Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Farewell, "Cheeto-Butt"!

** I apologize for the title.  Please don't be offended...and read on**

Recently, I had to bid farewell to an old friend of sorts.

We just took a load of old ewes to the stockyard.  In that load was #22, otherwise known as “Gail”…and most appropriately (or inappropriately, depending on your point of view) referred to repeatedly as “Cheeto-Butt”. (yes, there really is an explanation)

While I generally love a trip to the stockyard where you can sense the history in every single board and cobweb, this trip made me more than a little sad. It's the end of an era in a way.

To truly understand this story, I’ll have to go back in time quite a way.

It was a dark and windy (and I mean WINDY) March night back in ’06.  It was very cold and light snow was blowing through the cracks in the barn as Blondie and I watched and waited for one of the ewes to lamb.  It seemed to take forever and my “lambing assistant” and I talked over all sorts of things as we sat there in the dimly lit barn.  We’ve had some good talks down at the barn over the years. Read how the barn is the heart of the

Finally, the lambs made their appearance.  Two little ewe lambs. This was the first time we had bred for pure Suffolk lambs.   The year before we had bought a beautiful showy Suffolk ram and some good commercial ewes. We were finally making the complete switch from the woolly sheep to a meaty breed and this was exciting.  We might even be in the “sheep business”.

The babies were odd looking with their speckled coats and black faces. (the woolly sheep were mostly white)  Their skin seemed too big and they looked like they were wearing floppy pajamas.  Since we were still at the point where the lambs were named as well as numbered, they were appropriately named “Windy” and “Gail”.

As they grew, we began to truly entertain thoughts of increasing our flock…maybe even selling lambs.  We could keep these and use them as breeders…?  “Gail” developed into a nice, big, long lamb.  She had a number of the traits you look for in a ewe.  “Windy”, not so much.

"Gail" April 2006

So “Gail” stayed and joined the breeder flock. She was the first lamb ever bred, born, raised on the farm to become a breeder.  Kinda historic, if you ask me...

The first season we turned her in with the ram, we used an orange marker on the ram.  The ram was “enthusiastic” (to say the least).  Oh, and the weather…it was HOT! Needless to say, that orange marker was well-worn by the time we changed colors a short while later.  The wax of the marker melted down into the wool, leaving a bright orange mark until we sheared early the next Spring.
look closely
the ewes' backs almost match the trees!

In the meantime, Gail delivered her first lamb.  A big, healthy ram lamb.

We were psyched
about big, healthy lambs

That Spring, Blondie had just taken over the shearing duties.  She’d been to VATech and learned the techniques, she’d been to help some friends and learned the realities...and somewhere along the way, she learned that sheep just make you cuss. She was bound and determined to show her new skills. (except for the cussing)  Everything was going so well.

Until “Gail”.

For some reason, “Gail” flipped out. Maybe she was worried about her lamb, maybe she didn't want a haircut, I don't know.  Legs flailing, head thrashing, she and Blondie went to body blows.  It wasn’t pretty.

Blondie took a hoof to the chest that knocked the wind out of her.  Another hoof narrowly missed her face. The struggle was intense and more than a little dangerous.

Trying to keep her cool, Blondie bellowed,

  “STOP IT! You behave!  You old…you old…I am trying hard not to cuss….You old CHEETO-Butt!”

I couldn’t help it.  I fell on the floor laughing. (I know, I know….REAL helpful, Mama)

In the end, Blondie won the round and “cheeto-butt” got properly shorn.  But, the name stuck and even now she seems to recognize the very unflattering name. She eventually got with the program and shearing was never again such a nightmare.

That seems so long ago...

Now, #22-Gail-Cheeto-Butt is an old, broke-down ewe with only half a bag.  It’s time to say good-bye.  And, although she is just an old, broke-down ewe…I’m kinda sad to see her go.  I’ve learned a lot about shepherding in the past 8 years since that cold and windy night in the barn.  (was it only EIGHT years?) In a small flock, each and every animal is invaluable in the learning process as well as the bottom line. During those eight years, we have all done a lot of learning and growing and now I can honestly say I know sheep!

with last year's ewe lamb "Gert"

Old #22 had a good, long run.  She was always one of the first to breed successfully and only needed birthing assistance this last season (yet another indication it was time for her to go). She even raised twins by herself with her half functioning bag. She has more “personality” than most of the others and feels it necessary to lend a helping nose occasionally.

She’s an ugly old ewe, but she sure makes beautiful lambs. I’ve got a couple of her daughters and even her granddaughter in our breeder flock. We've learned a lot about flock genetics over the years, and it shows.

daughter  "Girlfriend" as a lamb

grown-up "Girlfriend" with lamb

We’ll have to wait and see if the good genetics carry on.  There is no reason to think they won't...we just have to wait for hard evidence in the form of more lambs.
granddaughter "Gladys"

I just hope the younger generations behave themselves…or Blondie will have to come up with new unflattering names.

So, farewell “old Cheeto-Butt”, thanks for all the good times (and good lambs).

I sure learned a lot from that old sheep!


  1. OK, so now that I'm feeling all melancholy and everything...
    Not your post. Was that way to start with. Post just helped it along. Sigh...
    Will Cheeto-Butt be processed for meat or something else. Am completely ignorant in these matters.

    1. I'm so sorry that you're feeling melancholy...and that I inadvertently made it worse. :( Tom said it made him sorta sad, too. (and that's saying something) That really was not my intention.
      I honestly do not know what happens to sheep when we take them to the yard. I do know that the vast majority of the younger animals do go into the food supply somewhere. But, I don't know about the older ones. So, I suppose I have some homework to do.
      I do hope you feel better soon!

  2. It is always sad to have to get rid of a farm animal who has become special isn't it, Barbara? But that's farming. One can't afford to be sentimental.

    1. You're quite right, Pat. Although, I must admit...sometimes that's just a little hard.