As a child, I had been inspired by the
story of George and Joy Adamson. They had reared orphaned lion
cubs and come to understand the natural experience of these
wonderful wild creatures. I later read of similar individuals who
had devoted themselves to study of other species by painstakingly
immersing themselves in the lives and environments of the animals.
Diane Fossey was one such heroine in relation to the gorillas of
central Africa. I resolved to follow their examples. But what
species should I make my own?
The answer came as I walked across a Welsh
hillside. Much had been written about the rearing and cooking of
sheep, but little on the structure and culture of sheepate
society. This would be my study.
I realised that to get beneath the wool of
sheepory, I would have to live amongst them as one of their own.
I therefore obtained a life-like sheepine costume from a
theatrical supplier and began my observations from within the
flock. This was twenty-five years ago. Since that day, I have
been on the hillside every day and night, patiently observing,
while chewing grass. I am now ready to publish my conclusions.
This project has not been without its
hazards. After the first, somewhat traumatic, year, I was always
cautious to graze with my back to a dry stone wall when a ram was
released among the flock. I was also careful never again to be
herded into a stock wagon. It had been unlucky that the zip on my
costume had jammed on that occasion and even more unfortunate
that the wagon had been en route to the abattoir. Fortunately,
the stockman had been distracted as the flock disembarked, and I
was able to climb onto the roof of the vehicle. This both
effected my escape and returned me to the farm, otherwise I would
certainly have been for the chop.
A more persistent problem had been dogs,
and I had had to flee on more than one occasion. Fortunately,
this did not reveal my research. Irresponsible dog owners are
always Townies, unfamiliar with the countryside. A sheep
sprinting on its hind legs across a field and then climbing a
tree was, therefore, viewed as amusing but not, in any way, odd.
The solution to this problem followed from
two factors. Firstly, that it was legal to shoot dogs who were
worrying sheep and secondly that there was sufficient space in my
costume to conceal a shotgun. Once again, Townie ignorance of
country ways allowed credibility to rumours about gangs of armed
sheep marauding the hills. This discouraged their visits, to the
benefit of all.
But what of the conclusions of my quarter
century of research? At first glance, one might think that sheep
had no societal structure. One might think that they simply ate
grass all day with no regard for anything else. I have now proven
conclusively that this is absolutely correct. All that now
remains is for my book to become a best seller and a decision
about who will play my part in the ensuing film.