Raising sheep was labor intensive because lambing occurred in the spring at the same time we were trying to beat the weather and get a crop of oats in the ground. A number of times, a ewe would not make it through lambing.
When I was seven years old, we had a memorable pair of orphans. The mother ewe didn’t survive the birth. We named the lambs Pat and Mike. Both sported black noses and faces with an entirely white fleece. They were fed with a bottle twice a day. As spring approached, Pat and Mike were put out in the pasture east of the house, along with the cows and horses.
Phillip, Bob, and I would take two bottles of milk, walk down to the pasture, and yell, “Pat, Mike.” The twins would come galloping at full speed, even if they were a quarter mile away. They would guzzle a whole baby bottle of milk. When it was gone, they would push against the bottle in an attempt to get more.
Young lambs had their tails cut off, a process known as docking. Docking aided in cleanliness.
We used rubber rings applied to the tail several days after the lamb came into the world. The process was called banding. The band cuts off the blood supply to the tail, causing the tail to fall off in ten days. Just an inch or two of stub remained. It’s a bloodless and pain-free way of removing the tail.
The “unblemished lamb” came up often in the Masses I attended at St. Patrick’s. As a kid, I thought an unblemished lamb was one that didn’t have any disfiguring marks on it. Later I learned that an unblemished lamb is one that had not been docked, castrated, or had its horns removed. I called that a “lucky” lamb.