Randy Jackson stomped the snow off of his boots on the front porch, and then opened the door of the double-wide trailer he shared with his wife Jackie and their toddler Allison, and stepped inside.
“Hi honey,” said Jackie from the kitchen where she stood at the counter, putting away the last of a load of clean dishes. “You want some coffee?”
“If it’s made,” said Randy. “I gotta go talk to Dad.”
“Wouldn’t you rather talk to me?” said Jackie. “Dad’s been a little gloomy lately.”
“Dad’s always gloomy in February,” said Randy. “I think he just needs more sunlight. He’s always pretty cheerful the rest of the year, isn’t he?”
Jackie poured a cup of coffee for Randy and another one for herself. “I suppose he is,” she said. “That’s probably why I notice when he isn’t.” She set the cups on the table and the two of them sat down. “What do you want to talk to Dad about?”
“We have to talk about this idea he has of going into sheep farming,” said Randy. He paused. “Sheep farming,” he said again, as if saying it twice would help him make sense of it.
Jackie took a sip of coffee. “So, tell me what you think,” she said.
Randy took a long time to answer. “I think it’s crazy,” he said finally. “Nuts. Cuckoo.” He stared at his mug for a second. “The trouble is, I also think that under the circumstances the only thing crazier than going into sheep farming might be NOT going into sheep farming.”
Jackie laughed. “So you’re trying to choose the lesser of two crazies?”
Randy grinned. “Yeah,” he said. “It’s like if you had had to choose between marrying Alex Martin or his brother Ron.”
Jackie laughed again. “Thank God I got to choose the lesser of three crazies,” she said.
“Worked out good for me,” said Randy. He shook his head. “Sheep,” he said. “What a weird animal that is.”
“Really?” said Jackie. “How do you mean?”
“Sheep are like the anti-predator,” said Randy. “They’re like the nerd in school who walks around all day with a sign stuck to his back that says ‘kick me,’ only the sign on a sheep would say ‘eat me.’ Sheep are so anti-predator-ish they’ll starve to death if it’s windy because they’re afraid to eat the grass if it waves at them.”
“I don’t think anti-predator-ish is a word,” said Jackie.
“It should be,” said Randy. “It should be in the dictionary. Anti-predator-ish. And the definition would be “like a sheep.” Or just “sheep-ish.”
“You should write an article for the Co-operator about your views on the nature of sheep,” said Jackie, “and then the following week they could print a whole raft of letters to the editor from sheep farmers calling you a sheep racist.”
“That’s funny,” said Randy. “An ovine racist! That’s me I guess. I’m just prejudiced because I read too many Louis L’Amour novels when I was a teenager. Louis always came down on the cattle rancher’s side in the bovine versus ovine debate.”
“It wasn’t much of a debate usually,” said Jackie. “More of a pitched gun battle or a war, most of the time.”
“True, now that you mention it,” said Randy. “Louis wasn’t much for dialogue. “Draw cowboy” was probably the longest sentence anyone ever spoke in one of his books.”
“Which is the difference between you and your dad and a couple of Louis L’Amour characters,” said Jackie. “Your conversations with your dad almost never end in gunfire.”
“Almost never,” agreed Randy. “But we haven’t tried to discuss sheep.”
“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” said Jackie. “Unless you tell him flat out you don’t want to do it. That could get tense.”
“Yeah well, fortunately I don’t feel that strongly about it,” said Randy. “Like I said, under the circumstances it might be the less crazy idea. God only knows if cattle will ever be profitable again, so maybe it’s time to diversify. Make a bit of money with the sheep so we can squander it on the cattle and then if cattle prices go up just reverse the scenario.”
“See, that’s what I love about you,” said Jackie with a grin. “Always looking on the bright side.”
“True, that,” said Randy. “Plus if we have sheep, then Allison will be able to practise at home so she can leave all those other little sheep wranglers in the dust at the rodeo.”
Jackie raised her cup in the air. “In the end,” she said, “we must do it for the children.”
Visit Rollin Penner’s website at www.thetravelingmedicineshow.comto catch him at a concert near you.