The other day was a little more eventful than usual at work.
Michele came back inside from checking on the horses and announced that Shalom had a broken bone sticking out of her leg. The vet was summoned. The best thing was to put the horse down, it was decided.
I should say here that the house is more full than usual. One of the first cadets Michele and Duncan sponsored is based in Quatar and now has a family of his own. The Air Force sent him back to the Academy to have a series of a couple of knee sugeries, which requires him to lie around recuperating for weeks and weeks. Since Michele and Duncan have a big house all to themselves these days, they invited C.J. and his family to stay with them. So the house now has in it an additional family with three kids. There is plenty of room, and the kids get to ride horses all they want.
Well, the kids were very interested and concerned with Shalom’s broken leg. Duncan decided it would be easier on all around if the vet administered a shot to put the horse down, rather than the more tramatic experience of giving the horse a shot with a firearm. After the deed was done, the vet informed Duncan that the carcass had to be buried at least six feet in the ground, lest something eat the carcass and get poisoned. So much for doing things the easy way. Duncan called his neighbor and asked if he could please come over with his backhoe and bury a horse.
This is the second horse they’ve lost in a month. They thought the first one had its leg broken by the stallion. But the stallion hadn’t been anywhere near Shalom. Someone else was causing this mischief.
“I wonder if it weren’t the ram,” Duncan told Michele, bending down and pantomiming a head butt. “Since both horses had their legs broken in the same place. The ram could have come just at this angle…”
“That’s it,” said Michele, leaving the room.
“Alright. Has everyone got on clothes they can get dirty?” Michele asked coming back to the front door. All three of C.J.’s kids nodded. “Now, where’s my gun?” She picked up the 9mm Glock and its clip off the kitchen counter. They marched out to the riding ring, where the ram had been quaranteened.
A little later they came rushing back in. I was taking advantage of Michele’s computer being free to organize and back up her files. “Can I use your computer?” she asked. “I shot him in the forehead, but he’s not dying. He’s just walking around bleeding.”
Duncan said, “Well, he lives to butt his head. He probably thought, ‘Wow! That was great!'”
Michele did some Googling. She found a helpful diagram by typing in “sheep” and “euthanasia.” The answer to how to shoot a ram is to aim a little behind the top of his head. The killing squad headed back out to the riding ring. “Butthead,” as Duncan had dubbed him, twitched a bit in the sand, then was still.
Now came the fun part. They loaded the carcass on a wagon and pulled him over into the pasture. Michele had each kid hold a leg up while she selected a knife from the four she’d brought outside. “Hmm, these are in the way,” Michele mused, trying to find a good place to start the gutting process. “Well, he won’t be needing them anymore. There, much better.” Carefully, she sliced the ram’s belly open, letting his organs spill out and cutting them free to fall to the ground.
I love looking inside things. “Look! There’s the gallbladder!” I said, pointing to the little, green, ball-shaped organ clinging to the liver. “See how big his liver is?” I pointed out to the kids. “The liver is so big that if someone needs a transplant, they can just take a piece of someone else’s.” The boys weren’t looking. They were starting to turn a little greenish.
When the backhoe, showed up, the boys quickly lost interest in the ram. But Lisa and her mom helped Michele hang the gutted carcass on the front porch and start skinning it. I sharpened knives for them. With his hide coming off, it was plain to see that the ram was half wool. He didn’t look like much without his skin.
“Dunc,” asked Michele, once the backhoe had buried Shalom and Duncan had come back to the house, “can you help me cut his head off?”
“The Sawzall would work,” he offered.
“Would it be messy?”
I went back to work at that point, but a little later Duncan came downstairs wearing coveralls and rumaged in the basement.
Before I left for the day, Heather (C.J.’s wife) and Michele were discussing what to cook for supper. “I could make spaghetti sauce,” said Heather.
“I know what we’ll have,” decided Michele, and she went outside to hack a leg off the carcass.
“I’ve been trying to understand what God is trying to tell me,” Michele said, trying to pry her knife into the leg’s hip socket. “I’ve just lost two of my favorite horses. And I think what He’s trying to say is, ‘Get rid of the ram before he hurts a kid.'”
The ram’s head lay on the ground by the rest of his body, his brown eyes open, looking unaturally calm for being disembodied. His noble, black horns curled around his powerful skull. They really were beautiful things. I leaned down to touch them, something I wouldn’t have dared when he was alive. They were smooth and hard and solid. Perfect for ramming into things.
“What should we do with the head?” asked Duncan. “Put it on a post at the end of the driveway?”
“You got any enemies?” I asked. “We could slip it in their bed.”