~ Riceland Meadows ~

Dewdrops and Lambchops
by Ralph Rice

Morning dawns early, hazy and new. Spears of first light sparkle in the early dew. The animals are grazing, taking advantage of the cool and pleasant morning. Our draft horses munch grass while the sun warms their broad backs. Our cattle graze steadily, trying to get their fill before flies and heat of the day drive them to the shelter of the wood edge. Our ewes crop the dewy grass and forbs at a fast pace, getting much of their needed water in this manner. The succulent dew-covered plants satisfy them, just as it did their ancestors many years ago in the barren lands of their origin.

The lambs half-heartedly nibble at the wet grass. They are not so much interested in the lush growth as in playing with one another. They bounce around the field on springy legs, playing tag and butting heads. As they frolic in the morning sunrise the little mob gets soaked from the dew.

As if on cue they get tired and hungry all at once. For just a minute the field becomes a noisy place as the lambs all call for their mothers, and the ewes bleat in return. In the blink of an eye all the little lambs find the right mother and the warm breakfast she provides. The lambs nurse greedily and their little tails wagging fiercely. We don't dock their tails, so even at weaning when the lambs are almost as big as their mothers, rapid tail wagging signals the consumption of lunch or dinner.

The ever-flowing rich milk and tender new grass combine to give us well-muscled growthy lambs that provide some of the finest meat found anywhere on earth. I think of the impending slaughter and take comfort that our lambs know only kindness, tranquility, and contentment. They spend their days eating, playing, and basking in the sun. They know only peace, the feeling of a full belly, and the kind smile of a humble shepherd.

On this dewy morning I admire the stamina and genetics of the now-full lambs racing by me. I am pleased with their rate of gain and a bit jealous of their youthful enthusiasm. As the lambs bound across the morning field, I give thanks for dewdrops and lambchops.

Ralph Rice's column "Reflections" appears regularly in Rural Heritage. This column appeared in the Autumn 2004 issue.

22 January 2005