The sheep at Fleece & Harmony knew they were lucky. They lived on a beautiful farm with plenty of fresh pasture, local hay, and friendly visitors who stopped by the wool shop. Sometimes the visitors went to see the sheep whose wonderful wool they had purchased. This made the flock a little bit nervous, but they knew that the people wouldn’t come into their pasture. They had loving shepherds and shepherdesses taking care of them, and really didn’t need anything else to make their lives complete. It was in the spirit of this realization that on a sunny fall afternoon, the flock were having a discussion about how they should celebrate Thanksgiving.
Bella, a thoughtful ewe, said “We do have a lot to be thankful for, and I heard that the people celebrate Thanksgiving with a feast.” Reflecting on the bounty around her, idly munching on an early fall flower, she mumbled, “We should have a feast.”
A few of the flock members near Bella chimed in with loud bleats of agreement. Naturally, they were always interested in a feast. Big Wanda raised her fleecy eyebrows with particular interest. “We always have a feast when they move us to the new pasture,” she said. “They will do that for Thanksgiving, and then we will have a feast.”
Bella sighed. “Yes,” she said with a touch of frustration, “but I meant we should have a different feast. Something special. We have new pasture all the time!”
“They won’t give us that kind of feast,” said Big Wanda, shaking her fleecy head.
Pansy bleated, “The people eat a turkey!” and she made hacking noises to indicate exactly what she thought of that idea. Bonita said “Don’t the feathers get stuck in their throats?”
Bella rolled her eyes and wandered off across the pasture where she saw another flower waving in the breeze, beckoning her to taste it. She looked out across the pasture, and across the road to the house with the big apple tree in the front yard. She had eaten a few apples in her life, as treats, and they were so tasty. She looked at the red-cheeked fruits shining in the sun and imagined the flavour. That’s what they needed, she thought to herself – apples for Thanksgiving.
As she stood there chewing the flower, a truck drove down the road with crates of freshly-picked apples on the back. “How can we get some apples?” wondered Bella, turning at the sound of one of her flock mates coming through the grass.
Fancy was approaching with a gleam in her eye. “I heard what you said about the feast,” she said quietly. “I have an idea.” Bella was excited, because Fancy was a smart sheep, and she had clever ideas. If anyone could figure out a plan, it was Fancy.
“I saw you looking at that apple tree,” said Fancy. “We need to go over the road and get some apples and bring them back to eat for Thanksgiving.”
“Exactly!” said Bella. “But how do we get over the road? Or even over the fence?”
Fancy, who had once seen some pictures of cheerleaders on a poster when she was visiting the veterinary college, triumphantly whispered “A sheep pyramid!” With that pronouncement, she bleated at Diana, who was grazing nearby, telling her to come over to join the discussion. Fancy outlined the plan that would enable one of the girls to jump over the fence and gather some apples. Diana was always up for grand escapades, so she didn’t take much convincing. Thus the plan was hatched to launch the great Thanksgiving apple adventure.
For the next few days, the three ewes began practicing making a sheep pyramid. Two ewes would stand side-by-side, and the third would carefully climb up onto the backs of the two standing ewes, placing her at a height that Fancy said should allow her to easily leap over the electric fence and make a number of apple gathering trips. They were spurred on in their efforts by a large flat-bed truck that rolled by two or three times a day with large wooden crates of apples on it. The ewes were entranced by the idea of eating that many apples for Thanksgiving. Each of them took turns being the top sheep, and practicing launching herself through the air from the backs of the other two sheep.
The pyramid took more effort than the ewes had initially thought. There were a lot of complaints about pointy hooves and slippery wool and it became a regular sight to see all three ewes sprawled in the grass after a spectacular pyramid failure. They began to realize that really, things weren’t going according to plan. Firstly, they would need a taller pyramid, but the physics of getting the third layer of sheep onto the pyramid was daunting, and the ewes didn’t think they could manage that feat. Secondly, they were worried about not quite clearing the fence and subjecting their soft underfleece to a zap from the electric fence. The plan really began to disintegrate when Bella’s sister, Bonita, came over one day and remarked “Even if one of you manages to get over the fence, how do you suppose you will get back in?” This really put a hitch in their plan, and no amount of cud chewing was leading to a better solution.
Fancy was beginning to contemplate the details of a plan to dig a simple tunnel under the fence. Bella began considering whether they could somehow recruit the farm’s angora rabbits to assist with the digging. Diana, on the other hand, felt that she could use her charm to help the shepherdesses see their pressing need for apples, but she wasn’t sure how to do it. All three ewes were becoming increasingly frustrated as the days wore on and their apples were no closer to appearing in the pasture. All the while, the three of them kept watching the truck with the apple crates on its daily treks. “It would be nice if he could just stop here and drop off a crate of apples for us,” remarked Bella, as he drove by yet again.
It was the next day, when the ewes saw the truck coming down the road as usual, loaded with crates of apples, that Diana had her grand idea.
Tom was driving his last load of apples to the farm stands in the area. It had been a really long couple of weeks of non-stop apple picking and driving. He was tired and cranky and had no patience left for any nonsense today. Just this morning, his best tie-down strap had failed when the ratcheting mechanism had seized, and he’d been stung by a wasp when he was loading the apples. He just wanted to go home, eat a good meal, and go to bed. He had been driving a little more slowly than usual today because of the missing tie-down strap, but the roads weren’t busy and he was still making good time.
It was just before Fleece & Harmony that Tom began to daydream a little, thinking about a warm bowl of soup and his wool blanket on the couch at home, and how much he needed to sleep, when things began to go wrong. A lazy fall wasp flew in his open window, alarming him at the prospect of being stung yet again. He rolled the window down further, trying in vain to shoo the wasp out of the truck, wildly waving his hand and sharing a few choice words with the buzzing creature. The wasp zoomed across the cab of the truck, and Tom’s eyes followed it hoping it would go out the other window, when his gaze was arrested by the strangest thing he’d seen in his entire life.
In the pasture at Fleece & Harmony, two sheep were calmly grazing side-by-side, but on their backs stood a third sheep. He rubbed his eyes to be sure he wasn’t dreaming, but no, there she was. A white ewe flapping ears, straddling the backs of two other sheep, standing up on her hind legs, and vigorously waving both her front legs in the air, as if she was waving at him. And, was she actually wiggling her hips?
It was a near disaster. Tom was so distracted, initially by the wasp and then the impossible sheep shenanigans in the field, that he very nearly lost control of the truck. He swerved dangerously at the last moment, righting the course of the truck so it didn’t end up in a head-on collision with a telephone pole. The wasp made a hasty exit, deciding that this wasn’t a very safe place to be after all. The sheep pyramid collapsed and Tom fought with the steering wheel as he tried to comprehend what he’d seen. He was tremendously relieved that he was still on the road, and felt that he’d escaped a really close call. He immediately wanted to call his wife to tell her, and then he realized she’d send him to the eye doctor without a second thought when he tried to tell her about the sheep. He shook his head and focused on the road, determined to get the last delivery completed.
What Tom failed to see, in the aftermath of the swerve, was the large wooden crate of apples that sailed through the air, thrown off the back of the truck when the missing tie-down strap wasn’t there to hold it. The sheep, however, saw it dislodge and come flying towards them off the back of the truck. They scattered quickly as it came careening through the air towards them. Diana felt like she saw everything in slow motion as the crate began to tilt sideways. Its weight carried it quickly downwards, where it smacked with a great thud into one of the pasture fence posts. The apples, meanwhile, fanned out of the open top of the crate in a great, colourful arc of red and green. The fruits spun in the air, catching the light, before falling straight into the pasture. They bounced and tumbled and rolled like bowling balls across the grass. The sheep stared in amazement at this unexpected bounty, quickly converging to share in the hundreds of apples dotting the pasture.
“That’s not exactly what I planned,” stuttered a shocked Diana, who knew that people loved to see the sheep, and she had thought that waving to the driver would make him stop to visit. She thought that the trio of ewes would bleat pitifully at him, trying to convince him to feed them some apples. She looked around for Bella and Fancy, hoping to explain to them the reason for her last-minute actions as the truck approached. But then she noticed that every single sheep had a mouthful of fresh, tart apple, and she was missing out! She smiled to herself and gave a quick bleat of delight as she grabbed an apple and joined the rest of the flock in celebrating their unexpected Thanksgiving feast.
A Sheep's Thanksgiving Copyright 2018 by Claire Moxon-Waltz
Illustrations Copyright Lori Joy Smith 2018