I was turned into a sheep on May 26th, but I got better and I’m a much better person because of the experience.
England, it’s been said, is a magical country and now I can attest to that being a reality.
It all started when my wife and I decided to challenge ourselves to taking a five-mile walk that was listed in the Cotswold Walk Book. It’s #8 if you happen to have a copy. I also had my OS (Ordinance Survey) map to back the guidebook. (These books contain numerous errors but OS maps are sent from the map-god and are flawless.)
We started from the car-park, where most of the walks begin. Immediately we began to make wrong turns because of the confusing directions. But we kept on and finally found the start of the Gloucestershire Way, a main footpath used by many locals. But, the steady uphill pace soon began to tire my legs and my lower back pain was making the walk less than pleasant. I swallowed three Ibuprofen and pushed on.
The pain lessened a tiny bit but the mystical creature on the top of the hill, hidden by the trees, living in his crumbling castle, began to play his game of time on me. He’s done this before so I wasn’t caught totally by surprise.
You see, it’s an ancient game and many have fallen victim to this cruel trickery. The “thing” in the castle (Is it a demon? A man? A witch?) has been watching me struggle up the hill. He (I’ll call it a he for no particular reason) begins to throw little darts, little darts that are seconds at first, then he changes to the minute darts. Soon the darts are weeks…then months…then years. When I nearly reached the top of the hill, I felt (and probably looked) like an old man. I could barely walk.
What became of the energy I once had? I used to hike the hills of Dorset and I would accelerate my pace as I walked the rise. Now, I sat down feeling dejected and lonely and defeated.
I sensed something breathing in the space just behind my left shoulder. I looked and saw my wife strolling on ahead to find the next stile.
I turned and there was an old sheep not an arm’s length away. We looked at each other, my small brown human eyes meeting her large wet ovine eyes.
“Hey,” I said, trying to be funny to no one but myself. “Come here often?”
“Actually, yes,” the animal replied, in a sheepish English accent. “I graze here quite a bit of the time.”
“Well, good for you,” I said, with some bitterness. “I hope you’re happy chewing on your grass and making poo-poo whenever and wherever you please. I’m the one to has to watch my step, thank you.”
“You’re not in a good mood right now, are you,” she said, after making a loud Baaa to the rest of the herd.
“No, not really. My back hurts, my legs hurts and I’m feeling my age. I’ll be 68 years old in five days. And, I don’t think anyone will remember or care.”
“Hey, things are tough all over. At least you have a fair number of years ahead of you. The rumor from the next pasture is that there’s going to be a sale on lamp chops in about a month at the Waitrose in Bourton-on-the-Water.”
I felt pretty sad for her so I steered the subject back to me.
“You know, I write these blogs and I just don’t think too many people read them. I don’t post pictures of cats or house plants, (people like those), I try to tell interesting stories. I’ve even used pictures of a lamb. I call her “Fluffy” and I use her insane cuteness to make shameful pleas for readers to follow my blogs.”
“I know, Fluffy is a distant cousin of mine.”
I began to feel even worse about my situation. I told the sheep that I had arthritis in my back, my legs, hips, and in my hands. I told her that it hurt me to do almost anything that I used to do so easily.
Then I said something to her. Looking back on it all, it was certainly the worst thing I could have said.
“I wish I wasn’t even alive anymore. Who’d miss me? I wish I didn’t exist.”
“Oh, you shouldn’t say such things,” she said harshly.
“Easy for you so say,” My words must have hurt her because she looked at me with pity.
“Okay,” was all she said.
She looked out over the herd and seemed to be thinking of something. She turned those big wet eyes to me and said:
“Go ahead, see what it’s like.”
A strange wind blew down from the hilltop. It was cold but I didn’t feel it. Strange.
I shrugged and began to get up so we could finish out walk. Somehow we had taken a wrong turn and we were confused.
But, I couldn’t stand up on my two shaky legs. I was on four legs. I wasn’t chilly because I didn’t have my jacket on anymore. I was covered in wool, slightly muddy, but it was wool.
She had turned me into a sheep. I was confused for a minute and then I heard all the bleating, but they were words now, they were telling each other how much they loved one another. The ewes were saying how much they loved their lambs.
“Hey, this is cool,” I thought. “I can experience life as a sheep would.”
Then I looked down the road and saw something that made my wool stand up on end. It was a truck that had a sign on the side that read: MICHAEL’S MEATS—FRESH FROM THE FARM TO YOU.
Two men were walking up the hill toward the pasture.
I began to worry. I looked around for Mariam. I saw her standing in the field looking terrified.
“Pat! Pat! She yelled. Where are you? I’m lost. I’m scared. I’m very afraid.”
“I’m over here,” I yelled, but my words came out as a loud Baaaaa.
I started thinking quickly. The men were getting close to the pasture fence. I had a feeling they were looking at me. Thoughts came rushing into my mind. I couldn’t stay as a sheep. I would be in some tasty stew in a few weeks. I couldn’t go to an art museum anymore. I couldn’t play with my grandson. I would not be allowed to see the new “Star Wars” movie…in any decent theater. I wouldn’t be able to watch “Dancing With The Stars” anymore.
I found the magic sheep and told her I was sorry. I took everything back. I wasn’t meant to be a sheep. Besides, sheep have arthritis too.
She winked at me.
“Okay,” she said. “I’ll be seeing you in your dreams…or rather when you are trying to fall asleep.”
I felt cold again. Mariam saw me and ran over to me.
“I looked everywhere for you. Where were you?”
“I’m not sure, but let’s give up on this walk and get back to our hotel. I need to take a hot shower.”
We stepped to the road and caught a ride with a bearded man who said something we couldn’t hear because of the noise his jeep made.
Just as we rounded the corner, I turned back to look again at the pasture. I spotted the magic sheep and she seemed to be sending me some thoughts through the country air.
“Don’t worry about things,” she said to me somehow. “We’ll meet again in another field…on another walk…on another day.”
“Yes,” I thought back to her. “We’ll meet again some sunny day.”
[Thanks to Lord Dunsany for an idea.]
Liked this – keep working on that 5 miles – we will be there soon