Let me explain about fences: the purpose of a fence is to circumvent the wish of a person or an animal to be someplace it is not desired.
So, when the septic field excavators were about to arrive, we erected some construction fencing to keep the sheep out of the way of the machines and the trench and, more important, to keep them in their enclosure. Regular farm fence was coming down at unpredictable intervals, to allow the passage of tractors and diggers, and in fact, the new line was going to pass right under the paddock fence. We made a nice alley of plastic fencing where the machines could work inside it and the sheep could watch from their front yard.
No fence was ever made that is not subject to violation.
This one waited until almost all the work was done to fall to the inevitable. The excavators went home on Friday. It was also on Friday that Jenna, our newest and least tame Jacob ewe, found a way through the construction netting and under the old fence, and into the house yard. This was not where she was supposed to be. The rule of fencing had been invoked.
When I came home from town, Richard greeted me: “We have a #$@%&*! sheep to catch.”
Jenna was not in a mood for capture. It was dark by then, and Richard had already spent some time in daylight walking around the yard with a sheep ahead of him, trying to coax her into some kind of proximity to a gate or a rope or a corner of the yard. He said the excavator was pretty amused to watch them.
“You try,” he told me. “The minute she sees me she takes off.”
I assessed the situation. Jenna and I walked around for a while. I brought some feed in a bucket, rattled it a lot, set it in a corner of the fences, and stood by to wait for Jenna to come get some.
Not a chance. Not within 10 feet.
We have a little pen in the yard where we keep ram lambs from time to time. At the moment, we have just one fella in there, who was watching all this with real interest. Aha, I thought. I can use that pen.
So in the dark, terrifying him with my flashlight, I caught the ram and moved him out of play. Then I set the gate of the pen like a fish weir, and baited it with the bucket of grain. Jenna obediently walked around and around the pen. Outside the pen, you understand. She went in once. The moment I conceived the thought of closing the gate, she was out again.
Then she walked around some more.
“Hey listen, sweetie,” I told her. “I’m going in for dinner, so you can just relax and check things out, OK?” And I did. I went in and we had dinner. And afterward, I went back out, and Jenna took one look at me and ran straight out of that pen where she had indeed been relaxing.
So here is what we did. Along about 10 o’clock at night (I, so tired by then — we’ve had the grippe here for the last week and a half — I was close to tears, but outwardly so patient, so patient…), we tied a long rope to the gate of the pen. Really long. Thirty feet long. And Richard went out to the end of it, in the dark, and stood behind a post, and hid. Meanwhile, I went to the ewe pen and caught Willa, our sweet, compliant, helpful, glad to be led anywhere sheep Willa, and took her to the catching pen. I tied her inside and baited the pen again. Lucky Willa! She thought this was a good deal I imagine. I walked up the hill to the back door and made a big noise of going inside. “I’m going inside now. ‘Bye.” Rattle. Slam.
Here is Richard in a “nightshot,” waiting to spring the trap.
For about 20 minutes, Jenna didn’t move a muscle. She just stood there in the yard, completely aware she was the center of a set-up. Then she walked up the slope about halfway to where Richard was hiding behind the post, and gave him a good look-over. Satisfied that he was what she thought he was, she went back to stand in the yard some more.
Do not think for a minute that Jacob sheep are stupid. This little girl had wits and stamina enough to keep us out there for a couple of hours all told, waiting for her to make her way into capture.
Finally, at last, she obliged us by stepping into the pen.
But her butt was hanging out.
Willa was getting all the treats, you know.
One more step.
Richard pulled on the rope, the gate swung, Jenna made a run for the gap… but she was caught.
He laughed as he came in. “That miscreant,” he said. “We’ll never get to use that trick again.”