By Kim Johnson
The world has two camps of people: people who just do things and people who require long lists of reference materials, thorough research, apprenticeship, and an advanced internship before they do things. I am in the first camp. My husband on the other hand, doesn’t even go camping without the original tent pitching instructions (which he laminated) and a survival manual with handy knowledge like how to start a fire without matches and how to trap and eat a bear with nothing more than needle nose pliers. When I set off to shear my sheep on the first balmy day in May, my husband suggested I do some research since I was, in all conceivable ways, wholly unqualified to shear sheep.
I pointed out that I didn’t need to be qualified, how hard could it be? He pointed out that I didn’t have the proper tools. He is very big on using the proper tools. I had all the tools I needed; I grabbed the orange handled junk drawer scissors and headed outdoors. After one hour and fifteen minutes of back-breaking labor, with the sun beating down on me, I proudly showed my work. I had actually only removed the wool on one back leg, and the sheep looked like it had been mauled by a wild animal. It turns out that shearing sheep with scissors is not only ineffective but unsightly. My husband pointed this out repeatedly from the other side of the fence. He said I needed electric shears and a six month internship at a shearing academy in New Zealand.
The nice man at the feed store suggested that I hand-shear my sheep. I didn’t mention my first attempt. He told me he hand-sheared lots of sheep while in the Peace Corps because there wasn’t any electricity. I wondered if he was in the Peace Corps before electricity was invented. He didn’t seem that old. I realized that I didn’t know when electricity was invented. My husband gently pointed out that electricity was discovered and not invented and that he meant there wasn’t any available electricity.
I love sheep. My husband doesn’t really like sheep which he refers to as “big poopy Q-tips” but he couldn’t bear the thought of not being there to point out all the things that were going wrong during the shearing process. We read the instructions on the package of hand shears. They were remarkably unhelpful. Don’t cut yourself. Don’t cut the sheep. Don’t run while using.
I tracked down a sheep, grabbed it by the back leg, flipped it on its side, sat on it and began shearing. The first few attempts were awkward but then a rhythm came over me. Slowly, effectively the wool came off in great sheets that I tossed aside. Forty minutes later a bewildered sheep hopped up and resumed grazing, only without the heavy burden of bramble-filled and poop-stained wool. The husband raised an eyebrow; I had sheared a sheep without a home study course, an internship, or flying to New Zealand. Although I am not ready to hang out a shingle, it worked and there wasn’t an advanced degree in sight.