On the animals’ farm, it’s old-fashioned politics

B.C. has finished up on a provincial election, while here on the farm the animals have been holding their own springtime bid for leadership in the barnyard.

B.C. has finished up on a provincial election, while here on the farm the animals have been holding their own springtime bid for leadership in the barnyard.

It all started with the sheep. The incumbent of the flock is Patricia. She is slighter built than the other ewes and always on the alert.

With head raised high she constantly sweeps the barnyard and pastures for danger and quickly settles any disputes that break out among the flock with a quick bunt to the dispute source’s head.

It’s quite effective, though I admit it borders on dictatorship.

The thing is, I like Patricia and I’m glad she’s in charge. You can just tell she is for the underdog. Or undersheep as the case may be. If a lamb is crying for its mom, Patricia gets there first, sniffs the little lamb and then fixes a glare on the wayward mother until she pulls her head from the feeder and says, “OK, OK, Patricia, enough with the judgemental stares already,” and wanders over to care for her lamb.

When a new trough or shelter is set up, Patricia is the one that carefully performs the safety inspection before giving the all clear to the rest of the flock.

Rowdy, as you might guess by her name, is more about brawn than brain, but I had no idea she was hungry for power.

First to belly up to the trough, she seemed content to have Patricia in charge.

Then Rowdy gave birth to twins and I put them together in a pen for a couple days so they could bond. Apparently Rowdy also used her time in the pen to put together a leadership campaign.

On Day 2 of Rowdy’s release, she went to the polls with Patricia. I was nearby working in the garden when the battle for leadership first broke out. At first I dismissed the clash of horns as a minor disagreement, but it soon became apparent that this was no ordinary scrimmage.

Neither was backing down.

I rushed into the fray waving my garden rake. The ewes simply zigzagged and side stepped around me and continued to smash heads. I felt like an ineffectual referee in a hockey fight.

At one point Rowdy knocked Patricia to her knees and I broke with fair election protocol by rapping Rowdy soundly on the horns with the rake handle, but to little avail.

Rowdy was clearly the stronger one, but Patricia was wilier. As fatigue set in she planted her horns in Rowdy’s flank like they had been attached there with super glue, forcing them to spin in a whirlwind circle, denying Rowdy another chance to back up and charge.

They finally spun themselves to a halt and staggered apart, heads hanging, flanks heaving, tongues lolling. Then Patricia composed herself, turned her back on Rowdy, walked off a few steps and lay down with her nose in the air.

It was not a collapse of defeat, but an ingenious act of superiority and disdain. If she could talk she had just told Rowdy, “You are not worth any more of my attention. We are finished.”

At that moment — and I swear I’m not making this up — a winter squall let loose with a shaking of snowflakes that rained down like celebratory confetti. Five minutes later the snow cloud emptied itself and the sun reappeared. Rowdy took up her usual position at the trough and Patricia made her rounds of the barn yard as if nothing had happened.

I went back to raking my garden, when another election broke out, this one between a pair of woodpeckers.

Like two politicians on a radio they hammered out their campaign rhetoric; one on a tin roof, the other on a metal bucket hanging on a fence post. They started off taking turns but soon they were both pecking furiously trying to drown the other one out — that’s the part that was like two politicians on a radio — not so much the pecking on a roof and bucket part.

When a second mini snow storm swirled down, I realized that spring and winter were battling it out as well. Since it’s already mid-May I’m not voting for either one of them.

Summer gets my ballot.

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from the Peace River country. You can read more of her writing online at www.shannonmckinnon.com

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