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.


About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website:

21 responses to “shearing

  1. Sherry — So hope your daughter is ok and her spirits aren’t sheared by the accident. Ooof.

  2. S, what you write are so often not stories but prayers, when, as in this case, there seems only one appropriate response. A silent sigh and “amen” . . .

    Hope all are and is well.

    • redmitten

      tim- you likely have no idea what your comment has done for me. thank you. i’ve been compelled to write what i’ve been writing for some time and now i understand better what is going on “behind the scene”. and yes, amen . . .

  3. Rose Hunter

    Is she OK? Did I ask that properly before?? I maybe didn’t…. Hope she is OK! What a row of stuff.
    I hope you and a bug are well this evening, a tejon sends her best vibes over to you both. 😦

    • redmitten

      the bug and the burro have strong boot straps, turns out, and she esp is quite the little strapper when it comes time to get back up and keep going. and the tejon is muy muy kind and sends good vibes…

  4. Rose Hunter

    Love the sounds in this post btw, especially the “surprise party trying to calm down before the birthday girl arrives.” Gorgeous.
    Redux for the vibes.

  5. Loved the shearing saga. Loved your need to comfort your daughter. Loved discovering you via EIL

  6. Having come to this late, relieved that your daughter is well. And that you share with your beautiful words, all the sounds, especially “…where field meets sun, and faith meets up with trust—the way fingers link together without asking how.” says so much about your faith and spirit.

    A gorgeous piece, Sherry. I’ve read your breathtaking poetry in the past, and I’m so happy I’ve just discovered this little piece of the universe. (And see some of my writerly friends here, as well!) 🙂

    • redmitten

      jayne- really great to meet up with you. i just spent some time at your website-ah! what you wrote about meatballs tells me you feel the way fingers link. and what you wrote about your grandmother’s hands- yes, yes.

      thank you for finding me here and for your kind words about my poetry. funny how we put words out there because we must…and what a gift it is to receive when someone stops by to say those words found them.

  7. How the sheep are calmed and how you deal with your many worlds is a gift.

    • redmitten

      kass- we should all have a herd of sheep to walk into so that we would have to learn to find our calm center. half the time i don’t know what toxic energy i am emitting, but wow, the sheep will sure let a person know!

  8. wuffda


    Glad your daughter is hale and whole. You are one of two people in my life whose lives are an enrichment to mine. So foreign, so…exotic. In the meantime, I am keeping busy trying to create an exotic life of my own…never too old…never too late! Your dad teaches me that. I hope you don’t mind me borrowing your dad.

    • redmitten

      rox, you are a sweet heart, really. probably none of us are where we thought we’d be. i look up and see me where i am and think- sherry, how did that happen? why are you not in a log cabin splitting your own wood. and you, you are multi-talented. i remember. and we are never too old and time is never too late- my dad is an example, yes! borrow him every morning. he likes to email photos around 3 am….i should put you on the mailing list!

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