I was saddened a few mornings ago. The field two fields beyond the top of our terrace has been filled for the last couple of weeks with ewes and their “Spring” lambs. Truth to tell, we’ve had lambs in these parts since November.
Bess and I took our morning stroll at our usual time: about twenty to eight. That’s a great time to observe all sorts of things and ponder upon them.
Looking towards the Cambrian Mountains, I noticed something in that field about which to ponder. There was what seemed to be the body of a tiny, dead lamb. Its mother was standing near it looking as if she didn’t understand why her little one lay so still.
A more careful look at the scene as we walked back home showed that the lamb had blood on its body. There was a pair of crows nearby waiting, I supposed, for a quick feed. But the mother ewe put herself between them and her dead offspring to stop them doing that.
Bess and I got home and I felt very sad that the little one had left its mother alone in that field.
When I took my solo evening stroll, they were still both there, mother and baby. I did not know what to do: I could have found the farmer’s number and rung him. But I didn’t.
Next day on our morning stroll, I heard a small four-wheeled vehicle towing a trailer being driven into that field. I stood and watched, bringing Bess to heel to do so.
The driver took the trailer very near to where the lamb lay. The ewe watched closely. When her baby was placed in the trailer and it was driven slowly away, she followed, simply staring at the back of the vehicle.
It stopped again along the hedgerow. A second dead lamb was put in the trailer and its mother, too, followed the vehicle as it went out of the field and closed the gate. The two ewes stood staring after their departing babes. Bess and I went back home.
I shall always look across that field and remember – especially at lambing-time – what I had seen. And I shall wonder, too, about the feelings of those two bereaved ewes.
Do they – do animals – experience what we humans feel when a loved one dies? Do they, like us, remember and remember and remember? Do little things jog their memories and take them back to . . . those moments . . . ?
Being a big softie at heart, I think they do. And I have never stopped “going down” the list of all creation and imagining (if it is imagination) that they all have similar emotions to us “superior” humans. If I am right, perhaps I should encourage every one of my own species to behave accordingly, even if it involves being regarded – and told – that I am “soft in the head”.
And, this morning, the mother ewes who still have their offspring having been taken into safer, warmer places for the night, those two now-bereaved mothers were the only sheep in that field.
I shall not forget.
kjs 18th March, 2015.