It happened in the spring of 1980 in southern California. I was a Mormon missionary and one of my duties at that time was to interview missionaries one on one every few weeks and see how they were doing. At that time, we had a set of sister missionaries in our district and it was time to meet with the sisters. As most of you know, when you are a missionary you give up important things in your life such as communicating one on one with young women.
I wasn't any good at communicating with young women before my mission. You see. I have not always been as "studley" as I am now. Under this "Homer Simpson" facade, I was a very shy and "unstudley" teenager. When I would ask girls to go out with me, it would go something like this, "You don't want to go out with me do you?"
So this gives you an idea about how good I am at handling and understanding women. The sister missionary and I walked into a room for our chat, I made sure to leave the door open behind us. Remember . . . we were missionaries. I said to her, "How are things going for you?" She looked at me and started to cry! I thought to myself, "No, not the crying thing!" Remember how I just explained how shy I was around women, hugging her to make things better, was out of the question.
I looked at her and quietly said, "What is wrong?" Her answer with tears in her eyes was, "I miss my sheep." Yep, she said, "I miss my sheep!" I don't pretend to understand women, even to this day, but that one really threw me off. She told me she was from Idaho and her family raised sheep and she missed them. I thought for a moment and looked into her teary eyes and said the thing that I thought would help her the most at this time, "What kind of sheep do you have?"
She said, "Suffolk." I explained that was exactly the same type of sheep that my family raised. We chatted for the next thirty minutes, not about tracking in Huntington Beach, but about our sheep that were waiting for us at home. She stopped crying!
I lost track of her after my mission but I bet she is married to a sheepherder in Idaho, probably living in a sheep camp in Soda Springs.
Some of my earliest memories are of my Dad and the sheep he raised. I think he made about as much money raising sheep as I do writing this column. As I got older, feeding, watering, sheering, lambing, and of course, docking the sheep was not as fun as it was when I was a kid. Not that docking was ever fun.
A few years before this experience with the crying sister, I had something happen to me that my friend's thought was quite funny and it had to do with raising sheep.
We were sitting in Mr.
Dearden's history class one afternoon when the school janitor France Porter
walked in and said, "Ronnie, your sheep are out on the football field." I
walked out to the football field, and there they were. Five head of our sheep
had made their way along the river and ended up at the school. I yelled at
the sheep and they came running and followed me home. Now if you think my
so-called friends thought it was funny to get called out of class to get my
sheep off the football field, you should have seen them when I walked home
with five sheep following me. You know, I didn't miss my sheep even a little
bit while I was a missionary.