Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Evening Vespers

The light fades so fast. This afternoon, when I got home, I jumped in the truck with Joe to help him give the ewes some barley. When we left the house, the sky was gold; when we reached the field, it was silver; by the time he had poured the last of the barley into the pan, it was gray. All in less than fifteen minutes.

I love to watch Joe feed the sheep. Cap pushed back, flannel shirt flapping, he walks into the field with a sort of lopsided gait, weighed down on his right by the barley in the bucket. Then he lifts his hands to his mouth and calls. “Shirrrpy, Shiiiirrrpy!” The musical invitation rolls up over the hills and before the last echo threads its way back, a train of wooly ewes bounds over the brow of the hill. They leap and kick their heels as they barrel down to their evening meal. The last rays of sun limn the lambs with light.

The sheep circle Joe, butting, bleating, baahing as they push into the pans full of grain. They are hungry because fall temperatures have nipped the grass. As the grain swishes into the pans, the sheep subside to gentle bleats. Tilt your head and listen. Can you hear it? All across the county, in every valley and holler, farmers and sheep are greeting the evening in Highland County.

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