In last week's column I mentioned that sheep can sometimes come across as surprisingly sinister, and I ended up taking a little heat for that comment. Sheep? REALLY?! So now I feel compelled to explain myself.
On the fourth day of the Great Walk Across England, my friends and I found ourselves completely alone on a windy isolated moor dotted by 1,000 sheep. Everywhere you looked, you could see sheep. Sheep here. Sheep there. Vats of sheep. Layer cakes of sheep. Big old gift baskets of sheep. Sheep, sheep, sheep.
To paraphrase that Stealers Wheel song, there were sheep to the left of us, sheep to the right. There we were stuck in the middle of sheep.
Of course, we were well acquainted with sheep by then. Northern England is a highly sheep-intensive region of the planet, and we'd already spent three days slogging through muddy pastures where the sheep behaved exactly the way you'd expect sheep to behave. Even though we came in peace and wanted to "friend" them on Facebook, as soon as we'd approach, the sheep would get all nervous and go, "DON'T EAT US! DON'T EAT US!" Then they'd scamper out of our way, bumping into each other like they were the Three Stooges.
And we'd stand there, watching them while shaking our heads, because seriously sheep are just so stupid.
But those sheep on the windy, isolated moor? Those sheep were a breed apart. Those sheep were NOT afraid of us. Not one little bit. They didn't run for cover when we approached.
Instead, they just stood there, insolently blocking our path, regarding us with bright yellow eyeballs.
Did you catch that part?
Bright. Yellow. Eyeballs.
Bright. Yellow. Stephen King creature-type. Eyeballs.
One sheep in particular was superintimidating. It's almost like he was saying, "Yeah, everybody thinks sheep are so meek and so mild, like we're not capable of going rogue. Well, guess what. EVERYBODY IS WRONG, because me and my homeboys here? We're bad to the bone."
By this time, the wooden markers telling us which direction to head were few and far between. In fact, I was truly worried that we'd taken a wrong turn somewhere and that we were going to be lost for good just like the Roman Ninth Legion, in which case Hollywood would one day make a movie about us starring that kid who played Billy Elliot, as well as Channing Tatum, who (it must be said) looks way better in a toga than I do. So at least there was that to be happy about.
I was also worried that the alpha sheep mocking me with his scary yellow eyeballs could smell my fear with his scary sheep nostrils, because animals can do that smell the fear dripping off of you like cheap cologne.
It's almost as though he was saying, "Take a look around you, Sister. There are no other humans in these parts for miles and miles. We could totally take you right here, right now. No one would ever know. And no one would ever suspect â¦ THE SHEEP."
(AUTHOR'S NOTE: The sheep was saying this in a British accent, btw, which was awesome.)
Anyway. After accepting a substantial bribe, the sheep finally let us pass, although he continued to hoot his derision at us, as well as insult our mothers. I made it to the end of Hadrian's Wall, however, and lived to tell. Which I just did.
And now that I have, I will never speak of the Sinister Sheep Episode ever again.
Ann Cannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/anncannontrib.