Out of the Badlands: Part 17
It’s remarkable how used one gets to a place called ‘home’. When I saw the house in the hazy distance, my heart lifted nearly into my throat. Really? After only one night away?
We were tired, but I swear even the sheep plodded a little faster when they got a whiff of home, and saw the white forms of their fellows grazing near the house. We pulled up in the dooryard, but we couldn’t collapse. There were sheep to water and feed—the poor old boys deserved every mouthful they got—the supplies to put away, the ewe to milk, Bobby to feed, a meal to start on the hobo stove, and after all that, the dry hay in the field to rake and put away. There was no time to cut more before dark. C’est la vie. A couple new ewes had wandered in and joined our little band. They followed the flock into the pen for the night when I rattled a can of grain, and I marked them for shearing in the morning. Our ram was still with us. I doubted he could breed the ewes with all that wool, but we could still hope for late lambs once they were shorn.
Finally, by the light of a lanolin lamp, we ate a dinner of spiced lentils—grateful again for the plentiful variety of spices in the other house—and went to bed. I swear, even the bed felt wonderful.
The next day we played catch-up, but even as I worked, I made plans. How much dry food would we need to take? Could we boil something in the morning, tuck it into a straw-filled box, and have it keep cooking while we traveled? Would it be safe? How much grain would the sheep need? How much water could we really carry? Would I really be willing to drink the juice of water-roots again now after enjoying clean, pure water every day? These things gnawed at the back of my mind while I cut grass and left it lying in swaths behind me for the sun to dry, and later while I wrestled the wild, wool-laden ewes onto their haunches and hacked their fleeces off carelessly. They weren’t going to win any beauty pageants, but that was the least of my concerns.
I fell into bed at the end of day exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep. How many pounds of lentils? Should we bring hay? What if one of us got bitten by a snake or a spider? What if one of us got hurt? Maybe we were crazy. Why did I want to go away again after just getting back, especially when I’d been so pleased to see the place again?