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Farmer in Distress

Posted 6/13/2011 5:04am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

Last week was one of those weeks where the days of my calendar were filled in hourly tasks.   Those kinds of weeks make the farmer in me a little nervous because keeping a tight schedule does not allow enough time for the unexpected events that eventually happen.  And the one thing you should always expect on a farm is the unexpected.   In this particular story, the unexpected event was totally my fault!  Ugh. Just when I think I've planned perfectly, I absent-mindedly do somehting that causes momentary chaos in the lives of a dozen or more folks.

Wednesday was the girls last day of school.  It was also the day that we had five lambs scheduled to go to the butcher and I had made some arrangements with customers in Lancaster to make a meat delivery.   My day was booked.  As soon as the girls were on the bus, I hopped into our pre-loaded pickup truck (Roy loaded the lambs before he left -- Roy is one of the many heroes in this story) and headed to Thompsontown to deliver the lambs.  Unloading went so smoothly.  I even took time to fill the water bucket in the pen and find a little hay for the lambs before I left.   I arrived home in time to get my orders together, pack a bag, and get a shower before picking the girls up at lunch from school.   From there we were off to Village Acres for a staff meeting and to pickup more meat that I had in their cooler before heading to Lancaster to meet my customers.   One the way to Village Acres I received a call from Dan the butcher man.

"Uh Julie, we've got a problem down here. Who was your hauler?"

"Oh no! Why? What's wrong?" panic, panic, finally admit it  "I was -- what did I do?"

"Well the gate wasn't closed properly and your five sheep are running around Thompsontown."

After a bit of reassurance, Dan tells me he will keep me posted and just continue on to my meeting.   But a heaviness has settled in to my gut.  How could I be so stupid!  I even read the sign and thought I had the gate secured.  I was actually quite pleased with myself in the morning ... thinking everything was going according to my very tight plan.   So much for that.

Halfway through the meeting Dan called again.  "We are not having much luck here.  Do you have any suggestions?  Do they come to you calling them?  Anything?"   I thought of Mac at home in his pen and told Dan I would, (gulp) call Roy at work.

By this time I was losing (or perhaps lost) my cool.   Sounding desperate I told Roy the situation, how horrible I felt, but that I had a car full of meat, customers to meet in Lancaster, and the only solution I could think of was if he could get out of work early,  pick up Mac, and rescue me from this humiliating experience.   He told me he had a meeting he would try to cancel and then he'd be on his way.   In the meantime, I started slinging heavy coolers into my in-laws mini-van, rushing the girls into the truck etc. basically just being a panicky idiot so that I could get to butcher shop and help round up the sheep or at least keep an eye on where they were till Roy and Mac arrived.  This was that week in early June with high humidity and temps in the high 90's.   I knew I did not have a lot of extra time until I would have to leave to make it to my delivery destination in Lancaster.   My father-in-law Roy and sister-in-law Deb offered to come along to keep an eye on the sheep till Roy arrived since there was no way I could wait around for him.   On the drive to the butcher shop with Deb, we were able to laugh at this fiasco and thankfully regain some perspective.  I was still feeling like such a heel.   I could just imagine all those burly butcher men thinking "geez, leave it to a woman..." etc.  etc.  Maybe they didn't go there, but in rural farmer world were men dominate the scene, I can't help but think some of them do. (of course in other contexts,  my mind has gone in the "leave it to man" direction too -- hmmm) 

We arrived at the butcher shop in time to see two of the panting lambs get loaded into their trailer.  Two down and three more ... nowhere in sight.    Dan and his two teenage sons were tracking / chasing them and Dan's father, who we met at the trailer, thought they were last seen heading into a 30 acre woodlot.   We paced along the woodlot listening, but heard nothing.  So we waited and worried, hoping to get  glimpse of them.   Finally Dan's father said he was heading back to the butcher shop to drop off the lamb and we should come too.   We could no longer reach Dan by cell phone so we headed back too.   When we pulled up, there was Dan and his sons, dripping with sweat, looking satisfied.   The lambs were captured.   Dan's boys are lean, tall, and athletic, and the three of them together eventually were able to get close enough to tackle the sheep.   So there I was, feeling the taste of humble pie in my mouth, unsure how to repay them for all the chaos I had caused, feeling incredibly indebted and Dan simply waved it off as though I should not to worry about it.... "next time,  just be sure to shut the gate!"    No doubt!  Quick "thank yous" all around and we had to leave for our delivery.  

We arrived in Lancaster just ten minutes late, all our customers remembered to pick up their orders, I dropped off the girls at my mothers, and finally... headed out to meet several of my very good woman friends for dinner.  First order -- ice cold mojito then a retelling of my day's events with much laughter and empathy, as only good friends can provide. 

Next day on my way home I stopped by the butcher shop with a dozen pastries.   Dan's father saw me and smiled,  "They aren't running any more!"