The lamb from heaven

Posted on February 2nd, 2014 in Driving Emotion by Julian Edgar

A warning: this has nothing to do with cars….

As some of you will know, I live on the edge of a tiny hamlet in country New South Wales, about 80km north of Canberra. It’s a pretty relaxed place that I like a great deal. Most people in the town with young children have one or two acres, and pet sheep are common. In fact, off hand, I can think of five families that each own a pet sheep. Good for keeping down the grass and, if reared from a lamb, sheep are surprisingly sociable and interactive animals.

Our sheep – Victor – came to us in a cardboard carton, a tiny, weak little lamb that had been abandoned by his mother.

Victor was fed milk replacement, and sheep pellets, and then lucerne, and then grass from the yard, and subsequently grew and grew. He was initially free to roam our block, but then he started to butt house windows and eat flowers and be a pest. So he’s now constrained to about 250 square metres – plenty of space for him… but not enough for another sheep.

So when another lamb arrived, it was never going to be kept. But boy, was I ever tempted! Why? Because I think it might be one of the luckiest lambs alive….

It was a Sunday afternoon, and my son, Alexander (aged 9) was playing in the yard. The front gate was shut, and he was using a rope to pull a skateboard up and down the dirt driveway. He’d run up the driveway, towing the skateboard behind him, complete with an action figure taped to it. The skateboard would leap and jump behind him, until he reached the end of the driveway, bent to make some adjustments, and then pulled it in the other direction, heading back towards the road.

And then, as suddenly as it sounds, a tiny lamb appeared just inside the gate, wandering about forlornly.

The gate was shut; no car had appeared; and there are no flocks of sheep within 2 kilometres that currently have lambs so young. The time window in which it must have appeared, what with Alexander running back and forth, would have been 10 seconds maximum.

The lamb – it just literally appeared.

Alexander ran to the house and said, “There’s a lamb in our yard!” 

My wife Georgina caught the lamb (easy: it was quite weak and slow), and fed it some water and then milk.

But where on earth had it come from?

The lamb had a few injuries. Its nose and mouth were a little bloodied, but the most interesting injuries were on its back. There, still freshly bleeding, were four small cuts, each perhaps 10mm long. They were spaced in two parallel pairs, on the very upper surface of the lamb’s back.

A few days earlier, circling on the thermals they ride, Georgina had seen a pair of wedgetail eagles. These are very large birds, strong enough to pick up rabbits and carry them away.

And perhaps strong enough to carry a lamb…

Anecdotally, many people suggest that wedgetail eagles can scoop up live lambs, but an authoritative reference I have on these eagles says that this is in fact a fallacy – that lambs are carried by wedgetail eagles only when they are dead, and so not struggling or running prior to being caught.

But we can think of no other explanation that would account for the lamb’s incredible sudden appearance from thin air, and its pattern of injuries. Furthermore, Alexander found four little depressions in the bark chips close to where he first saw the lamb, spaced to match the lamb’s hooves.

Had a wedgetail eagle grabbed the lamb, carried it a minimum of several kilometres, then settled on the bark chips in our yard to eat it – only to be disturbed by Alexander running with the skateboard? If so, that tiny lamb had just had the ride of its life….

But despite its cuteness, and its extraordinary mode of arrival, we couldn’t keep it – and after making half a dozen phone calls, Georgina found someone in our town who wanted a new pet lawnmower.

Gosh, if only I’d looked at the window a few moments earlier and seen the lamb arrive, carried by an eagle. That would have been something to remember forever…

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