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The Jacksons – for Feb. 4, 2010

Looking out the dining room window of the Jackson house, Andrew could just see the ghostly outline of the big old elm tree on the front lawn. The north wind howled around the eaves and corners of the house and the blowing snow obscured the rest of the yard and the outbuildings. Andrew heard footsteps on the stairs and turned to see Jennifer appear in the doorway. She paused to look out the window.

“I love snow days,” she said.

“Uhuh,” said Andrew. “A lot of people do.” He watched his daughter open the fridge and reach in to pull out a jug of orange juice. “What’cha gonna do all day?” he asked.

Jennifer took a glass from the cupboard and filled it almost to the top. “I think I’ll play Wii till my shoulder hurts,” she said, “and then I’ll watch Dr. Phil and Oprah.” She took a drink from her glass, then set the glass on the table and slid into her usual chair. “And then I’ll probably read. Oh, and I have to work on my art project at some point.” She made a face. “I hate doing homework on a snow day,” she said.

“As opposed to doing it when?” said Andrew.

Jennifer laughed. “True,” she said. “I hate homework, period.” She took another moment to look out the window. “Wow,” she said. “That is some kind of a storm, eh?”

“It’s a doozy,” said Andrew. “Thank goodness we got the cattle into the shelter last night,” said Andrew.

Jennifer took another drink. “So, Dad, are we actually going to raise sheep?” she asked. “For real?”

Andrew took a moment. “Do you think we should?” he asked.

Jennifer looked surprised. “Does it make a difference what I think? Because that would kind of be a first,” she said.

It was Andrew’s turn to laugh. “Good point,” he said. “But yeah, it does make a difference this time. You’re growing up kid. Unless you decide to take off after high school and live somewhere else, you will actually be a lot more involved in what we do here than you have been. And probably even more so if we have sheep. So yeah, I want to know what you think.”

“Well.” Jennifer gathered her thoughts. “I had sheep on my Wii farm for a while but they kept getting eaten by predators. And shearing them wasn’t easy either. But I don’t expect real life sheep farming would be quite the same as on the Wii.”

Andrew laughed again. “Not if it’s anything like Wii golf! I was playing par golf on the Wii after two weeks and I will never play par golf in real life.”

“Well that’s not very encouraging,” said Jennifer. “I mean if my sheep kept getting eaten by coyotes on my Wii farm and Wii farming is easier than real life, then I feel sorry for our real sheep.”

“That’s one of my biggest worries,” said Andrew. “Predators. They can eat the profits right out from under your nose. And they will if you let them. I still haven’t quite figured that one out.”

“We’d have to get a sheep dog. Like Ralph on Bugs Bunny,” said Jennifer.

“And then we’d have to hope the coyotes are all as dumb as Wile E. Coyote,” said Andrew. “Which is doubtful. Also sheep dogs aren’t really trained for protection, more just for herding.”

“Oh, that reminds me!” said Jennifer. “I saw this amazing video on YouTube where these Welsh sheep farmers strapped Christmas lights onto the backs of their sheep and then trained their dogs to play Pong with the sheep on a hillside, to entertain the villagers. I should show it to you! It was unbelievable!”

“Pong?” said Andrew. “You mean like that old video game?”

“Exactly!” said Jennifer. “The dogs herd some of the sheep in lines, like the paddles in Pong, and the other sheep in a group like the ball, and then some of the dogs try to drive the group of sheep across the field while the other dogs block them with the lines. It’s hilarious!”

“So maybe we should get sheep, and dogs, but just go into the entertainment business instead of that whole wool and mutton deal,” said Andrew.

Jennifer grinned. “Awesome idea! If it means we can get a Border collie then I’m all for it!”

Andrew heaved a satirical sigh. “Finally,” he said, “a member of this family who knows how to prioritize!”

Rollin Penner and the Traveling Medicine Show will raise money for Haiti with a

Valentine’s Day concert in Winnipeg. Visit www.thetravelingmedicineshow.comfor details.

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