Andrew Jackson strode across the yard heading from the house to the shop. In his hand he carried a travel mug full of fresh, hot coffee, which he nearly dropped when a gust of wind threatened to blow the hat off his head. He managed to grab the hat with his free hand without spilling his coffee. The wind still carried an edge of winter, but the sun shining brightly in the sky overwhelmed the chill in the air. It was a remarkably warm day for early April and Andrew stopped at the door of the shop to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of springtime for a moment before heading inside.
A robin flew across the yard to perch in the elm tree on the front lawn and high overhead a flock of geese winged its long, tireless way to more northern waters. Just as Andrew reached for the door it opened suddenly and Randy stuck his head out.
“Hey Pops,” he said. “Quit ’yer dawdling now y’hear?”
Andrew laughed. “I be the boss man, I dawdle as much as I wants to,” he said, but then stepped through the door and into the shop. “How’s it coming?”
Randy sank down into one of the old chairs next to the workbench. “Good enough I guess,” he said. “Although if I’d known we’d be seeding in the middle of April I would have started working on the equipment a little earlier.”
Andrew sat down in the second chair and took a long sip of coffee. “Mmm,” he said, apparently not concerned. “We’ll get it done,” he said.
“I suppose,” said Randy. He tipped his hat back and rubbed his forehead where the hatband had been pressing into his skin. “I need a new hat,” he said.
“We should get you a Resistol,” said Andrew. “No more of that Stetson crap. Just because you’re a sheep rancher doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look like a real cowboy.”
“You got a passion for cowboy fashion suddenly?” said Randy, laughing. “What’s up with that?”
Andrew chuckled. “Hey, I know you’re not totally thrilled with the whole sheep-farming idea, so I figure I’ll buy your approval with a nice new hat.”
“I approve of that plan,” said Randy. “Get me the $400 Black Gold model and I’ll be your shepherd for life.”
“If I buy you a $400 hat we won’t be able to buy any sheep,” said Andrew.
“I know,” said Randy. “That’s what I’m counting on.”
There was a pause while Andrew took another drink.
“So I was reading about liver flukes,” said Randy.
Andrew looked quizzical. “Were you now?” he said. “Liver flukes eh? I’m familiar with liver and I’ve seen a few flukes in my day, but never really in relation to each other. Except maybe the fact that old Frank Buller’s liver didn’t give out till he was 90. That had to be a fluke.”
“Different kind of fluke,” said Randy. “I’m talking about the little leech things that get into sheeps’ livers and suck their blood out from the inside.”
Andrew wrinkled his nose. “That’s not a pretty picture,” he said.
“What’s really weird,” said Randy, “is that the flukes need a certain kind of snail to incubate the eggs for a couple of months before they deposit them on the grass which is where the sheep pick them up.”
“Aha,” said Andrew. “So the trick is to control the snail population.”
“I guess,” said Randy. “The article suggested fencing around marshy areas and swamps.”
Andrew looked doubtful. “What kind of fence do you build to keep snails in? A really low single-strand electric maybe? Every day you’d have a row of escargot lined up along the fence ready to serve at dinner.”
Randy laughed. “I think the idea is that the fence will keep the sheep away from the snails’ habitat, not the other way around.”
“Good thinking,” said Andrew. “On the positive side, we really don’t have any swamp or marshland in our pasture so maybe we don’t have snails either.” He paused. “I can’t say I ever expected to be concerned about snails in the pasture. Coyotes and wolves yeah, but snails have really always been below my radar.”
“Your gonna’ have to get your radar lower then,” said Randy, “because that’s where the sheep are going to be.”
Andrew shook his head ruefully. “I’ll be turning my radar lower and my hearing aid higher,” he said. “I may be too old to learn a new farming skill.”
“That’s why you had me,” said Randy.
“Ah, good to know,” said Andrew. “I always wondered.” `
for info on Rollin Penner and the Traveling Medicine Show performing in Carman on
April 22 and in Steinbach on April 23.