They heard the clink and rattle of the chain on metal as I opened the gate. Black ears sticking out horizontally and just the tip of Issachar’s head was visible just over the top of the hill. Then his full face emerged and others too. Asher next to his twin as always, then Socks and Suzy, my oldest ewes.
It was as if they were growing up from the spring grass as their bodies came into full view.
Suddenly they rushed down the hill towards the open gate, then stopped abruptly. Maybe they didn’t recognize me or maybe they couldn’t believe their good fortune to be able to graze so early in the morning before the bugs were out swarming their eyes and biting the insides of their ears.
Even the sound of my voice didn’t reassure them. Now the twin’s ears were up at attention. The rest of the sheep waited behind them as if they sensed danger.
It was Biddy, the last rescue Romney, who broke the spell. Knowing better and impatient to get to grass, she sauntered out ahead of the flock taking the lead.
The rest followed.
It took a moment longer before I saw the long “v” of donkey ears peek up over the hill. Lulu first then Fanny leisurely making their way along the well-worn dirt path, only wide enough for two hooves side by side.
When all the animals were in the pasture, I turned and told Fate to get the sheep.
That’s when I saw the low morning sun turning the leaves on the old maple in the front yard and the hill across the road from spring green to bight yellow. A thin cloud hung over the hilltop obscuring it and the sky above.
As Fate circled round and round the sheep, I watched the sunlight lift turning the hillside green again. I looked away for only a moment, but it was long enough for the mist on the hill to vanish and reveal a clear blue sky.
Fate was cool with morning dew from running through the tall grass. She looked at me with wild eyes as I called her back to the house.
It was already a good morning.