Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Shake a leg

Hubby was just talking to the kiddo about her day at "farm school" (the summer program she is attending is held on a working farm) and they got on the subject of what kind of feet various animals have: hooves, paws, claws etc.

While they talked on, I suddenly had a flashback, out of nowhere. Something I hadn't thought about in probably 20 years. It was completely unsettling to recall and therefore, of course, I must share it with you.

Growing up, I was in the 4-H sheep club for almost 12 years. Our club leaders (the adults) were all sheep farmers, as you'd expect. This one lady, who was older than Methusulah and seriously old school in her ways (like Pioneer Woman or Little House on the Prairie old school), was a leader for a while. One time at our monthly meeting, we were discussing the proper ways to trim sheep hooves - it's trickier than you might think. There were lots of questions and more than a few of us confessed that we didn't do the hoof trimming ourselves, but rather let our parents or other adults do it. (I was one of that number.) She was appalled to learn that we weren't all competent hoof trimmers and proceeded to lecture us about how these were our animals and we needed to take care of all their needs, on and on she went. The next month she turned up with these large, black, Hefty lawn-n-leaf garbage bags. She dropped the bags on the floor of the living room in which we were gathered (meetings rotated to a different member's house each month) with an ominous THUD. The meeting got underway as usual, and when it got to the "anyone have any other old business?" question, she spoke up. She explained that following the previous meeting's discovery that we were all hoof trimming slouches, she wanted us to practice. She proceeded to reach down and untie the first bag, then she stuck her hand inside and pulled out a sheep's leg.

A sheep's leg. A frozen sheep's leg. She had FOUR bags full of them. All different breeds - some were longer and black (like the Suffolks we raised), others smaller and white (Dorsets or Cheviots, most likely). As we gaped in silent horror, she began passing the legs out around the room. Next, she produced a few pairs of hoof shears and waited for us to get to work. We each had to trim hooves until we'd done it to her satisfaction.

Yes, picture that for a moment, if you will - a room full of children holding squeamishly onto rapidly thawing sheep's legs. More than a few of us were grossed out, and some kids refused to touch the legs. (I cowboyed up and took on the challenge, myself. I was such a goody-goody and so wanted to ace everything that I wasn't about to let a little thing like a dead animal's severed leg get in the way of earning top marks from the club leaders...) I can only imagine what the host member's parents thought of this sight - pieces of hoof flying everywhere around their living room, the smell of thawing legs, the sight of a circle of children holding said legs...........

(Incidentally, she'd gotten the legs from the local slaughterhouse. There weren't suddenly a bunch of quadruple amputee sheep flocks in the area. She'd called the slaughterhouse and asked him to save her the legs from the Easter lambs and mutton.)


I kind of wish I hadn't recalled that particular memory. I think that was, hands down, the most disgusting thing I ever had to do at a 4-H meeting. I did manage to trim a hoof satisfactorily by my second leg, at least, though I don't recall ever trimming a hoof on a live sheep in all my years of sheep farming. Dad and the shearer usually took care of that when the sheep were being sheared. Thank goodness.

Aren't you glad I shared that memory with you?


Momof3 said...

Ok, I was about to have a snack but am completely grossed out now. So, maybe I should say thanks for saving me the extra calories?!

szarek4 said...

That even grossed me out and not much grosses me out!

You are a real woman Heather :-)

My name is Andy. said...

Only you Heather!! but thanks to you I have just had a previously buried memory of life on the farm that I am feeling compelled to share!!

You've all been warned.

Mwah ha ha!!!

The Nice One said...

To My 4-Leader: Thank you for not teaching us to tattoo rabbit ears using decapitated frozen rabbit heads. I have a new appreciation for you.