Tuesday, August 26, 2008

How Evil Came to Clinch Mountain

Last winter a friend gave us three Tunis ewes. (Actually it turned out to be two ewes and a wether, but that’s a completely different story.) These were our first sheep, but we had been breeding and raising horses a few years now, so how hard could it be? It's not like we were planning on breeding them or showing them or doing much of anything with them.

The plan was simple. Give them some time to get settled into their pen then start using them for herding. Bessie, our 11 year old Rottie, and I had taken herding lessons about eight years ago and both she and I enjoyed it. We were both quite a bit older now and not nearly as spry, but I thought it would be the perfect way for us to get some exercise and share a little special one-on-one activity.

Over the next couple of weeks, the sheep explored their new territory while I spent the time reading about herding, brushing Bessie up on her commands, and getting to know our new arrivals. It wasn’t long before they had names:

The ewe with the large head and gorgeous, dark face became known as Big Face.

And Dolly was perfect for the sweet looking one. (It was later necessary to re-gender this to Paulie.)

The only problem was the third one, the one with the strange eyes and the narrow face. I tried lots of names, everything from Fluffy to Snitty, but nothing felt right. It was inconvenient having an animal without a name, but I could wait. It's been my experience that if you watch and listen carefully enough, sooner or later animals will tell you their names.

Finally the time came to start herding! I don't know who was more excited, me or Bessie. It was a little chaotic at first, but then Bessie settled down and started working like she should. She’d gather them up, I’ll call her off, they’d move away and I’d send her to gather them again. She was having the time of her life and so was I.

After gathering them for about the third or fourth time, I decided it was time to take it up a notch and have Bessie move the sheep from one end of the paddock to the other. She gathered them up as before, but when she went to move them, only Big Face and Dolly started over to the far fence. Instead of moving off with the others, the ewe with the strange eyes and the narrow face turned toward Bessie, stamped her foot and refused to move. Bessie backed off, and I sent her in again. The ewe bounced forward a few steps, and Bessie again backed off.

Come on, Bessie. You’re a Rottweiler for goodness sake! Move that ewe!

Bessie charged.

The ewe dropped her head and charged.


The next thing I knew, Bessie was down with the breath knocked out of her, and the ewe was backing up to have another go. Armed with nothing but panic and my flimsy plastic rattle-paddle, I ran between Bessie and the ewe. The next few seconds seemed like an eternity as the ewe and I stood our ground and glared at each other. Finally, with a shake of her head and a disdainful little snort, the ewe turned and trotted back to her friends.

The ewe with the strange eyes and narrow face now had a name. Evil she was and Evil she would remain.


Except for a badly bruised pride, Bessie was unhurt and more than willing to have another go, but I felt we had both had enough herding for the time being. The woman who gave Evil to us offered to swap her out for something better-behaved with more dog-respect, but I turned her down. In some strange way, it seemed that this was how it was meant to be.


  1. Isn't it amazing that even 'dumb' sheep manifest individual personalities that do show up at birth.

    I have a friend who has kept sheep for years and her flock murdered another ewe. Yes, I say murdered !Not being sheep ourselves we could not tell you what motivated this, but it was a gang attack on a poor lonesome ewe.

    My beautiful, peaceful doves will sometimes kill another dove. I cannot figure out what was behind the flock attack, but there you have it, the symbol of peace ....murdering their own kind !

    Did you take the photos of your sheep ? They are beautiful and capture the spirit of the animal. KathyB.

  2. I am constantly amazed at the variety of personalities in animals. I sometimes believe that there is more variety in them than in us.

    How horrible about the murdered ewe! Perhaps there was something fundamentally wrong with her that would/could pose a threat to the flock...or then again, who knows? That's the most fascinating thing I have ever heard.

    Doves killing each other, too. That's an image you do not want to see!

    And thank you so much for the compliment on the photos. It means so much.

  3. I have a tunis ewe that would do the same thing; our Aussy/golden cross dog (not a small animal by anyones standards) faces off with her now and then. She wont back down and he always ends up giving in. She is like the flock protector, when ever there is a dog around, she imposes herself between it and the rest of the flock. She is our guard sheep :)

  4. I am so glad you, too, have a sheep that will not give into a dog--and especially that you are adjusting to it being that way. Several people told me I wasn't being silly...that they should bring their dog over and "dog break that ewe good and proper". It just didn't seem right. She never attacked me, and the dog didn't go back after her.

  5. Hi Pamela, It's so nice to meet you. Thanks for your visit, please come back anytime. You animals are so sweet....I love all the names you have picked!
    Well, you do know you are living in Gods Country!! Grainger Co is absolutley beautiful! You said you live on the other side of Clinch Mount....That's where most of my family lives...Washburn and Thorn Hill...I have been across that Mountain sooooooo many times.
    I am so glad you left a comment, blog land has a way of bringing like minds together....Take care and Blessings to you, Nancy

  6. It's me again, I am not sure who is building my brother's log home...and BTW, your pictures are BEAUTIFUL!!! Nancy

  7. I'm SO glad that you visited my blog and left a comment...I absolutely LOVE your blog! I'm at work now but will be back soon. May I add you to my blog list???

  8. Thank you so much, Nancy K. And please, I would be thrilled if you added me to your blog list. (just don't go tempting me to get one of those gorgeous shetlands...ACK! I want one sooooooo badly!)

  9. Pam,
    I picked up your blog from Nancy's & decided to be nosy....loved your writing & sense of humor....totally enjoyed it & like you, sometimes I think I provide entertainment for my neighbors!

  10. Thanks for visiting my blog, mostly because I now found yours. Wonderful writing. And thanks for adding me to your favorites.
    I'll be back!

  11. I loved your writing on this post! Browsed your photos too, made me want to visit Tennessee more than ever. :) AND your horses! You are surrounded with beauty!!

  12. Hi there....I wanted to comment on your latest blog post "Out and About", but I am unable to get to it. I can see it within my 'google reader' but when I click on the title, a Blogger page pops up saying "Page not found".
    Anyway, loved the pictures - they're all beautiful. Rachael's coloring is incredible. I have a question about scurs...what are they? How are they different from horns? Can they not be removed?

    I love Miss Brooks! Your description of her with the reading glasses dangling off a string made me giggle! :-)

  13. The reason for the difficulty viewing it again is probably because I had a whole lot of problems with formatting it and had to publish and publish and republish. I think it's ok now.

    And thanks so much. You'd love Miss Brooks--she's a hoot and a half.

  14. I forgot to answer about the scurs. I have just found out about them, and it's my understanding that they are horns that aren't attached to the skull. You can wiggle Rachael's around.

    I guess they can be removed, but I keep a really close eye on Rachael's so they don't get broken or pulled out.

    Besides, we have pretty much no sheep vets around here. Our horse vet is as good as it gets, and he's one of the first to admit he doesn't know all he should. It's not the vets' fault--there just aren't hardly any sheep here. Like our vet said, with more and more sheep coming into the area, the more he's going to have to learn -- said he's been studying up on them and hoping for a couple of clinics or such.

  15. Wow, poor you...your sheep get to be the "test subjects", it sounds like. But at least you've got a willing pupil in your vet! :-)

  16. Is than an ode to Evil, then? When did she pass on? And did she go to sheep hell or sheep heaven?

    I love your story-telling skills. I was holding on for the end...the naming.

    Oh! Wonderful!


  17. Farmgirl: The vet is great! I'm really hoping that more people around here start getting sheep. Lots of goats, but not many sheep at all. And definitely very, very few "pet" sheep like mine are. (laughs)

    Twinville: Thank you so very much for your compliment! Really made my day. Evil was strange to say the least, and her death was...well, that deserves a post by itself, that's for sure!

  18. Hi Pamela, I'm catching up on my blog reading after our trip your direction, and I finally made the link between your name and your blog! I've tried to follow your linked name when you've made comments on my blog, but it doesn't bring up your profile or bloglist. Anyway, how DO you create those gorgeous portraits of your sheep? I would love to do that for each of my Shetlands. You'd think that, as a graphic designer, that I would know how, but I only use PhotoShop when I need it and have never done the tutorial or just "played" with it for fun.

  19. Michelle, thank you so much for the compliment about my photos. I have no idea what's causing the problem with my profile not coming up...but then again, I haven't really figured out how this blog-thing works and am always getting lost and confused with it. If there's something I need to set up, let me know.

    As for how I take the shots, it's really pretty much hit and miss. I shoot a LOT! Most of the time, I'll do close to a hundred shots and have 1 or maybe 2 that come out good enough they are worth saving. (Thank goodness for digital!)

    And Photoshop is the second most important thing. I don't know what type camera you use, but I use a Canon 30D and it's pretty much a given that any keeper shot is going to need a bit of photoshopping--if only for sharpening it up a bit.

    One of the best resources for photography I've found is the forum at Mpix.com.

    The URL is:

    99% of the photographers on there are portrait or wedding photographers, but you can take the techniques they use and apply them to animal shots.

    And they are always passing around Photoshop tips and tricks.

    If you have any questions about photoshop or pictures or anything I can help you with, just drop me an email at pam AT cmpasofinos DOT com

    Again, thanks so much for the compliment!

  20. Oh that is so funny. I am so surprised at how stubborn and prideful some sheep can be. Perfect name.

  21. love this story! Glad Bessie was alright! Has Evil had her name changed yet to Good?
    Landed here via "Black Box"!