. She looked down at her foot in the dung, then looked up at the foreign land in front of her. “This… is… amazing!” she bleated. One of the nearby cows shook her head and walked away.

© 2021 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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