Sometimes, when a person describes how they completed a task it sounds easy. Especially when that task is one that you have to repeat. When Erin told me “We’re going to put a halter on him and i’ve been told he’s going to jump in the back of the truck.” a part of me knew instinctively that this was going to be interesting. ‘He’ is huge, the way a 50 gallon drum fitted on antique chair legs is huge.
The job Wednesday was to sort the ram away from his girls in the side field, take him to the big field, put him in the 5×5 freestanding pen, put a rope halter on him (he’s halter trained) and put him in the back of the truck under a shell. Aside from being a very large run on sentence, this seems like a do-able task. Not easy, but with well established goals and incremental steps leading to said goal. In addition, the ram has been perfectly nice during his stay. Not the sort of ram that tried to flatten you every time he sees you, or runs over your dog.
Erin set off with dog for the first few steps and all was well. He was sorted our with 2 ewes, they all trotted along in a sensible manner near the pen and after some polite discussion everyone was locked into the pen. I unlatched one of the pen panels and slid it along its corner-mate panel to turn the square pen into a triangle, thus allowing better access to the ram. We don’t have a nylon harness. Therefore, a rope harness was fashioned and after a little adjustment he was fitted appropriately. While the ewes were a little unhappy with the tight quarters, Mr. Ram maintained an even demeanor. Erin got a hold on the rope end, i opened the pen enough for him to get out and the girls to stay in the pen. Erin and the ram moved at a good clip to the back of the truck. Then the ram jumps in, right?
Mr. Ram got just about to the truck, came to a full stop and rested his head on the tailgait. Rinse and repeat about 3 or 4 times with variations on how he’s attached to the truck, the strategic placement of a panel, attempts at aiding him by moving hoofes up on to the tailgait and the precise types of cussing used. Finally culminating in him somehow undoing the nose portion of his halter and letting out a sigh typically reserved for mothers with toddlers. He stood next to the truck tire and the sheepie expression could only be described as disdainful. Erin undid the rest of the halter so he could wander a bit while we regrouped. I’m fairly sure he bleated “amateur” as he trotted off to hang out through a fence with a larger group of ewes. We let the two ewes we’d ‘picked’ for him out of the free standing pen. Getting ‘set up’ to hang out with someone doesn’t work out in the sheep world either, it seems.
I went into the barn to see if there was an item that could be fashioned into a ramp. The farm was at one point probably a small dairy that required hand milking or was a multi-species establishment. There are a few outbuildings of various styles and types, though all appear from the same era. Cement floors have a variety of heights probably allowed for best access to animals and easy cleaning. The exterior of one building has head holes for feeding or entrance and egress of small critters but not large. It is a bit hard to tell, but they have been closed for many years. The main barn and adjacent small well house or coop (?) has a variety of both sheep and horse related items. Crops, saddle racks, bits of plywood and the odd 2×4. While it was tempting to try the ram on the chicken walk, at a foot long and flimsy it was unsuitable. While there was nothing to suit our needs, the little trip into the barn left me thinking more about my own direction and recent birthday. The rise and gentle downward slope of a hobby.
Meanwhile, Erin called the ram owner for a better description of how this ‘just got in’ actually went down. As suspected, the ram didn’t so much jump in as he didn’t mind having his front hooves put on the tailgait and his arse hoisted up. Already tried and not successful as he outweighed both of use combined by at least 75lbs. The walking around left me looking very hard at a four foot by four foot section of exposed foundation between the barn and the round pen. A collection of five or six large rocks sat around the edge of the foundation. They were the same height at the top. The gaps in between were moss filled and gave the appearance of tiny mountains and grassy valleys.The foundation and rocks created an L-shape whose longer section ran parallel to the barn and was the width of the truck with a combined ten inches of clearance to the sides, depending on how close to the slab you wanted to get. The slab and rock height was still lower than the bumper and gave enough room for comfortable movement with the tailgait dropped. Not a ramp, but a helpful elevation gain for sure.
We discussed for a while how the truck would need to be pulled in. I moved the truck and pulled it into the cramped spot perfectly at the second attempt. Apparently being able to drive a full size truck weighted with lumber through downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill and Ballard created residual skill sets. We then discussed how best to secure him and we came up with a few options depending on how excited he was to be in the back of the truck. Rams in enclosed spaces can be very dangerous, so having a few different ideas was important.
Erin and the Ram made a walk across the field that looked a bit like leash breaking a puppy. A few steps of forward motion, then a small tantrum, motion, tantrum, motion, tantrum with extended lengths of motion. Tantrum were occasionally dotted with little bucking and the occasional insult laden bleat. He came to a swift stop once he realized that he was walking to the back of the truck again, but a little alfalfa got him moving again. Front hooves up, arse lifted. He settled into the back of the truck with more alfalfa and glared at us as if to ask “all of that for this?” and few more insult laiden bleats between mouthfuls of hay.
After the misadventures with the ram, Molly sorted out sheep for the next lesson dog. She is still figuring out what the gate sorting thing is and is stopping short on the bye side. However, I’ve gotten more consistent in stopping her before she peels off and then calling the inside flank. She also did a nice little shed, though we ended up with the sheep to avoid in the keeping group. Then a nice 25ft drive with less of my assistance… and voice.
Notice: Even though there are a lot of words on this page, the actual time spent attempting to load the ram was rather short. We took regular breaks (usually unplanned). Just so no one thinks we spent 4 hours fussing around and torturing this poor creature. He really was quite good about the whole thing. A testament to his owner.