As part of my work as a shepherdess, I’m occasionally called upon to make some equipment repairs. This is usually easier if the equipment has failed outside of the sheep area, but the location of the failure is not always under my control. Over the years, I’ve done repairs almost everywhere on the farm — and it seems quite common for some pieces of equipment to fail while in among the sheep. Our mower has done this several times, as have various waterers, feeders, and an array of other things. If the equipment is small and mobile, I can move it to the shop in the barn or into the garage; but if it’s large (like a mower) or unable to be moved (like an automatic waterer), I must work on it in place.
The other day, the automatic waterer in the young-ram pen needed attention before winter. I fed the rams and then hurriedly tried to get as much done as I could before the rams were finished eating. I knew that if I didn’t do this, I would eventually have “help” during the project. I pulled the waterer apart and began to address the issue.
It wasn’t long before my “help” arrived. Within minutes I was surrounded by a shoving, jostling crowd of ram lambs and adult Korbin, all wanting to see what I was doing. Now, some people will argue that perhaps they were not there because of my work, but were actually thirsty and wanting water — but I know this was not the case. I use the same feeding routine daily, and although their waterer needed work, it was still providing water, so they hadn’t gone without. The water had been turned off for all of about five minutes when my group of helpers arrived, and they never come to drink as a group like this. Most of the time, the rams eat their grain and then head over to the shelter to fill up on the grass hay I had just put out. This time, they headed straight from the grain to the waterer, more interested in my work and the disassembled waterer than in the hay waiting in their feeders.
And this brings me to my question: what is it about broken equipment that attracts the male of a species? When the mower breaks down, the rams crowd around to take a closer look, often getting partway onto the mower itself to really ‘get the feel’ of the thing. When the mower breaks down in the ewes’ field, the girls essentially ignore it as if it was a big rock. A few of the lambs might use it for a game of king-of-the-mountain, but that’s all the attention it gets there — very unlike its reception among the rams.
When the ewes’ waterer required the same winterization that I performed on the ram waterer, no help arrived to peer into the open unit. The only company I had was Sweet Pea, who obviously wanted a drink. (She stayed until I was done and then got the water she had come for.) Yet here I stood, trying to maintain my position at the ram waterer as they all pushed and shoved around me, trying to get a closer look at the opened unit. I finally got my work done, but it was a constant battle to keep all of my tools nearby and all of the crowding noses out of my line of sight. The group didn’t dissipate until I had closed the unit and stepped back to take the photo you see here. At that point, the party was over and they had begun to leave. Yet some of the boys lingered just in case I might have more work to do. None of them drank any water. They simply wanted to see things taken apart and put back together. I don’t get the fascination, but at least in the ram world, it must be a “guy thing” — they do love their broken equipment!