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March 22, 2011


Remember back in school, when you used to come back from summer vacation and renew acquaintances with everybody that you hadn’t seen for a few months? And how every now and then, somebody showed up with a different sort of look to them that was more than just getting taller or wearing a new wardrobe; it was more of a sense that they were a slightly different person now – like they’d done something since you last saw them which impacted their attitude or personality in some small way that you couldn’t quite put your finger on yet?

That’s exactly the feeling I got when seeing all my sheep friends again for the first time this spring.

(click to enlarge any of these)

I’ve previously written about how it’s always a pleasant surprise to see the herd of sheep roaming the fields of Fort Ord for grass control, and for the past few weeks, I’ve encountered them in various locations on the open space. Sometimes you see them meandering across a hillside …

… or drifting across a wide valley as you crest the nearby hill. Other times you can hear them (or worse, smell them) before actually seeing them, but that’s neither here nor there. However, during each of my last few encounters there’s been something of a different look to the sheep this year. In particular, I’ve noticed …

… that they’re pretty well spread out all over the place, and they don’t hesitate to station themselves right in the middle of the trail on which you’re approaching. It’s a noticeable contrast from last year, when the herd typically looked like this:

Because they were tightly managed by a group of three sheepdogs on a regular basis. This year, although I’ve seen the sheep several times already, I’ve only seen the sheepdogs once – and that was when they were hanging around in the shade underneath the shepherd’s trailer, very passively observing their charges on a nearby hillside.

Consequently, the sheep are free to spread out wherever the heck they want, and it’s almost like they’ve had a taste of empowerment now. They always give up the trail once I get close enough, but lately they seem to actually consider the possibility of holding their ground. It’s like they've got a slightly different attitude this year - and while they can’t completely overcome their timid nature, they’re clearly a little bit less … sheepish, I guess.

This is the first year I’ve had the distinct sense that as I’m standing there checking the sheep out, they’re equally interested in checking me out as well. And this could just be my paranoia talking … but I get the distinct sense that they’re comparing notes with each other. Or maybe plotting something for the next time we cross paths. Who really knows?

As to what any of this actually means, I have no Earthly idea. Maybe the sheep are doing what all sheep do if left unattended for a while, like kids acting a little crazier at recess when they know the playground monitor is off duty. Maybe they attended some sort of self-help seminar since the last time I saw them. Or maybe these are Limitless sheep who got access to some sort of illicit drug that gives them supernatural abilities. (OK … that last one’s just my paranoia again.)

One thing it means for sure is that I’m already looking forward to running across them again, to see how they’re going to surprise me next. That means, of course, that I need to spend some more miles out here in the near future – which works out great, since that’s just what I was planning anyway. And anything my wooly companions can do to keep things interesting out there will always be appreciated.

So if these sheep really are concocting some ingenious plan to spring on me the next time I come across them … so much the better for both of us.

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mclight81 3/22/11, 10:10 PM  

A little off topic: I know you like reggae. I have a recommendation- tribal seeds. If you haven't heard them give 'em a listen.

Mamarunsbarefoot 3/23/11, 6:03 AM  

That is sooo beautiful!!!!!!!!!!!

Anne 3/23/11, 6:24 AM  

I think I get the title of this post, and if I'm correct, it's a real hoot. Yeah, those sheep definitely have an attitude. Great photos.

JimDog 3/23/11, 6:38 AM  

As Anne said, for me it wasn't until half way through your article that I realized what the title meant. LOL!! Hilarious right up!

RD Jim 3/23/11, 7:44 AM  

Don, just how long had you been running before you started having these interesting insights?

Cherylrunner 3/23/11, 8:05 AM  

Reading this... a great way to start my day! cracked me up! thanks!

Chris 3/23/11, 8:49 AM  

Excellent post with beautiful pictures. Gotta go for a trail run today.

Anonymous,  3/23/11, 9:14 AM  

"Harmlessly passing your time in the grassland away;
Only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air."

P. Floyd

You know where it goes from this innocent opening.
Watch your back.


Anonymous,  3/23/11, 10:25 AM  

Great pics of the sheep friends! My family raises 24 of them back home in Italy!.
When they move they just follow the ones on the lead, just like runners.

Phillip Hamilton,  3/23/11, 10:44 AM  

You didn't link to NWA? I'm shocked. Shocked, I say.

Straight outta Carmel
crazy ultrarunner named Donald...

Her Name Is Rio 3/23/11, 9:40 PM  

Wow- never seen so many of them in one place before! It's very cool, yet kinda scary at the same time. :)

Gretchen 3/24/11, 5:18 AM  

Based on your opening analogy, I'd say your sheep friends have clearly lost their virginities since last you met. Go sheep!

shel 3/24/11, 5:45 AM  

oh, i love them!

mtnrunner2 3/24/11, 7:20 PM  

Fun stuff and great pictures.

Just the other day I remarked how I like free range trails; it's just more interesting having animals wandering all over, and "patties" to run around (hopefully). Especially when you run the same trails a lot, it mixes it up.

Out here it's cows, calves and horses. The cows make way (which I find amusing since they could easily trample me), but I've gotten some guff from horses. I had one step sideways towards me, as if to brush me out of the way. I give them a wide berth.

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