Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sheep & Wool Festival, Part 2

More photos from the Massachusetts Sheep and Wool Festival. In the first photo, this ewe was bleating loudly every few seconds as she waited for the judges to check her out. I guess if someone was holding your head still while others examined your body, you'd bleat too! In the third photo you can see one of the hoods that many sheep were wearing before the judging. I've never seen sheep so clean! Also, it's actually relaxing to walk through the stalls and commune with these animals, despite the cacophony of bleating. For the most part they're extremely docile and sweet. They're also not as "stupid" as most people believe. Studies have shown that they have a very good memory for human faces and even can exhibit basic problem-solving skills. They certainly demonstrated an ability to trip up the border collies during the sheep dog trials on Sunday. As the announcer pointed out, some of the "wily old ewes" have learned a trick or two in their dealings with the dogs trying to herd them through a course.

Before I started going to these sheep and wool events (thanks to a wife who is an avid knitter), I had only encountered sheep in the allegorical sense, through religious references. Indeed, the Bible is full of references to sheep and shepherds. There's the story of God telling Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, on an altar. At the last moment Isaac is spared and a sheep is provided for the sacrifice. Perhaps even more familiar is the sheep/shepherd imagery found in the the 23rd Psalm. And for Christians, there's the portrayal of Christ as "the Good Shepherd" (John 10). Of course, the thematic undercurrent in most of these references is "obedience"; we're the sheep and God is the shepherd. If one's experience with sheep was limited to biblical allegory, the stories of one's days in Sunday school might seem flat or one-dimensional. Spending a few minutes in the livestock barns, however, and you'd understand the foundation of those references. The sheep at the Festival on Sunday were doing a pretty good imitation of disobedient humans!

The last photo shows one of the llamas at the festival. If you've ever been around llamas or alpacas you know that they'll often make a low humming sound. They also have a nasty habit of spitting - like camels - when they get mad. These guys seemed a bit skittish with the crowd so most of us were giving the llamas some extra space to avoid provoking a spit attack. Blech!

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