The Train and the Sheep

The Train and the Sheep

By Roger Heid

Early some week day morning, heading to school, the train suddenly stopped somewhere between stations, for no initially apparent reason. Something like this had never happened since I had been riding this train. This called for an immediate investigation.

It turned out to be caused by a sizeable herd of sheep, slowly moving along the track, heading in the same direction the train did. About the only thing I knew about sheep was that they make a lot of noise and that they usually bunch together, being herded by trained dogs. Some guy would usually stand around, staring in the landscape, doing nothing.

I also knew that wool comes from them. My Mom always knitted some wretched garments for me which itched and scratched when worn on bare skin. Furthermore, I also knew they ate a lot of grass and other plant life available to them, as it was the case here.

My knowledge of plant life was very limited as Botany was not my favorite subject. In my own mind, I had divided plants into five categories, 1) the ones women go ape about, 2) the ones I liked to eat, 3) the ones I was supposed to eat, 4) the ones one had to get rid of and 5) the ones that just simply existed. A sixth category I tended to pay more attention to. Those were the ones spirits are made of, such as grapes and hops. At one time, I tried to make beer in the basement, but an explosion forced my brewery into premature bankruptcy.

Anyway, there was an abundant growth of some sort of weed on both sides of the track. As far as the sheep were concerned, those weeds must have been in their category 2. All efforts put forth by several dogs were obviously futile; they had given up and joined the shepherd who did what he was best at, namely standing around, doing nothing. The engineer tooted the whistle a couple of times which the sheep duly ignored. The picture shown below was not taken at the railroad track, but I gives you some idea what I’m talking about.

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At the going rate, it could take until nightfall to reach our destination since the sheep didn’t give a hoot about the local train schedule. Why should they? Our train had turned into the “Sheep Express”.

In the meantime, a couple of farmers, riding a tractor and wagon, had pulled alongside on the dirt road going parallel to the track. They stopped and gawked, laughing their butts off. I noticed some equipment on that wagon, and I suddenly had a brain storm.

Some time ago, I had come across a cartoon in a Mickey Mouse book. After a hefty snowfall, Grandma Duck did not bother shoveling the walk way. Instead, she spread out a bunch of potato peels and let the pigs out.

It was not long until a few men started to cut down the weeds ahead of the herd. Then they spread them on the ground, thus forming a path leading away from the tracks. The sheep promptly followed that path. Minutes later, the train was on its way again.

During the remainder of the trip, I fathomed I could become an Animal Psychologist in the event I couldn’t cut it as a railroad engineer. I would have to study a lot of Mickey Mouse stories, though.

The train delay resulted in a shorter school day. Most of all, I had missed Chemistry class, a subject I dearly hated. Maybe this was because of the teacher. He was not unfriendly, but he was a walking formula, and everything about him reeked and stank.

Incidentally, he was one of those guys that were taken prisoner in the Normandy, in summer of 1944. He was hauled to Louisiana to perform some slave work. Maybe they should have kept him there. Most likely, he would have developed an effective alligator poison or some compound the sheer mention of which would reliably keep the gators miles away.

 

 

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