Saturday, September 6, 2014

A peek at my childhood

September the 19th is the release of my newest novel, The Shearing Gun.  It’s the story of a firmly closeted shearer who falls for the new doctor in town.  This is Elliot’s and Hank’s story, but of course we couldn’t leave out the wonderful secondary characters we meet along the way.  The Shearing Gun has a lovely line up of friends and family, but there is a character who is a special inclusion in the book.

Although you never meet her, she is mentioned several times, and she makes Hank blush a lot.  She is Hank’s pet sheep, Lilly.

Lilly is a childhood memory of mine, and in celebration of my new release, I wanted to share this story of her with you. 

The story of Lilly

I grew up on a small farm where we had horses, cats, dogs, chickens, cows, and a huge array of other animals.  We also had a handful of sheep.  From time-to-time they were shipped off to the big property that we had, but for most of my childhood, we had between three and twenty-five sheep at home.  All of them were named, and all were (to us) distinctly recognisable.

Lilly came to us as a five-month-old stray.  The ranger brought her around, as her owner never claimed her.  As a merino-cross, she had fine wool and a beautiful temperament.  Every year, she gave us a set of twins, and I had a lot of fun naming them:  Flora and Fauna, Romeo and Juliet, and Stew and Casserole {wink} just to name a few.

The first year we had her, she birthed her twins during the night, and we were excited to see two small, wobbly-legged girls the next morning.  Being twins, they were a bit premature and smaller than usual, and Mum watched them carefully as we didn’t know if Lilly was a good mother.  Lilly was a wonderful mother, but by that evening, it was obvious the twins were weak and faltering.  They were not getting any milk and would not make it through the night without help.

With effort, we managed to separate Lilly from the others and herded her into the hayshed (which had a lockable gate due to a very naughty pony we owned). My sister carried the two tiny lambs in, who were so weak they could hardly stand, and Mum made up a bottle of milk.  Lilly was upset with the change of location, but once the twins were fed, they settled down for the night.  We snuck down at midnight to feed them again, and again at dawn.  By this time, with three good feedings, the twins were bright and strong again.  We continued to bottle feed them during that day, but by the next morning there was a remarkable change.  Flora and Fauna were now drinking from Lilly, and were thriving.

My mother concluded that Lilly’s milk had been delayed, but now that it was through, we let her out to join the others, and Flora and Fauna were fine.

A year later, Stew and Casserole were born.  Once more my mother watched Lilly that first day, and it became obvious that Lilly had no milk again.  The lambs were attempting to drink, but getting nothing.  We swung into action for a second time, locking them up and bottle feeding the premature twins for the first two days.  This time Lilly was calmer about our actions toward her babies, content in the knowledge that we were not harming them.

As previous, by Day Three her milk was in, and the trio was let free to rejoin the family flock.

It was the third year that cemented Lilly’s presence in my heart as my favourite sheep of all time.  She birthed during the night, and at dawn the next morning when my sister went down to feed the horses, she found Lilly and her twins waiting at the hayshed door.  Lilly had willingly brought her babies to us, and patiently waited at the hayshed where she knew her babies would be fed.  My sister opened the gate, and Lilly trotted in and made herself at home.

Every year after that, she would bring her babies to us, knowing that we would save them.  They would need a bottle for the first two days, but after that Lilly was able to feed them by herself.

Lilly is now in the great sheep heaven, but her memory lives on.  Her inclusion in The Shearing Gun is my little way of thanking that beautiful sheep for giving me beautiful memories.

How to contact Renae:

Twitter:  @renaekkaye

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