“Girls, look what I found!” Peter, ten, a year older than me, called from the stair landing.
Page, six, Pam, five, and I looked up from playing dolls in Page and Pam’s room. Our jaws dropped when we saw what he was carrying.
He lowered the little lamb to the floor.
Dolls forgotten, we scrambled over and surrounded it with our “Ohs” and “Ahs.”
“It’s so soft and cute!” Its wool cottony beneath my hands, its round eyes peered shyly up at us.
“And what sweet eyes!” Page said. “Has Mommy seen it?”
“No, I didn’t see her when I came inside.” Peter lifted the lamb back up. “Let’s go find her.”
We clambered after him down the stairs to the kitchen.
Mom, coming in from the mudroom, stopped short when she saw us.
“See what Peter found!”
“Isn’t it cute?”
“I’m naming it Lambchops!” Peter announced.
“It’s darling, but children, you can’t keep it. We’ll have to find out who owns it and return it.”
The next day, we could tell by Mom’s somber look that something was wrong.
“I found out who owns Lambchops,” she said. “It’s Mike’s Diner.”
Mike’s was a Greek restaurant on Lee Highway, the main road that Pageland Lane crossed.
“Are they going to eat him?” I asked.
“Yes, I’m afraid so. Mike bought him special for Easter dinner.”
“Oh no, no, no!” We girls wailed.
Peter joined in with a louder “NO!”
“I’ll go to Mike’s and talk to him,” Mom said. Dad was away piloting a flight.
We piled into the station wagon. With two-year-old Sally beside me, I held one-year-old Laurie up front. In the back, Page and Pam sat beside Peter, Lambchops on his lap.
Mom drove the tearful lot of us to Mike’s Diner.
“You stay here while I go in and talk to Mike.” She parked the car.
“Let’s say a prayer.” My eyes followed her approach the diner.
“Humph!” Peter scoffed.
“Dear Lord, please don’t let Mike kill our little Lambchops for Easter dinner. We promise to be good if only you save him. Amen.”
“Amen,” Page and Pam repeated.
Fifteen minutes passed.
“Why is it taking so long?” Peter had just finished asking when the restaurant door opened and Mom walked out.
“Kids, Lambchops is ours!” She got into the car. “Mike sold him to us.”
“Yay!” Mom was our hero. “Mommy, thank you! Thank you!”
“He can’t stay in the house, though. You’ll need to show him to the dogs. If they don’t get along with him, we’ll have to keep him in a pen.”
Bo and Mandy, Dad’s English pointers, were quick to greet us when we parked and got out of the car. When Peter lowered Lambchops in front of them, they stood still and looked for a moment. Then they turned away as if to say, “What stupid creature did these kids drag in now!” their scorn palpable.
“Baa!” Lambchops butted his head against Mandy.
She chased him away, but, undaunted, he came back with another “Baa” and butted Bo.
“G-r-r-r-r!” Bo’s stern growl didn’t faze him.
“Baa!” Lambchops, innocent eyes on Bo, just stood there.
“Come here, Mandy.” Peter patted Lambchops. “See, a new friend for you.”
As Mandy went behind Lambchops and sniffed under his tail, we held our breath. Then she licked him. When her tail wagged, we let out a group sigh.
“Mandy likes him!” Pam said.
“Come here, Bo.” Petting Lambchops with his right hand, Peter gestured to Bo with his left.
Bo started towards him.
“Baa!” To Bo’s ears, it probably sounded like an alien from another planet. He paused and looked up at Peter, his brows lifted together in a doggy question mark, then turned away.
Through his patience and instinctual understanding of animals, Peter soon brought Bo around. After Bo performed the ritual sniffing, licking, and tail wagging, we knew Lambchops passed the test.
“Look, kids!” A few weeks later, Mom pointed towards the road as a car came over the hill. “Lambchops is with the dogs chasing the car!”
“Ruff!” “Ruff!” “Baa!” Lambchops trotted behind, his plaintive baa’s a counterpoint to the dogs’ barks.
“He thinks he’s a dog!” Peter laughed.
The rest of us joined in, laughing hard and holding our sides.
Dad had tried to break the dogs’ habit of barking at and chasing every car that came up our road, but they refused to give up their favorite sport. From that day on, Lambchops joined them on their chases.
By the next summer, our once adorable, little lamb was a big sheep with a mangled, dirty coat, reeking of sweat in the heat. To get him shorn, Mom drove to a shearer in the mountains an hour and a half away, all of us and Lambchops in tow.
At the shearer’s shed, Lambchops froze beneath the shears while we muttered useless words of encouragement. The worst was how petrified he looked when the shearer turned him on his back to get at his belly.
We watched as the last long sheet of dirty wool fell off. In all, it took barely a minute.
His trial over, Lambchops stood up and let out a happy “Baa!”
“He’ll be much more comfortable now.” Mom was glad she’d made the trip.
“But he looks so skinny!” We petted him.
“And naked!” Page put in.
“It’s time for Lambchops to be with his own kind,” Mom announced the following spring. “I’m taking him to Bob Alvey’s sheep farm.”
Not as attached to him after he got so big, none of us objected.
Mom drove us and Lambchops to a pasture on the Alvey farm where we met Bob with his flock. Peter and I maneuvered a recalcitrant Lambchops out of the back seat of the station wagon.
He looked around as if bewildered at the mass of strange, wooly creatures.
“Nope, not for me!” I could imagine him thinking as he turned in scorn and clomped away.
Then a single “Baa” rang out louder than the rest. Turning toward the sound, Lambchops spied a pretty ewe. Without a backward glance at us, he followed her and disappeared into the flock.
© pending publication in 2021 or 2022 in Pageland by Leona Patrick