Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

It is Ash Wednesday, Day of Abstinence. Yesterday I got more email on this blog than ever before. Can't believe how many of you are reading this. Musings of a simple, well not so simple guy from southern Ohio.

One buddy from Illinois told me to take it easy on the sheep so I write today for him. Sheep. A critter I had no experience with until college. I don't know why Grandpa or dad never got into the sheep business but the packs of wild dogs in our area may have had something to do with it. Mostly, our land was more suited for corn, wheat and pasture and that led to the hogs, cattle and chickens we raised. The chickens more than made up for the sheep!

I was in an Animal Science class with the now retired but famous Dr. Jack Judy at Ohio State. We had to feed and exhibit all the animals being discussed in class. You got stuck with what you didn't know anything about so you could learn. I wanted a cow or a pig so badly but I got the sheep.

I distinctly remember being presented the most ornery big ram I had ever saw. It was obvious he had a temperment and quickly sensed I was afraid of him. I got him out of the pen and into the show ring for the parade of livestock, no problem. But part of showing is stopping so the judge can eye it over while you hold it still.

When Dr. Judy got behind the old ram that sheep lurched up in the air with such power few could have handled him, if anyone could. Surely it wasn't me. About the time he yelled "let go, don't grab the wool" the ram was gone and I was standing there red-faced with two big handfuls of greasy, oily, nasty, ram-smelling wool. The class got quite a kick out of it but Dr. Judy was not at all entertained.

I passed the class though and went on to teach agriculture myself at age 21 with three years of college. I was hungry for a paycheck after nearly depleting my bank account I hoped would get me started farming.

I went to meet the County Extension Agent and introduced myself. He said, Eddie Winkle, WN8RQQ! I about fell out of my seat when I realized I was talking to Ed Fladt, WA8JBG whom I had contacted on CW as a novice. Ed is retired of course and doing well in his home town of Hilliard Ohio.

The first thing they do with a new ag teacher is assign you to a county committee to work with the county fair. You guessed it. They put me on the Sheep Committee! One of the best guys you ever met was the Chair and took me under his wing, Mr. John Bay. I did what I could but couldn't wait to get off the Sheep Committee and onto crops or cattle or hogs.

Over the years I helped a lot of 4-H and FFA members select, raise and show sheep. Then my kids got into 4-H and FFA and they had to try every specie. So we ended up showing sheep. I still remember Becky leading 4 lambs on halters down Rhude Road to build their appetite and their muscling. My proudest moment in sheep was when she showed the Grand Champion Lamb at the Clinton County Fair. That was one good lamb out the many she and her brothers showed.

Still, I don't like sheep. I don't hate them and I don't hate chickens. I just prefer hogs, the smartest animal on the farm. If you can out-think a hog that is determined to go somewhere you don't want him to go, you are pretty smart. Still, he is going to win at least half the time.

What is your favorite farm animal?

Ed Winkle


  1. I have never been a sheep fan. My brother had a flock some years ago. They are much smarter than chickens. Or perhaps you could say, they are nicer animals than chickens. But, they are frustrating.
    When you swing a 50lb gate at a 2000lb cow the cow will stop as the cow realizes that the gate will smacker her in the nose and that will hurt. You swing a 200lb gate at a 50lb sheep and the sheep will speed up and knock itself senseless-if that is possible.
    Sheep wander off, get nasty stuff in their wool, get foot rot, knock over old farm equipment get trapped and die, fall it the river, get chased by dogs, need help lambing, and you have to do something with all that wool.
    I was happy to see the last sheep go!
    When ever I go to one of those Mongolian BBQ places where you put all the stuff you want cooked into a bowl and the fellow cooks it on a big wok, I get the lamb. Just out of spite...

  2. Get the lamb out of spite...

    That's a good one...