Another Steve Riddle Story , this one about Sheep Farming, is Hilarious, Calamitous, Outrageous, True and masterfully told – everything we’ve come to expect. If you’ve read Steve’s Goat Story and/or his Chicken Story in the past weeks you know why he is my favorite beginning farmer storyteller, and you’ve almost certainly laughed aloud with him. Well I promise you his sheep farming story will not disappoint. Unafraid to admit his foibles and allowing us to ride along with him as he shares his hilarious tales of misadventure and the often challenging process of learning to become a farmer, Steve Riddle is a true original.
The Misadventures of 8-Ball Wentz & the Soggy Bottom Boy – By Steve Riddle
This last trip included a promise to a night out on the town, as I was away from home, and his wife was off at a trial. John promised me that if I’d stick around until after he got off work, he’d take me to one of those gentlemen’s clubs with hot topless dancers and cold, cold beer. I thought what the heck and decided to stick around as I had taken off work for the week.
As soon as John got home he said we had a few errands to run before we hit the bars. We hopped into the clown car. (A car justifiably named so, because of its extremely small size, and comparable amount of stuff John puts in there. He’s had sheep, dogs, kids (-the human kind), calves, beer, livestock feed, (by the pallet load) fencing supplies, lumber, you name it! That Chevy truck commercial, “…there’s nothing as tuff as a Chevy truck” has nothing on what all you can do with a little Ford Fiesta.
So anyway, we hop into his clown car, and head out to his neighbor’s where we leave the car and steal a great big, 1-ton dodge dually and a gooseneck trailer. I do get to see a part of this guy’s place, where they milk out by hand, sixty-five head of dairy goats. At first I thought that was a lot of work. But then I realized while one of his kids was showing me around the place that it provides a wonderful bonding experience for the whole family as they all help in the milking.
Now we’re in the truck heading for his Mother-in-laws farm, where she also dairies goats, but uses machines all through the winter, to milk something like two hundred and something head. While there, we load six cheviot lambs to take to the auction sale about an hour’s drive from Portage. After we load her sheep, we head back to Johns to load a bunch of his sheep to take up to the sale as well. Since it was dark and raining out, he decided to take all of that lot and sort out the ones he didn’t want to sell yet back into the trailer while we had the light of the sale barn to sort by. Even at that, it took damn near an hour just to load those mangy, stinking beasts into the back of the trailer.
By this time, it’s getting late, like about eight-thirty or so, and I’ve been thinking about food for the past hour. Oh hell, whom am I trying to kid, I’m always thinking about food. But now I really mean it. About this time John asks if I’ve ever eaten at a Culver’s restaurant, saying how good their hamburgers are and that they started right around in that part of the state many years ago. So now I’m thinking, good he’s hungry too and we’ll stop and get something to eat before we go out drinking and womanizing all night.
Steve (right) and John (left)
But first, we had to unload those sheep up at the sale barn, and then, (You mean there’s more? How much more do we have to do before we can eat and then go drinking?) Then, after we unload the sale sheep and reload the ones not going for sale, then we have to drive over to Jean Bass’ place and steal several head of sheep from her, while she and her husband are off at the same set of trials John’s wife is at.
So now, I’m hungry, wet, tired, cold, lost, and thirsty for alcohol, did I mention hungry? Sheep stinky, sore, and I haven’t mentioned it yet, but the elastic in my underwear gave out awhile back, and now it’s riding down below my thighs and the inside of the inseam of my bib overalls, which by the way is soaked and muddy from all the rain I’ve been standing in trying to load all these dirty stinking sheep all night.
And now, when we almost get there, I find out that John really doesn’t know exactly where the turn off is in Madison to get to Jean’s place, so he has to call and get directions after making a wrong turn. Now we make it into her driveway, and it’s still raining like Bengals and Borders. He tells me to go open the cattle panel in the fence so we can drive out into the pasture and use the livestock handling equipment to help load the sheep in a hurry, because it’s getting late, still raining, and did I mention I was hungry? And couldn’t see a thing in the dark, and the rain.
I mention to him, and I quote, “Do you think we’ll get stuck if we drive out into the pasture with it raining like this?” to which he responds, and I again quote, “No, this is a four wheel drive, 1-ton diesel, we can’t get stuck in this thing.” (Now that statement is quoted and on record as being his words, exactly as phrased. I want to make sure that is clear!) Read more »