by Phil Temples
Sam had never
been so surprised in all of his born days.
thing started last Friday morning. Accompanied by
his faithful basset hound, Fred, Sam stopped by
to take a peek at the new sheep in the northern
pens. They were purchased a week earlier from Roy
Johnson. The Johnson farm was just up the road a
few miles. Although Sam's operation was
prosperous, Johnson's had fallen on hard times.
Mounting debts compelled Roy Johnson to sell off
a sizeable portion of his flock. Sam was looking
to expand his business when he heard that Roy was
selling. Sam was a fair man; he paid Roy top
dollar for several hundred ewes and bucks.
critters doin' today, huh?" said Sam to the
closest bucks. One in particular seemed to be
paying more attention than the rest. It slowly
came over to the fence in that careful,
deliberate gait that sheep have. It eyed Sam in
an odd manner.
thank you," said the sheep.
"Di... di... did I just..." He glanced
down at Fred with a look of amazement. Fred
returned the look with a serious face, then he
shook his head violently, along with his droopy
ears in the process. Fred commenced to let out a
high-pitched, mournful, "woo-woo-woo,"
the basset's signature bark.
did." The sheep answered Sam's incomplete
away from the pen and examined his surroundings
carefully. No one was standing behind or beside
him. He quickly ran over to the barn about ten
feet away. Sam saw no one loitering nearby. He
called out, "Jimmy, is that you?" Jimmy
was always playing practical jokes on Sam.
Sam didn't see
or hear Jimmy--or anyone else, for that matter.
Sam wasn't an
idiot. He knew that people with a special talent
could throw their voices and pretend that someone
(or some thing) else was talking. What did they
call that? "Ver-en-tril-lok-y," he said,
who could perform verentrilloky was having a good
laugh at Sam's expense right now.
Sam recalled a
joke that someone had once told him about a
farmer who was visited by a verentrillokist. He
didn't remember all of the particulars. But
several of the farm animals began "talking"
to the farmer. The farmer, afraid that his wife
would hear unsavory things about him from his
animals, exclaimed in a panic to his wife: "Honey,
if that sheep says anything about me, it's a
how much he had laughed at the telling of the
joke. Somehow, though, it didn't seem so funny
to the fence. The sheep was still standing there,
as though patiently waiting for Sam to
acknowledge his existence.
is Jeremiah," the sheep said.
Sam's my name. This here's Fred." Sam nodded
down in the direction of his beagle hound.
very pleased to meet you, Sam and Fred. You have
very nice accommodations here. My friends and I
are pleased for the change."
Jeremiah? If you don't mind me askin'... Sam
paused a moment, then continued, "Well, hell!
It's true, ain't it? You're talkin' to me just as
plain as day, like you was a human being! And
there ain't no verentrillokists here that I can
tell of. How is it that you can talk?"
actually sure, Sam. Some of us are born with the
ability. For others, it's a learned skill. Many
ever talked to other people before?" asked
Sam, you're the first human that's ever spoken to
me. I was raised in a strict environment, you see.
My mother always told me, 'Never speak unless
spoken to.'" Jeremiah added, "Old
habits die hard, I suppose."
In the days
that followed, Sam, accompanied by Fred, made
numerous visits to speak with Jeremiah. He and
Jeremiah conversed about all manner of things:
the weather, what land was best for grazing, what
is was like to be a sheep, and what it was like
to be a farmer. Jeremiah even confided to Sam
what sheep thought about human beings. Jeremiah
wanted to know what Sam thought of sheep, too.
Sam didn't rightly know how to answer that
question, seeing as how he had never really given
the matter much thought.
A few days
later, Sam and Fred arrived as usual after
morning chores, to talk with Jeremiah.
walked over to the pen's edge with that slow,
deliberate gait that sheep have.
Jeremiah," said Sam.
stood there, eyeing Sam in a strange way.
Jeremiah?" asked Sam.
asked Sam, puzzled by the sheep's odd behavior.
minutes passed; Sam, Fred, and Jeremiah stood
there, eyeing one another.
wrong, Jeremiah? Cat got your tongue? Or, are ya'
mad at me, or somethin'?"
coaxing by Sam failed to elicit a response from
Jeremiah, except for what Sam reckoned was,
down to his side. "What the heck is goin' on,
Fred? He won't talk to me! Jeremiah is normally
runnin' off at the mouth, and today he just goes,
Fred looked up,
eyeing Sam in a playful sort of way, shaking his
head violently, along with his droopy ears in the
process. But instead of a basset's deep howl, Sam