Pushing Sheep On SH 27

I was finished working for the day and on my way home for an early afternoon of writing and hobbies and procuring something to eat. I had this whimsical carefree feeling that preceded free time but i was also sweating out of my skin in the car with the broken a/c stuck on recirculated interior air and an all black interior that seemed to be a magnet for the sun. All of a sudden i drove past a massive sea of fur. I slammed on the brakes and pulled to the side of the road to do a u-turn and head back the other way. I was fairly sure i had scene an entire herd of sheep out of the fence alongside the state highway. This was not good. This was not one or two young heifers that had climbed through a thin spot in the fence. This was, if i had seen what i thought i’d seen, an entire herd of sheep. I had the Kerr County Sheriff’s Office programed in my phone for livestock on the road occasions and i had cell service so i knew who to call. Now i just had to make sure i’d seen what i’d seen and then find some way to communicate where they were. As i drove back the other way i noted that i had indeed seen with my eyeballs what i thought i’d seen. There was an entire herd of beautiful brown and white sheep, babies and all, out on the side of highway 27. Now when i say “whole herd” i dont know if i can properly convey what im trying to say…this was not just 40 sheep hanging out in a cluster by the highway…i mean a whole field’s worth of sheep. I couldn’t even begin to guess how many there were, and part of that was because i didn’t yet realize this wasn’t all of them, but i’m getting ahead of myself there. I looked at the gps. The next instruction was to turn left on China st in 3.2 miles. I had just passed the sheep in the opposite direction, turned around, and come again. So, i needed to tell the Sheriff’s office that the sheep were out on SH 27 heading towards comfort, about 3.3 miles from where the highway is intersected by China st. As i sat alongside the road and called it in the woman answering the phone said, “you say what? Sheep are out? Okay please hold, let me transfer you.” Another woman answered the call and i told her that a herd of sheep was out on the SH 27 in between center point and comfort about 3.3 miles off from the intersection of China st. As i was telling her this i noticed that the herd was grazing and as they were grazing they were moving up alongside the edge of the highway in the direction of comfort fairly quickly. I told the woman this, telling her to be prepared to drive a bit further than the stated location as the sheep were on the move. She took details about the nearby house and herd of cows for reference and then had me describe the visual appearance of the sheep to try and identify breed. Then she thanked me for my call in and told me she’d be sending someone out. About 5 percent of me thought of leaving. I’d done my duty, called it in, and now it was time for free time and snacks. The car was hot and suffocating, especially while still. The other 95 percent of me had that 5 percent in a strangle hold and was screaming, “MUST SAVE SHEEP!” Now, a large part of being law enforcement in a small town is wrangling loose livestock, and i’m always amused when they send one guy in a uniform with gun and taser and some orange traffic cones…to wrangle a herd of animals by himself. I’d say most people do like i did and pull over because lets be realistic…how is one person going to herd anything without a livestock dog? When you watch old westerns, is there one guy on foot running around herding the cows where they need to go? No. There’s like 8 guys on horses and they shape the direction of the herd by blocking various directions the cows had pegged as an exit. I usually stick around to offer my help and am often told by the officer to get going and that my help is not needed. They end up standing nearby the cows to make sure they dont get hit or placing their flashing car where it can slow traffic while they guard the cows until dispatch can look up the phone number attached to a property on a land ownership grid and get the farmer out there so the cows have somebody familiar and food to follow back into an area where they go. I knew somehow that this situation was different. There were just so many of them and the speed limit on SH 27 was 75 mph. Semi trucks were flying through there at break neck speeds and as i soon realized, these fluffy numskulls had a frequent tendency to yeet themselves into the middle of the highway in order to cross the road….the whole herd of them. One would go and then they would all follow. The thought in my head was, “These are some beautiful, healthy, brown and white sheep. Some of them are stunning and so many babies too. To me, i saw a bunch of dollar signs walking around the highway. People sink a lot of money into livestock and they only get a return on that investment if it lives to produce or sell. A sheep soup on the front of a mack truck is like throwing money into the stock market right now or just flushing it down the toilet. That money is gone. Firstly, i thought if i were a farmer and these were my sheep, i would want anyone who found them out to try to save as many as possible, because i’d be financially ruined if they all became roadkill and because i’d be attached to the little fluffy buggers. I decided to go to a nearby farm house and ask if the sheep belonged to them. I let myself through a chain link fence and then knocked on what i assume was the back door. The front of the house was beyond a barbed wire fence. A bunch of dogs went ballistic inside but no humans answered. Dark floor to ceiling curtains blocked my view of the interior. I decided they weren’t home and stepped away from the property to head back to the sheep. I sat in my car and stared at them for a while. Two things were giving me anxiety. They were moving towards comfort at an alarmingly quick rate. How would the sheriff know where to find them if they werent where i said when he showed up? Also, the two sheep at the edge were always one hoof on the road thinking about it and when they got to thinking about it too much the whole herd crossed the road. I didn’t like this. I didn’t want all those sheep crossing the 75 mph highway. It seemed like they were better off staying put on one side until the sheriff arrived. I made a decision to stay and try to huddle and guard the sheep until help arrived. Firstly, i pulled my car up to highway 27 on the intersecting nearby dirt road. I pulled it right up to the highway so that it was blocking the grassy side area next to the highway in the direction of comfort texas. It worked. When the sheep hit my car they got spooked, turned, and went in the opposite direction…back towards center point. I would just have to turn them again somehow when they got too far in the other direction. I put my purse around my shoulder and locked the car. I set out on foot to keep the sheep against the fence. I figured out pretty quick that i could stay about twenty feet from them without them spooking. So, i stood in between them and the highway. In their effort to get away from me they huddled close to each other at the edge of the fence and grazed. I kept them like this for a long time while trucks and cars whipped past me at full speed as if i was invisible and all the sheep were invisible too. When they get too far towards center point i ran ahead of them a little bit and blocked the direction they were heading. They spooked and turned the opposite direction but a couple of them headed for the highway to cross. I knew the whole herd would go if i didnt nip them away from the idea so i ran to the side of them and they all pushed left towards the fence, away from the road, to get away from me. Once they were turned i stayed 20 ft away to the side of them in between the sheep and the highway the whole rest of the way as we headed back towards my parked car while we waited for the sheriff. An elderly couple stopped on the side of the highway to tell me to get back in my car and let someone else handle it as it wasn’t my job. Well i hadn’t lost a sheep yet and they’d stopped crossing the highway since i showed up, so until somebody else volunteered to replace me in the job, i wasn’t leaving my post of guarding the sheep. I’d already decided it was my duty to make sure none of them got hit. I wasnt going anywhere. The passenger pleaded with me to see reason that i was going to get hit. What she didn’t consider was that i wasn’t the only one in danger. With all these trucks running through here at top speed and the sheep mostly concealed by the tall grass, considering their briefly observed history of spontaneous ideas, we had the very real possibility of an epic multi-vehicle crash on our hands. Not only were the sheep in danger…so too were the drivers. I dismissed the people’s feedback for two reasons. One, they were offering no alternatives. They wanted me to “let someone else” handle it but they had no someone else to offer. Two, i was too busy herding my new charges to worry about them. They drove off and almost got hit by a truck going in one direction and a car going in the other when they decided to do a u-turn in the middle of 27 rather than pulling off the side of the road to turn the car. I hoped the sheriff would hurry up. We were nearing my car again and i wondered how many times i would have to turn them while keeping them flushed against the fence in order to have them located where i said they were when i called them in.

Here’s where things get more complicated. I see a car stopping on the opposite side of the road way ahead of me towards center point. I wonder if she is going to get out and help me with the herd. To my horror, i see the reason she has stopped up there. The animals i am guarding are only half of the amount that have escaped, as a whole giant ass group of them run straight across SH 27 before my eyes. My herd goes to join them as a semi’s brakes are squealing and its tires are bumping and hissing on the road as it tries to come to a choppy stop with the weight of its load pushing it straight for the sheep. There’s traffic in both directions. I don’t know if the truck can stop in time. I can’t look, but i know one thing, my herd is not joining the one that’s about to be roadkill. I hear myself say, “oh no you don’t, no no no no…”. I run alongside the sheep and jump on the asphalt 8 feet to the side of the sheep thinking about crossing, making a thud noise with my feet. This spooks the sheep and they run towards the fence, forgetting about joining the sheep that are crossing in front of the amazing semi driver who manages a complete stop mere feet before he would have hit wool. The sheep are super spooked and this new gaggle of them i had not known about crosses the road in its entirety. super impressed and grateful i ran alongside the stopped semi and waved to the driver, gave him a thumbs up, and mouthed the words “thank you!” I then went back to my group of sheep and continued guarding. In between cars whizzing past the woman that got out of her car on the opposite side of the highway yelled to me, “Did you call anyone?” I yelled back, “i called the kerr county sherriff’s office. They said they’re sending someone out.” “Who do they belong to?” “I have no idea.” She said, “i wish people would slow down.” I gave her a thumbs up and shouted, “yeah!” She said, “i feel like standing in the middle of the road.” I shouted back, “i dont think thats a good idea. That’s dangerous.” If they wouldnt slow for us now, who was to say theyd slow for us standing in the middle of the highway? It was a bad idea. I was reckless enough to guard sheep but not to stand in the middle of a state highway for them. That, you needed cones and blue and red lights for. People only stopped if they thought there was a wreck or a possibility of a ticket. Two crazy ladies in the middle of the road with a bunch of sheep probably wouldn’t meet the criteria. I should mention that this was my first time herding sheep anywhere but i get along with animals much better than people and it didn’t take me long to figure em out. I was surprised how much you could suggest to them as one person. The key seemed to be this 20 ft distance thing. If i got any closer the sheep panicked, split, and ran in every which direction…into fences, across the road…there was definitely a sweet spot distance where direction could be suggested without inciting panic and chaos. Well, at this point a young man joined us. I had my half of the herd flush against a fence on the one side of the highway and 100 ft away the other woman had placed her car in between the sheep and highway and had hers flush against the fence on the other side. We were watching over them and trying to flag trucks and cars to slow down while passing through when a young man arrived to triumphantly save the day. The first thing he did was run straight into the middle of her group in an attempt to get a look at an ear tag. The sheep were having none of this less than delicate approach. They splintered into two smaller groups, ran in every direction, crossed the road, and crossed back again. Traffic had to come to a stop or they’d be hit. I left my group to help her and both the lady and i stood in the middle of the highway with our arms up blocking traffic in both directions while the sheep moved and churned across the road in multiple directions like an ocean full of underwater rip tides. My full body moved when i threw my head back in frustration and then hung it in defeat. Though i was grateful for the effort to help the sheep, we had them all neatly organized and now all that work was for not. Men. Riding in to the rescue with no strategy or finesse…just walked right up to em and tried to grab a tag. So now we had a mess. When the sheep were done crossing we stepped out of the road and let the traffic resume. I was wanting to guard my part of the herd as it was still together and i felt the one he had splintered was now a bit of a job, whereas my half was still all together and flush with the fence. However, i considered that i should try to get this splintered group back together while my group was standing at the fence nicely as they might not always be. So all three of us worked to get the second half of the sheep pulled back together on whatever side of the highway they’d do. At this time i see a whole bunch more sheep coming out of this metal drainage thing, like pouring out alongside the highway and then just congregating together alongside the road. I pointed, “oh shit, there’s more! ****.” We now have the flush to the fence group on one side of the road, the splintered into two parts one on the other side of the road (one group sprinting towards comfort and the other trying to go through barbed wire into a fenced field) and a new group dangerously close to the road and pointed towards crossing. Sure enough, they go. They cross and join the group trying to go through the fence into a field. I put my hands on my head. This is chaos, just absolute chaos. How am i supposed to keep these beautiful wooly numskulls from being a bloody mess all over the road? It is about this time when i turn around and see the sheriff’s suv pulling behind me. I threw my hands up in two thumbs up and happily exclaimed to the others, “hey, its the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office is here! This guy didn’t shoo us away. He was happy for the help. It would take all of us to get them off the highway. The first time we realized where they actually came from was when we witnessed a couple sheep just walk right through the horizontal strings of barbed wire on the fence around a field with two rams standing in there. It seems the rams couldn’t go through because of their giant curvy horns, but the entire rest of the herd had left them. I immediately said to the guy standing next to me, “What kind of fence is that?” We agreed, this was no fence at all if sheep could walk right through it. He ran ahead to tell the officer we found where the sheep belonged, mostly confirmed by the fact that the rams seemed to recognize the sheep and they fell right in together, not near as interested in the ladies as the rams should have been if they’d never seen them before. They were just standing over there eating grass together while the rest of this massive herd was on the side of the highway. The officer came and cut a hole in the barbed wire fence. Then i stood just beyond the hole, the lady to the side, and the officer pushed them from the back. The man had to go so he said goodbye and left us. The sheep came towards me, ran right past the hole, and then i stepped forwards and pushed em back in the direction of the officer. The lady kept them from going onto the highway by standing in between them and the road. Every time they passed the hole one or two sheep would jump through it. So, the officer and i took turns pushing them back and forth past the hole in the fence until half of them had gone in. The officer radioed for backup a while back and now it arrived. A second car parked, turned on its lights and sirens, and drove at the sheep. They all freaked the f out and sprinted past the officer in back of them, broke free of the lady, and took off at full speed towards comfort alongside the highway. I shook my head. People be thinking they can solve everything in two seconds with a show of force. These sheep were not having it. The first officer wiped the sweat from his head and took off after the herd to get ahead of them and turn them down a side street towards the river…away from the highway. It worked. He turned them. They all ran and the second cop car sped after them with lights on. As they disappeared from sight the first officer returned to his trunk to get a kit and said he was going to patch the hole he made in the fence. I skipped a part where a trucker stopped to give us his fence cutting tool but the officer already had one so he wished us luck and left. So officer 1 is patching the fence. Officer 2 is chasing sheep down by the river in a cop car with flashing lights. I turned to the lady and said, “i’m gonna go knock on that house’s door and see if they belong to them or if they know who owns them.” The lady said she had to go so i told her bye. I went on the nearby property and walked the edge of some fields until i found a way up a path to the back of a house that didnt involve crossing barbed wire. I came up through the carport area in back of the house and found an old man with a mustache and a faded button up denim shirt was coming down the hill from the house to greet me. I waved and he hollered, “i’m hard of hearing so hold on.” I interviewed him about the sheep. They weren’t his. They were his neighbor’s. However, the neighbor didn’t live there. It was just a field where he kept livestock. The neighbor said the guy used to own cows and the original fence was for cows, though even the cows had gotten out 3 previous times over the past few years. He said, “i worry about it because if they’re all on the road like that people cant see em when they’re going fast and some old gray beard is gonna flip a truck trying to avoid these guys. There could be a big wreck.” I told him, “yeah, i stopped cuz i was worried about the sheep getting hit and two others stopped cuz they were worried about me getting hit.” He said the guy needs to make his fence sheep tight if he wants to keep smaller animals. He showed me the fence for his herd of cows. He had a beautiful herd of brown cows i had admired for years on the side of 27. His fence had a vertical stick in it every 3 feet. This kept the horizontal wires pulled tight and the rectangular spaces between them smaller. A lamb could still get through but not a full grown sheep. Hopefully the lambs would stay with their mothers though. The fence the sheep came out of went around seven feet before each new vertical stick. This meant the horizontal wires sagged and had huge spaces for sheep to climb through as if they were hopping a jumprope. They just needed to step over the lower one and under the higher one and they were out no problem. I shook my head. I knew nothing about sheep but when i saw them climb right through the fence where we hadnt made a hole i remember my comment was “what kind of fence is this?” The old farmer in the denim said he was sorry he couldnt be of much help but the neighbor had ignored him and refused to get out of the truck every time he’d asked him for his number so he could call if his livestock got out again. The guy said that if he still had his truck and his cart he would pull it up and load em for us but he didnt have the cart anymore and he had a problem with his ticker. He looked forlorn and patted the left side of his chest with two fingers. I could tell what the guy was trying to say without saying in earshot of any law enforcement was that if he was younger he would have rounded up the sheep, put em in his pen, and told the neighbor he could have em back when he made his fence sheep tight. I liked this old farmer. He had a wonderful house with a wrap around porch that faced his field he had cows in. He had a beautiful herd of brown cows. His fences were well built and maintained, and he was fairly pleasant to talk to. I thanked him for his help and ran back down to road to update the approaching officer in his car. I told him what the old farmer had said. Then the farmer came down and spoke to the officer through the window asking, “Can you look at the land ownership grid and get a phone number for this field here?” The officer replied that this was what dispatch was working on. The officer thanked the farmer for the info and me for staying and helping. He asked if i wanted a ride to my car across the highway. I wanted him to go and help the other officer who was still trying to herd sheep with a squad car siren. So i said i’d just wait until there were no cars in either direction and then book it across. He smiled and said, “okay, thanks again for your help.” Then he drove off towards the river to help the other officer. The neighboring farmer went up his drive and back into the house. I waited until it was clear and booked it. Once i crossed the highway i got back in the car and drove home. By this time it was around 2:30 pm. Around two hours had passed. I was pretty proud that not one single sheep or lamb got hit on our watch. I was also highly disappointed in the owner who should not have the responsibility of owning sheep without making the fence sheep tight. The officer also reported that there was bedding and food in the culvert so somebody was letting the sheep sleep in there. Since this was one of the ways they got out i figured that should have been fenced off from them. I hoped that the officers would make contact and talk to the man about what his neighbor had said about adding more vertical components to the fence so the spaces jn between the wires arent so large and the sheep can’t get out. They were beautiful healthy sheep. It was a shame they were destined to climb right out again after we put them in. It is discouraging when you work so hard to wrangle and protect somebody’s investment only to find out they werent working very hard to secure their own investment in the first place. Animals are lovely additions to a homestead, farm, or ranch, but you have to make sure the fence you put up is suited for that type of animal before you obtain them.

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