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How to make lambs suckle?

by Sandra Marttinen

John Gilmore was awake long before the alarm clock rang at 5:00 a.m. He had been mulling over what crops should be planted first, if the dairy cows were due for their shots, and worrying about the new lamb that was not suckling well. Should he wait another month before shipping the hogs to market? Was he procrastinating? These questions and many others were running through his head as he carefully slid out of bed, trying not to disturb his wife. She especially needed her rest with the baby due in a few months. Farming was hard work, but how he loved it! It was the only job he ever wanted. How lucky he had been to work on farms after school and during the summer for neighbors. It was there he learned how to care for animals, what crops grow best in what soil, and how to take care of all the farming machinery. He was doubly fortunate that his wife felt the same way about farming. Oh, no! He almost forgot the dairy inspector was due tomorrow. The milk house had to be scrubbed from top to bottom.

As he walked down the hallway, a door opened to one of the bedrooms. His hired hand was already awake and ready to start working.

John: 'Morning, Tom.'

Tom: 'You’re up early.'

John: 'I was going to say the same thing about you.'

Tom: 'I was thinking about those twin lambs….'

John: 'Let’s go downstairs to talk, so we don’t wake Mary.'

Mary: 'Too late. I heard you guys talking. I’ll go make coffee.'

Downstairs, Mary pours coffee for each of them, then sits down as she drinks a glass of orange juice.

Mary: 'Now what’s the problem with the lambs?'

John: 'It seems to be a problem with the mother. She is rejecting one of them. I don’t understand it.'

Mary: 'You both have enough to do today. Let me take care of the lambs Maybe I’ll have to bottle feed it.'

John groaned. Bottle feed? Mary, that’s a 24 hour a day job. I remember taking care of a motherless lamb when I was in 18. There’s no way you can do that. You need your rest. Tom and I can’t be of any help…

Mary: 'John, don’t worry. Just go tend to the milking and let me figure this out.'

Tom and John go to the barn to start the milking. Then Tom puts out feed for the pigs and the lambs. They both discuss plowing the north section of land in the afternoon. As they ride the tractor back to the house, they pass the sheep in the corral.

Tom: 'Hey, look the twins are suckling!'

John: 'I wonder what Mary did to make that happen!'

They entered the kitchen and smelled bacon, potatoes and eggs cooking.

John: 'All right, Mary, what’s your secret?' How did you get the ewe to suckle her lamb?'

Mary: I remembered something my daddy did when I was just a little girl. He brought home a puppy someone had abandoned. We already had a three – year old dog so my mother didn’t think they would be able to get along. The dog was already snarling at the puppy. Then he took some of my little brother’s talcum powder and rubbed it on both of the animals. That did the trick! Since they both smelled alike, they accepted each other; I did the same thing with the lambs and the ewe.'

Tom: 'That’s really amazing! What a wise woman you married, John!'

Mary: 'Thank you, now you both sit down there and eat. You’re going to have a busy day... The dairy inspector called and will be here around 3:00 today instead of tomorrow. I know you have a lot to do before then!'

John groaned again, but he grinned, realizing that he really enjoyed every unexpected challenge in being a farmer. Every day brought a new adventure.

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