You Never Asked
YOU NEVER ASKED
I have intentionally saved this story for last, as it is really more of a confession than a story.
For as long as I can remember my mum has been friends with Karen. She’s really more like family than a friend and I still refer to her as Aunty Karen. Her children have always been more like cousins to me. Karen and her family have been a part of every major family event we have had and vice versa.
I used to spend a lot of time at Karen’s house when I was younger. She was my babysitter throughout my childhood until we moved away to Kalgoorlie. Her house was always busy and filled with laughing children. I’m sure she was the Mother Hen of her entire neighbourhood.
I loved going to Karen’s house. It was everything that our house wasn’t. It was busy and noisy with a huge back yard that consisted of an old run down chook pen that was no longer used, an old work shed, an empty bird aviary and a run down garden shed. There were large overgrown trees that were perfect for climbing and a large vine that had overgrown the back shed covered in delicious little red and black berries that had large thorns, which left our clothes shredded and stained. It was the best place to go exploring, play hide-and-seek and just be a kid.
Due to the double lounge room and massive back yard that kept the kids occupied, Karen’s house was often the local meeting place, where get togethers were hosted. Christmas, New Year, Easter and Birthdays were almost always celebrated there.
I have many many stories of interesting and exciting times at Karen’s house and this book would not be complete without at least one of them.
All I remember about this particular event is that it was a BBQ and that it was someone’s 30th Birthday, but I can’t remember who’s it was.
I do remember that the person who was celebrating their birthday had come to Australia from New Zealand and as a joke, the adults had banded together and purchased a sheep, which they had sneakily left in the back yard without warning. It had been the highlight of the evening and was the main topic of conversation.
Everyone thought it was hilarious, watching the sheep work its way around the large overgrown back yard, with a bunch of curious children trailed behind it. We all wanted to touch it and feel it’s woollen coat, which was surprisingly wiry. We had all expected it to be soft and fluffy.
There was a loud roar of laughter from the barbecue area, and the adults were all calling the sheep Lamb Chops. This confused me at first, because I knew what lamb chops were and I knew they were a food. I couldn’t understand how a pet would be named after a food. I had no idea at the time that meat came from animals and to me they were two very different things.
Eventually the evening died down and the barbecue was packed away. Most of the guests had left, leaving Karen, my mum and a couple of other adults sitting in the kitchen listening to the radio and talking, while the few of us kids who remained laid on mattresses spread out in the lounge room watching cartoons.
As I wasn’t able to watch television (as it made me feel unwell, due to my epilepsy), I lay on the mattress closest to the kitchen and listened in on the adults’ conversations. They were laughing about the sheep they had named Lamb Chops and joked about how good she would taste on the barbecue. I was absolutely horrified.
I had to save her.
I quietly snuck out of the lounge room and made my way to the back yard to find Lamb Chops. I spent some time talking to her in a whisper, before coaxing her around the side of the house, where I opened the large wooden gate and encouraged her to escape. I closed the gate behind her as quietly as I could, so the adults wouldn’t hear it, then crept back into the house.
Most of the kids were drifting off to sleep by then and barely even noticed me crawling back onto my corner of the mattress.
A while later the adults’ loud laughter woke me up. They had turned up the radio and were all hovering over the little black box, listening to the voices. It sounded distorted and I couldn’t make out what was being said.
Karen and my mum raced out into the back yard, followed by a few of the other adults. They were all calling for Lamb Chops as they raced about the yard in search of their sheep. I hid behind the door and watched them in silence.
Karen came racing back inside and grabbed the phone to dial a number. By this time curiosity had got the better of me and I was snuggled in mum’s arms watching the events unfold.
“Yeah hi, I’m calling about the sheep that’s running down highway,” Karen giggled. “Yeah, it’s ours.”
The adults all roared with laughter. By this time most of the other kids had woken up as well and we were all asking what was going on.
We were told that somehow the sheep had gotten out of the yard and had managed to get to the highway (which was a few kilometres away) and it was running down the highway. It had caused a major traffic jam, police had been called and it had hit the news.
Not long after, a police car pulled into the driveway with its lights flashing. We all went out the front and watched the two police officers struggling to get the sheep out of the back of the van, whilst arguing about who’s turn it was to clean the car when they got back to the precinct.
I watched in silence as they all worked together to put the sheep back in the yard and lock it in the chook shed up the back. In all fairness, my silence should have been enough to raise suspicion, but I guess they were all too pre-occupied and figured I was just tired.
I had a solid reputation for being honest back then and adults often asked me questions about such events, because they all knew that even if I did something wrong, if I was asked, I would admit to it. I could feel the panic rising within me, waiting for the questions that would ultimately have me found out, but they never came.
“Maybe it jumped the fence?”
“Nah, there must be a gap somewhere, coz I wouldn’t think it would jump that high”
“Smartest damn sheep I ever seen”
Mum eyed me suspiciously for a moment, but she never asked me if I knew anything.
Luckily, it turned out that Lamb Chops was just a pet and later she was sent to a friend’s place, who lived on a farm and she became their living lawn mower. Thankfully, she was never cooked on the barbecue. We visited her a couple of times, but I always tried not to look too interested in her, to prevent suspicion.
And it worked… until now at least.
I know I never came forward to resolve the speculations surrounding Lamb Chops’ escape, but in all fairness…
You never asked!!!
This story marked a life changing lesson for me. It was my first realisation that food actually came from real living creatures. It also sparked my first attempt at Vegetarianism (but that is a story for another day). This was a horrible discovery for me and I felt a sudden urge to rescue all animals – beginning with my little friend that they had shockingly named Lamb Chops.
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