Author's note: Okay. I'm apologizing for this post in advance. For any of you who are of a sensitive temperament, this is your warning that the following post is of a lowbrow and earthy nature, and may contain references to the sexual habits of various livestock. I'd try to be delicate about these things, but it's way too late for that. Maybe I could be more circumspect if I hadn't groomed racehorses for a living... nah. Probably not even then.
It's breeding time at Wildwood farm. This is the time of year we run the boys with the girls in hopes of initiating next year's crops of chops. Naturally, this always occasions a certain amount of ribald talk from the wild women of Wildwood. It's a pragmatic, earthy kind of business, running a farm - or being a vet, come to that. People who might in the ordinary course of things shy away from frank discussions of the sexual congress of sheep and goats suddenly find themselves quite absorbed with the subject, and eager to discuss it at length. After all, it's not coming as any surprise to any of us how next year's baby sheep and goats are being made, and none of the livestock are going to be offended if we're a bit indelicate about such matters. Of necessity we do need to converse about the ins and outs (so to speak) of who has been bred when, and what that means for next spring's lambing season. Speaking euphemistically takes too long and leaves room for misunderstanding, so we tend to just cut to the chase... apart from which, life is more fun if you have a sense of humor about these things, so we tend towards the bawdy in the fall.
However, if you're shy, maybe you should just skip this post. The tone isn't likely to improve, given the subject matter. I'm just saying.
I decided to get a marking harness for Trinity this year, to limit the amount of guessing necessary to bracket my lambing dates. S&R needed new crayons for their marking harness, too, so I ordered everything together. It arrived in due course - a day later than I wanted it to, unfortunately; we like to start breeding November first, and so S&R duly ran Trinity into the ewe pen that day, since it was not certain when exactly the marking harness and crayons would arrive and time was a-wasting.
The next day, a Monday, my box of goodies arrives at the clinic. I find it, open, on my desk chair. The office manager sees me looking into the box and says, "Sorry about opening that. There were four boxes on my desk, and I just cut them all open before I realized that one was yours. I didn't go through it or anything, " she adds, as if concerned she's invaded my privacy.
"That's okay," I tell her. "Although it would've been less embarrassing if it weren't sex toys," I add, frowning thoughtfully. I glance up in time to catch her look of pop-eyed astonishment. "For the sheep, I mean. Why are you looking at me like that? What did you think I meant?"
Luckily, Mary is getting used to me by now. Rather than being horrified, she eyes me speculatively.
"Have you been into the caffeine today?" she asks.
"Only a little," I say, with an innocent grin.
"Uh-huh," she says in tones of deep skepticism, while I do my best to smile angelically.
Later, during a lull in the appointment schedule, I decide to have a look at the harness. The one S&R has is black, composed of narrow nylon webbing, and doesn't look half as pretty as this one does. Mine is made of wider, thicker, halter-grade webbing, smooth and silky and bright blue. All its myriad rings and buckles are shiny with newness. Having only once used a marking harness - last year S&R used theirs on their buck, leaving Trinity without - I am not entirely familiar with the arrangement of all the straps. I take it out of the shipping bag so I can have a better look.
"What's that?" J asks me, happening by.
"Bondage equipment," I tell her. "For my ram," I add - because J is used to me too, and there's a small risk she'll take me literally.
J laughs. "What is it really?" she asks me.
"It is bondage equipment - kind of. It's a marking harness. I'm trying to figure out how it goes," I tell her, lining it out til I think I have it right. Fortunately I am certain that S&R can figure it out if I've made any mistakes. Meanwhile another tech walks by and also asks what that is I'm playing with. When I tell her it's bondage equipment, she just nods - without the slightest look of skepticism or astonishment, mind you - and walks off. I'm telling you. It's bad when people you work with aren't shocked to hear that you've ordered bondage equipment. Maybe I've been working here too long.
After work I go to Wildwood to drop of the harness and the crayons. R answers the door.
"Come on in," she tells me. "Want a glass of wine?"
"Umm... well, just one; I should go do chores before it gets too late," I say, kicking off my shoes.
"Look, she brought presents!" R says to S.
"Just the marking harness and crayons," I demur.
"Okay, good," S says. "Unfortunately we've just eaten dinner," she adds.
"Don't worry about it, I'm fine," I say. "A glass of wine will be plenty. It smells good, though, what was it?"
"Roasted kid, with Chinese spices," S tells me. R is fishing in the roasting pan and locates a chunk of meat, which she spears on a fork and hands to me. I taste it. It's delicious: exotic and slightly sweet with hints of cinnamon and mace and nutmeg. Mmm. Have to get me some of that Chinese seasoning.
"Well, we have exciting news," S tells me, gleeful. "Our new buck bred JoJo, and Trinity bred Jacinto today."
"You saw him?" I ask in some astonishment, since Trinity seems never to be seen breeding anything, although everything he's put to comes up pregnant.
"Yep," S reports. "We were feeding. Trinity's attitude toward breeding is to go over, do the job, and then immediately shove his way into the grain pans for something to eat."
"Nice," I say, ironically.
"Here's Jacinto's attitude toward breeding," S adds, leaning toward the counter and miming eating.
"Oh, that's nice. Doesn't even stop eating," I say in mock disgust. "Trinity is going to get a complex."
"I think we're fairly safe there," S says with a laugh. "It'd take a lot more than that to hurt his feelings this time of year."
Well, fair point there. Trinity is not easily offended. He's a methodical ram, systematically checking out his ewes and philosophically accepting any demurs as a hint that he would be better served to seek affection elsewhere. There are, after all, other ewes in the pen. If this one isn't ready, maybe that one over there will be.
As it happens - and here put on your surprised faces - one glass of wine turned into two. And then there was ice cream. And there was kind of a lot of laughing and some injudicious remarks about various things, followed by more laughing and escalations into even more injudicious remarks. And pretty soon it was 8:30 and I still hadn't done my chores. Which is how I found myself still doing dishes at what should have been bedtime.
I'm telling you. I'm giving up on sleep. Between days of howling winds banging around my house and being on call, I've barely had one good night's sleep in two weeks. So how on earth is it that I am doing dishes at midnight, when I should be sleeping? When it comes to beauty sleep, I need all the help I can get. I'll be lucky if I can cobble together an appearance for work tomorrow that doesn't frighten small children and cause adults to ask timidly if I've been feeling all right.
I blame Wildwood for this.