First, I drove past their farm. The sun wasn’t scheduled to rise for another hour and I couldn’t make out the hills which shelter their pastures. Where was the big red barn? And the creek running through the treeline? I couldn’t see the creek. I couldn’t even hear it.
And second, when I did let myself through their gate—left open for the arrival of the shearer’s trailer—and knocked on their back door, all I could hear was the sound of a dryer running. A warm hum on a cold January morning.
You’ll find them working on the farm. Remember? And so I walked through the barnyard and listened for the sound of sheep. Not a baa. Not a bell, ringing. Only the sound of my boots on ice and gravel, my breath steaming through the silk scarf I had wrapped around my neck and face.
One light in the chicken coop, one light in the barn. The closer I got to the barn, the more I could feel a muffled sort of rumble. Like a surprise party trying to calm down before the birthday girl arrives. Or runaways in hiding. The sound of being found.
I rounded the corner of the barn and peered through the top portion of the door. And there they were, my sister and her husband, at the far end of the barn—calming the last of 50 sheep herded into what they called the staging area. Step One to Sheep Shearing had already begun.
And I would show you photos of fleece shorn, of a black ram charging, of six bales of hay in the back of a mule cart and a seventy-five pound dog standing on my lap. But instead, I share the sound of being where field meets sun, and faith meets up with trust—the way fingers link together without asking how. The sound of grain in round bins slipped beneath rails to hungry horses. Bells refastened to newly-shorn ewes.
Comes the murmur, then, of that creek. The whistle of wind between cedar branches. And later, the triumphant talk of shearers around a table of hearty sandwiches, fresh tea, cookies from last night’s oven. The kitchen was warm and we were satisfied. But twenty miles north, my daughter was in the midst of a car accident. And here I was. Oblivious, unknowing.
And when she was able to call, I raced to join her. Yes, to know she would be alright, but wanting to be with her and somehow keep her from the pain of someone stealing from her and another running a red light and spinning her around.
That long drive back to town, up and down steep hills that blocked out cell phone coverage, I carried with me that rounding sensation of sheep waiting in a quiet barn. Who knows when harm will come and how the blow will sound. And when I finally caught up and hugged her, I thanked every rock on earth, every blade of prairie grass.