When I was seven years old, I made my First Communion. It was very good day, despite the fact that we walked into the church in order of height and I was made to go first even though I was not the shortest one in my class – my friend Jerry was quite obviously shorter than me. But I made it through the indignity of my perceived status as “smallest”, made it through wearing incredibly itchy tights (there are multiple pictures of me standing around the altar with the other kids, and I’m scratching one leg with my foot), made it through being forced to give my younger brother a kiss in thanks for flowers he gave me…
After church, the whole family headed back to our place for the party… and I got a bunch of gifts: the usual rosary, bible, and other religious-themed things appropriate for one’s First Communion. Being a huge fan of sheep, there were also some sheep dolls in there as well (which are also totally religious, if you happen to be Christian). Finally, there was a card from my parents that said that I would shortly be receiving two live sheep of my very own!!!!!amillion!!
SO EXCITING! Big Brother had his pigs, Big Sister had her chickens. And now I was totally one of the big kids with animals of my very own to care for! I couldn’t wait.
The day my sheep arrived, I did what any newly pious 7-year-old Catholic girl would do: I named them after Greek mythological characters. Io and Persephone. What can I say? I was kind of a weird kid.
I took care of those sheep every day, so pleased to be trusted with this great responsibility. One day, while we were sitting at the dining room table doing homeschool, my mom looked out the window to see Grandma’s giant dog tearing off behind the barn.
“Mairin, did you leave the gate open?”
“What? No! I shut it, I know I did…. I’m pretty sure I did… I think it was shut all the way…”
Mom, T (big sister), J (big brother), and I ran out the door, past the open gate (SHIT!), and behind the barn to see what Buddy was chasing. And what Buddy was chasing…. was sheep.
Now, if the sheep had simply gotten out and started wandering by themselves, we might’ve been able to corner and capture them. But by this point, they’ve been chased around by this guy:
And they are thoroughly freaked out. They took off in opposite directions: Io toward the road and beyond with Mom and 13-year-old T giving chase, and Persephone into the tangled mess of our wooded, brambled property while 11-year-old J and I (age 8 by then) tried to keep up.
J and I had absolutely no chance of catching Persephone. All we tried to do is stay close behind her as she made her way through the brush until Mom and T could catch up to us.
Speaking of Mom and T, they were chasing Io across a neighboring field, down the highway, with cars stopping to watch and truckers singing Mary Had a Little Lamb and Baa Baa Black Sheep out their windows.
They saw the terrified sheep run into our neighbor’s barn and breathed a sigh of relief: she was cornered.
They were sure to catch her now; they followed her into the barn and saw her… on a rug by a couch and a TV. Because the neighbors rented the barn out and someone was living there.
Poor Io did what all scared, cornered animals do… she peed. All over the rug. And then the renter walked in, demanding to know what Mom and T were doing in his home. And then he saw the sheep. Peeing in his living room.
While he sputtered out his confusion (and I’m sure disgust), Mom
apologized, gathered up woolly boolly Io in her arms and walked out the door. Then she walked almost a mile home, carrying my sheep, while truckers sang nursery rhymes along the highway. (correction, thanks to my mom) My mom did what any reasonable person would do: asked the neighbor to sit on the sheep until she could go get the truck and load it up to bring home. My mother really, REALLY loves me (although I’m pretty sure she wasn’t feeling it just then).
Mom and T locked Io in her stall and came to find me and J. I was sent back briefly in an attempt to calm Io, who was freaking out and all but running up the walls of the barn. However, it was quickly noted that we needed 4 people to corner poor, exhausted, terrified Persephone and I was summoned once again.
If I remember correctly (it was the end of summer and very hot that day, it’s possible I’m entirely wrong), Persephone didn’t actually get that far. J and I managed to get her to go around in circles instead of a straight line out across the cornfields and it didn’t take that long for Mom and T to find us.
It finally came to an end hours after Buddy ran behind the bard, in the middle of a massive stand of what we would later realize was poison ivy. We had a pie tin, filled with water from our creek, that we slid in toward Persephone. I was talking to her to try to keep her calm and drinking while Mom snuck up behind her and wrapped her arms around her. And then carried the limp, exhausted sheep almost a mile through the brambles and bushes to put her in the stall with Io.
Poor Mom had not had allergic reactions to poison ivy prior to that day. But it turns out, when you’re sweating a lot, it opens up your pores and all the poison can really get into your skin. She had it over most of her body for days afterwards, and actually got really sick from it. Have I mentioned lately how much I really, REALLY love my mom? She’s really the best mom ever.
Mom recovered, Io and Persephone recovered, and I never accidentally left the barn gate open again. I did however, once leave the door to the stall where we kept the feed open. Someday I’ll tell you how my mom and dad stayed up all night burping the sheep after they got into the malted grain.