Small time town with big time drama.
Eli stopped what he was doing and leaned against the pitchfork to watch when he spotted Cullen topping the ridge. A second later an agitated ewe came into view, and he knew what had happened. They still had a few nursery jugs unoccupied in the barn. But if Cullen kept bringing back every newborn lamb from the pastures, they would need smaller pens, or more of them.
Once Cullen had rode close enough to hear him, Eli gave him a welcoming wave. “Find more babies who need your special touch?”
Cullen’s expression never changed and Eli braced himself for bad news. “What’s wrong?”
“Coyotes. A pair. They were after her lambs.”
Eli took a deep breath then let it out slowly. He considered how to deal with this, then met Cullen’s gaze. “Good job. They’d would have got both babies. You did the right thing bringing her to the house.”
Cullen relaxed. “I didn’t know what to else to do. I figured it would be safest to just bring ‘em out of the pasture.”
Eli lifted the lambs from the saddle and held them out to their mother. She had been running back and forth a few feet away. But when she spotted her offspring, the ewe came to a sudden stop, stepped closer and sniffed each lamb. Eli grinned when she bleated.
“That’s it girl. You follow along, and we’ll get you and your babies in somewhere safe. We’ll protect you from those nasty old coyotes.”
Cullen draped his leg around the saddle horn and laughed at Eli. “You know, baby talking to the sheep it’ll kill your whole macho man routine.”
“Oh shut up. It isn’t like you haven’t talked the same way to the animals. You’d think that horse and you have a thing going,” Eli said.
“Fuck you. Get the mother in the lambing pen before something else happens.”
Cullen snorted when Eli flipped him off before working the very excited ewe into one of the empty enclosures. She fell into the category of ewes who needed more help than he’d normally give. He stood on the edge of darkness marking the entrance to the cavernous barn. He held on to the lambs as the ewe made her displeasure known before plunging into the dark shadow.
Eli laid the twins on the bedding he’d strewn in a deep layer across a lambing crate after it’s last occupant returned to the flock. The ewe plunged past him and checked her offspring to figure out what Eli did to them.
Eli and Cullen waited to see how the reunion went. One of the lamb bounced back in seconds and looked for its food supply. They watched the other, hoping for a comparable response. But it lay sprawled across the bedding while it’s mother nudged it again and again while making sounds of concern. All of which had no effect. Eli motioned toward the tack room in a corner of the barn.
“Grab one of the plastic cups and a bottle. Let’s see if we can get milk into her.”
Cullen nodded and trotted for the equipment Eli’d asked for. A quick minute later, he returned with everything. He climbed over the fence then glanced over to see what instructions Eli had for him.
“Grab her and I’ll try to get a meal for the baby.”
Cullen cornered the ewe and held her tight. Eli knelt beside her and worked out the thick first milk into the cup. It wasn’t a fast done chore either, the ewes Eli ran were not built for hand-milking. But Eli persevered and milked what he thought would be a good amount to get down her.
As Eli moved to ready the bottle, he motioned toward Cullen. “Grab the lamb and lets try to get something into her.”
Cullen lifted the limp form while Eli tried to get the nipple in it’s mouth. They struggled with the lamb for several long minutes and Eli feared they were running out of options. He’d reached the point to consider tubing the newborn, when it swallowed.
“Damn,” Cullen said. “I thought this was going bad.”
As the lamb took a second drink, Eli couldn’t help but smiled. “I was right there with you. But she’s nursing.”
They broke into a soft chuckle as the sounds of furious sucking filled the air around them.
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