A Thanksgiving to remember

thanksgiving dinner

For Thanksgiving this year, my good friend and her daughter traveled across the state in their trusty minivan to feast with us. It was one of the most enjoyable celebrations I can remember attending, let alone hosting. We had a wonderful time preparing and eating delicious food, then just hanging out acting like goofballs with our kids.

In addition to being an extraordinarily fun and funny person, my friend is also remarkably resilient and brave. Which is how we came to enjoy not only the gift of her and her daughter’s presence, but also a longer-term guest, because that minivan carried not only two humans and a few family dogs, but a gorgeously fleeced Icelandic ram.

Now, I am no stranger to transporting livestock in what others might consider inappropriate vehicles. Before I had access to a livestock trailer,  I regularly ferried bum lambs, chicks, and even some full-grown hens and sheep in the hatchback of my Subaru station wagon. Cleaning straw and … ahem … other remnants of these passengers became a not a-typical chore. To this day, we often use a large dog cart in the bed of the pickup to move smaller animals for whom a stock trailer would be stressful and excessive, or even the front seat if the animal is very young and vulnerable.

I have not, however, attempted such a thing for a multi-hour trip, especially not with a full-grown sheep who is liable to have strong, vocal opinions about such an adventure. So, when my friend said she would bring the ram in her van, I was filled with trepidation on her behalf. I imagined the worst and was surprised when both she and her daughter pulled up and jumped out looking no worse for the wear.

As you might imagine, my surprise was far greater when we opened the back of the van and came face-to-face with a handsome gentleman who was the picture of content. He sat peacefully even with the open trunk door and the thousand smells of a new barnyard, simply glancing around with a casual look on his face as if he traveled a few hundred miles to unexpected destinations in a minivan every day of his life.

I was also worried about actually getting him out of the van and into the corral that held the other lambs, but once again my worries were unfounded. We opened the gate and he marched right through it, jauntily bouncing his voluminous curly fleece. His manners were, in a word, impeccable.

Now, this is where things did get a little complicated. This ram is blessed with far more wool than any of my other sheep. He also is mostly black with white patches. He pranced into the pen ready to make new friends, but the other lambs weren’t sure what he was. My friend and I chuckled to each other in dismay as the poor lad did his best to charm his new flock and they responded by either running away from him or chasing him away. Romance was decidedly not in the air.

Everyone eventually got used to each other, but a new problem has since emerged. One of the reasons I wanted an Icelandic ram is that they are on the smaller side and therefore could be put in with my short and stocky shetlands as well as the lean and leggy targhee. And while our new ram certainly appears to understand the spirit of his role here in the flock, I am a little concerned because the height differential is more than I expected. Will he be tall enough to play his assigned part for our biggest ewes? Only time will tell…

Meanwhile, we’ve decided to name him Takk, which is Icelandic for “Thanks,” partly because he arrived on Thanksgiving, and partly because we are very thankful to have such a good-looking youngster in our midst. But mostly this name suits him because I am thankful to my friend for making the long drive and to Takk for not making her miserable so she might actually come back again next year.

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Eliza Blue is a shepherd, folk musician and writer residing in western South Dakota. In addition to writing her weekly column, Little Pasture on the Prairie, she writes and produces audio postcards from her ranch and just released her first book, Accidental Rancher. She also has a weekly show, Live from the Home Farm, that broadcasts on social media every Saturday night from her ranch.



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