I MUST ADMIT THAT MUCH OF THIS SECTION HAS LITTLE OR NOTHING TO DO WITH SHEEP, BUT WHEN IT'S YOUR WEBSITE YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH THINGS LIKE THIS.
I was on the phone with a ram buyer. He asked me if I ever had a mean ram. I replied that we had one occasionally.
" We had one lately, a Suffolk. He was bad. One of my sons went out turkey hunting and forgot about that ram, and when he came home I could see he looked a little scuffed up. I asked him what happened. He said that mean ram got him down."
"So what happened?"
"All I had was my shotgun. I beat him off with it."
Dad picked up the weapon from the table and examined it.
The barrel was bent.
" Next time, don't beat him with it - shoot the sonofabitch!"
ALL IN THE FAMILY
I mentioned some of my Scottish ancestors elsewhere. One of my cousins in Scotland had researched some family history and sent me some of her findings. She had records that several of our family had emigrated long ago to North Carolina, specifically Anson County. We were taking pictures later at the North Carolina State Fair and one of the girls in the livestock office was from Anson County. She worked in the school system, so I asked her her if there were any Macqueens on the roster. She said there were some by that name. I told her that they may be my distant kinfolk.
"I'm not so sure - they are all black."
I stopped at a local store for something to eat. I was sitting in the truck eating my pizza as two passing ladies studied the sheep I had in the bed of my truck.
"Where are you taking them - the slaughterhouse?" one lady asked. "No, ma'am, these are rams, they are going to work.", I replied.
"What kind of work do they do?"
I did not specify.
NO HARM DONE
I was at the same store another day when a young lady walked out to my truck where I was eating my pizza.
"Which way are you going?" she asked
"That way." I replied pointing north. She seemed disappointed.
"Do you need a ride somewhere?"
" I need to get back to Hot Springs"
This was a mile away to the south.
"Jump in, I'll run you down there."
As she climbed into the vehicle, she thanked me and added,
"They say young women should not get in vehicles with strange men, but I saw you over here and thought you looked harmless."
So was that a compliment?
A lady I knew seemed to enjoy being an invalid. She used to wear one of these neck collars that people put on when going to court on a car accident insurance case .One of my smart alec buddies asked her why she wore the collar.
"It hurts when I look up." she complained rather pitifully.
"Well quit lookin' up."
SOMEONE HAS TO DO IT.
When going to Agriculture College, I tried to learn as much as I could. I went to Dairy school the last summer. I had little interest in dairying, but thought it would add to my resume. We were busy making cheese one day in 200 gallon vats of milk. Everyone was hard at work, except for one of my classmates who leaned against the door idly watching. I was amused to see him there and asked him what his job was.
" I'm in an advisory capacity" he assured me as we both laughed.
I was watching the cattle show at the West Virginia State Fair.
A guy beside me asked where the judge was from.
"Kentucky", I informed him.
"He's a crook." he announced.
"What? The judge is a crook?"
"They're all crooks in Kentucky!"
"Where are YOU from?" I asked
Speaking of the West Virginia State Fair, I remember years ago taking a landscape photo I took in Scotland to a Photo Shop to get it matted to exhibit at the State Fair.
I told the man my plans for the picture.
"How do you think it might do at the fair?"
"It won't win anything." he announced.
" Why do you think that?" said I, a little deflated.
"Because I'm the judge"
ONLY THE LONELY
One of my relatives emigrated from Scotland to Australia. He stayed less than a week. Someone asked him why he did not stay longer in Australia.
"There was nobody there I knew."
One of my neighbors told of a time he was in a restaurant when a woman started choking on her food.
"Her husband had to give her the Heiniken maneuver"
My friend John Mitchell came upon one of his neighbors who was feeding his hogs. He had a little coffee can in which he carried the feed, so had to make several trips.
"Why don't you get a bigger bucket?" John asked. "You'll save time."
"John, you know time means nothing to a hog."
Long ago at the celebrated Perth Bull Sales in Scotland, one of the best known Shorthorn breeders, Captain John McGillivray was in the sale ring as one of his bulls was auctioned off. The bidding stalled at a low figure, and the Captain made his displeasure clear.
"His head's worth that!" he complained.
Auctioneer Lovat Fraser did not hesitate.
" Aye ,Captain, but we're selling the whole bull."
I was visiting a neighbor, looking at his cattle when we passed a handsome rooster tethered by a chain on his leg. I correctly supposed this was a fighting cock.
"Can he fight?" I asked his owner since I could think of little else to ask.
"Son, that boy is bad! Real bad!"
"Really? That good huh?"
While in Maryland, we met Mike, a young man from New Zealand who sheared our sheep and more sheep that I found for him.
He was shearing nearby and the old fellow helping pack the wool noticed Mike had a different accent.
"Where are you from?", he asked Mike.
"Did you drive down this morning?"
Years ago in West Virginia, coaching soccer. I had one black player, Jay. A good athlete, but little soccer experience. We were kicking the ball around waiting for everyone to get there. The ball was kicked to Jay and he let it through his legs.
"Hey ,Jay, tighten up" someone shouted.
He looked at me and said quietly,
"I can't play this game - my people play basketball".
THE GOOD SHEPHERD
I got a call one day from a local minister who understood we had sheep. He was looking for a lamb for his Easter play. I told him I had a pair of young Suffolk lambs that I was bottle feeding that would be ideal. I agreed to bring the lambs to the church for the two plays he was planning and everything went well. The lambs behaved perfectly , did not discharge anything inappropriate on stage, and the children enjoyed petting them afterwards.
The minister told us about what had happened at a previous Easter play. The young man playing Jesus, with long robes and flowing hair, went to get the lamb from his pen outside, behind the stage. He picked the lamb up and turned to go when the lamb jumped out of his grip and took off across the lawn toward the nearby houses. Jesus gave chase and fortunately was able to catch the runaway and head for the stage
I imagined what may well have happened. One of the neighbors was sitting reading his paper when he noticed something outside the window.
"There someone in the yard", he tells his wife as he peers outside for a better view.
" Who is it, Honey ?" she asks from across the room.
" You won't believe who's out there!"
Pictured above are four powerful half brothers that we purchased from Joe Neil in Highland County. You could actually describe them as three quarter brothers since their mothers were all sisters. Having sold much of our flock, I was still getting calls for rams, and thought I should find some of the right kind to supply the demand. These rams were all by the same sire, a Ron Fletcher bred son of Highland Banner. Banner was the first NCC ram born in this newly founded flock, and as good a ram as we ever raised.
We sold some NCC ewes to Joe Neil a few years earlier, and they produced all four of the rams above. Those ewes were all sired by the Littledale B204 ram, providing heavy Scottish influence, and the sire of our great Highland Trooper ram.
The ram we elected to use in our new smaller flock is second from left, grandly named STAR VOYAGER as outlined below.
The ram on left went to Blue Rooster Farm in PA.
Third from left went to Steve Saffell in WV, the ram on right went to Rich Dums, North Carolina.
This is our new 2020 stud ram, A four year old, he was bred by Joe Neil in Highland County and his registered name is Meadowview Farm 59A. He has our genetics on both sides of his pedigree He certainly exemplifies the kind I value, with mass and muscle shape, breed type and pattern. Obviously I am partial to a ram that can walk up, stop and pose with legs planted wide and square, head up with boldness and breed character. I wanted to give him a snappy new nickname as some people like to do. I decided to call him STAR VOYAGER and thought it might be of interest to mention where I first heard the name.
Long ago back in Scotland as a boy, I developed a huge crush on Shorthorn cattle, a breed my grandfather raised along with North Country sheep. One of the best known Shorthorn managers was an effervescent Irishman called Gordon Blackstock. He was a great promoter, something rather rare in the Scottish cattle business in those days. Most folks were inclined to let the cattle do the talking.
The herd Blackstock managed had two National Champions, a bull called Constellation and a cow named Fair Clipper. The two were mated and produced a bull calf, one that obviously had the credentials to be a celebrity himself.
Blackstock decided to initiate a contest in the main daily newspaper, the Daily Express, to name the baby bull. Naturally, I sent in several names, but none of them were very good. Before long the paper published the winning name.
I was very impressed. What a good name, I thought, combining the parent names, Constellation and Clipper in that way. I was envious, and told myself I would name an animal that someday. I did not know what animal or even what species, but I had no doubt that I was going to be a stock breeder some day.
Well it took me close to seventy years, but I finally have a Star Voyager.
I mention the dynamic Gordon Blackstock here. A great stockman who played a big part in the Shorthorn breed on both sides of the Atlantic, he bred a wealth of good cattle. The herd he managed was owned by Cecil Moores, who also owned Littlewood's Football Pools, for betting on soccer games, and worth millions.
Blackstock had another bull that was born on a train moving the entire herd from the south of England to better cattle country in northern Scotland That bull he named Northward Bound.
Someone joked that the whole herd was moved, lock, Blackstock and barrel.
Gordon Blackstock got me my first Shorthorn job in U.S.A. in 1965. Shortly after he sadly died in a car wreck, aged 47.
The eloquent last line in his obituary read. "He died as he lived with his foot hard down on the throttle."
I caught this picture at the Virginia ram test near Steele's Tavern. Two Dorset ram lambs graphically illustrate contrasting profiles regarding natural thickness , girth and muscle shape, not to mention scrotal size and bone. I should at this point declare that I do not imply that this is exclusively a Dorset problem. Far from it I would suggest that the modern meat sheep population has suffered widely from a proliferation of the cringe worthy style model on the left as opposed to the meaty, big barreled kind on the right. Certainly it is evident that many are actively working on rectifying the situation, but there is surely more work to be done. Observing the horrible creature on the left, It is interesting to speculate what originally initiated the multiplication of such unfortunate specimens. The entity which most typically takes the blame is the show ring., going back to the days when function and utility went out the window in the quest for frame, height and length. The same trend badly affected the cattle business, but mercifully there has in the bovine world been a marked trend in a common sense and practical direction. It seems the sheep seedstock industry has been slower to see the light for whatever reason. I would suggest that selection for frame altered the dimensions of the skeleton, adding length to the long bones and spine at the expense of skeletal width. This effect naturally reduces muscle mass, spring of rib and chest floor. Body depth is sacrificed, leading to a lack of capacity, degenerating in impolite cowboy terms into a "pencil-gutted narrow based, hatchet assed sorry son of a bitch" like Lefty above.Typically such creatures lack the capacity to thrive on grass, and do not provide carcass value with retail product close to that of their more well endowed peers. I would also suggest that selection for extreme body length may not be as prudent as many suppose. That dimensional extremity may well lead to a less easy keeping harder doing kind, lacking the feed efficiency and function of their more capacious herdmates.
My maternal grandfather , mentioned elsewhere was a gifted livestock breeder who motivated me to spend my life doing the same.
My other grandfather was a celebrated Presbyterian minister who preached in Gaelic, Scotland's ancient native tongue. Many of his forebears were clergymen also.
I suppose I do at times tend to reveal my ecumenical ancestry , but my gospel is not the holy word and scriptures, but rather the gospel of righteousness related to genetic goodness and selection of productive meat animals .
This is the story of a good ram we raised who had a long and fruitful life, spending time in five states Highland King was born in 2009. and I felt he was one of the better ones we had that year. I sold him as a lamb to the Deem family at Alderson West Virginia who were starting a sheep flock for their son Lee. After two years , he had sired several daughters and it was time to change rams. I bought him back, and before long got a call from Tennessee. Kim Caulfield, with whom I had often talked but never met, had an older gentleman looking for a North Country ram to start a new flock, his first venture in the sheep business. I felt this ram would suit, being of gentle disposition. Kim's mom Jane was making a run North East delivering several Great Pyrenees guard dog pups and could haul the ram back to Tennessee.. We were to be away when Jane would be headed home, so we arranged to meet her on her way north. This meant that the ram got to spent a few days riding to New England and back, but he was very laid back and had no problem travelling.
A year or so later, Kim called to say her gentleman friend had decided the sheep business was not for him, and the ram had sold to Alabama. Some time later, I got a call from the lady who had bought the ram., and she understood I had bred him..
"He's beautiful, " she said. "Too good to be with my common sheep. He needs to be with his own breed. Would you like to have him back?"
"I'd be happy to take him back, but I'm not driving to Alabama.
(I have joked that Alabama isn't close to anywhere.)
"Maybe I can bring him to you" , she suggested.
" You don't need a drive like that, I'll think of something."
"Well if you can work it out, I should tell you I will be in Chins for a month this summer, if you are trying to contact me."
I was putting a deal together to send sheep to Minnesota and Kansas before long, and was put in contact with Jonathan Lippert who was in the livestock hauling business. He told me he could haul the sheep out west for me on one load in a couple of weeks.
"While I have you on the phone, do you ever go to Alabama?'
"I'll be there next week."
"Can you haul a ram home for me?"
"Just give me the address."
So I thought I would call the lady to get the ram ready to send.
No answer at home. I realized she must be in China.
I emailed her and got a message right back. She was indeed in China, but would get the message to the farm about the ram.
We got the ram home safely. I called the buyer in Minnesota, Bruce DeWitt.
"I have a good old ram here I just got back from Alabama. I wondered if you might be interested in him to breed those nice ewes you are buying from me?"
"What do you want for him?"
"He's old, about 8 and a little skinny, but a good one. You are buying 30 ewes from me , so I will send him along if you would like him at no charge. I can't guarantee how long he will last."
So he went to Minnesota on Jonathan's trailer, and years later, Robin DeWitt told me they got two lamb crops from Hank as they named him, and were well pleased with his progeny.
So Hank got to see a lot of country, and bred a lot of ewes.
Likely however, the only time I'll be contacting China on a sheep deal.
Highland King was a maternal brother to High Road 0085, the ram we sold for the U.S. breed record price of $2000 mentioned elsewhere. His picture illustrates what kind of sheep he was.
Nice pattern and balance, with dimension and depth of rib and flank. Good square rump with nuscle shape. Correct on feet and legs. I suppose I might give him a bit more bone. Attractive head and front end with smooth shoulder.
The picture was taken as a three year old before he went to Tennessee.