“So Andrew tells me you’re going to be a shepherd,” Grant Toews chuckled as he picked up his coffee cup and took a sip. Randy Jackson, who was sitting next to his father Andrew and across from Grant at their table in the café, scowled.
“We shepherds prefer to be known as sheep ranchers,” he said.
“And pig farmers prefer to be known as pork producers,” said Grant. “What’s your point?”
“Go easy on the boy, Grant,” said Andrew. “And keep in mind that human history is littered with highly successful shepherds.”
“In case I hadn’t mentioned it, Dad,” said Randy, “we prefer the term sheep ranchers.”
“Successful shepherds?” said Grant. “Like who?”
“Like King David in the Old Testament,” said Andrew. “And the shepherds in the Nativity story in the New Testament.”
“I wouldn’t call that littered, exactly,” said Grant. “And we don’t really know if the shepherds in the Nativity story were successful. They had one good role but that just made them famous, not successful.”
“Sort of like Ashton Kutcher,” said Randy.
“Ashton Kutcher is only famous because of Twitter,” said Grant.
“That’s true,” said Randy. “I wonder if I
could get famous on Twitter?” “I think it helps if you’re a twit,” said Grant. “So it’s not entirely hopeless,” said Andrew.
There was a brief pause as the waitress came by to refill their coffee cups. Grant reached for the cream and sugar.
“Sheep eh?” said Grant. “Are you sure there aren’t better options for diversification?”
“That’s what I said,” said Randy. “Like what?” said Andrew.
Grant gave that a moment’s thought. “How about ostriches?” he said.
“If I wanted to flog a dead horse,” said Andrew, “I’d just buy a dead horse.”
“Emus then,” said Grant.
“If I wanted to flog a dead pony…” said Andrew.
“What about pigeons?” said Grant.
Randy looked at Andrew. “How long has Grant had this obsession with birds?” he asked.
Andrew shrugged. “I’m thinking it’s pretty recent,” he said. “I haven’t really noticed it before.”
“You’re not even considering my suggestions,” said Grant. “Maybe the real question is, why are you so prejudiced against birds?”
“We’re not prejudiced against birds,” said Randy. “We’re just prejudiced against your ideas.”
“How about elk then?” said Grant.
“How about chinchillas?” said Andrew. “Or hedgehogs, or aardvarks or giant sloths?”
“I don’t think hedgehogs would be viable,” said Grant. “You don’t have enough hedges.”
“The real question here Grant,” said Randy, “is why you harbour this intense animosity towards sheep. Were you attacked by a vicious lamb when you were a child or did you just watch “The Silence of the Lambs” one too many times?”
“I like sheep,” said Grant. “I just want to make sure you guys consider all your options.”
“Some things are not really options,” said Andrew. “Emus are not an option. Aardvarks are not an option. Opening a dance studio in Schanzenfeld is not an option. Sheep on the other hand, are an option.”
“The downside of sheep,” said Grant, “is the whole ‘watching over their flocks by night’ thing. It’s all quaint and picturesque when you read it in the Bible, but in real life it’s kind of cold and miserable. And I imagine it’s hard to stay awake after a while.”
“The upside of sheep,” said Randy, “is they’re not pigs or chickens.”
“You make a good point,” said Grant, “but conversely, the downside of sheep is they’re not cows.”
“Of course given today’s markets,” said Andrew, “the fact that they’re not cows is also an upside.”
“The debate rages on,” said Grant. “It’s not a debate,” said Andrew. “It’s a done
deal. Come spring we have to do some fencing and whatnot, and then we have to buy some sheep.”
“Really?” said Grant. “Your mind is already made up? Are you saying that this entire conversation has been a meaningless conversational exercise? Empty rhetoric with no point other than to fill an empty space in time? Like a throne speech or a sermon in a United Church?”
Andrew laughed. “When is a conversation with you anything other than that?” he said.
“Point taken,” said Grant. “Where are you going to buy sheep?”
Andrew shrugged. “No doubt there will be a dispersal sale somewhere. Some poor guy in the shadows of Riding Mountain maybe, who didn’t realize that an important aspect of sheep farming is an absence of wolves and cougars.”
Grant paused for a moment. “Well, good for you,” he said. “Difficult decisions have to be made.” He raised his coffee cup. “Here’s to the shepherds,” he said.
“We prefer the term sheep ranchers,” said Randy.
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