Daddy showed us all a thing or two about soothing frazzled farm animals.
My father always said I just didn’t apply myself. I did, just not how he wanted. We were dirt poor, so Daddy probably didn’t apply himself either—at least not the way Momma wanted. The Gritstones, a mighty family, lived behind the church and had a sheep pen in the rear with six or seven head. Now, older folks might see the Gritstones’ laundry on a line and think nothing of it. Young folks are different. I saw the clothes hanging there and the sheep resting comfortably nearby, and I thought it would be awful funny to see those sheep dressed for church. If that isn’t applying myself, then I don’t know what is. What happened? Well, everybody said it was a good one, and I figured I’d ride it for some time. Even Daddy said it wasn’t a bad joke, only ornery. Mr. Gritstone didn’t laugh, though. Was he angry! “Did you know that sheep’s mental health affects the quality of their wool?” he asked. I didn’t, until Mr. Gritstone explained it to me after church. “Do you know how much this will cost me?” he hollered at me. I shook my head, pretty scared. “Happy sheep produce warm wool,” he said. “Frazzled, worried sheep produce inferior wool. I don’t need to explain the consequence.” Actually, he did, and I told him so. “For every frazzled sheep, a little orphan girl will have cold fingers and a little boy will have a cold head,” Mr. Gritstone said. “This is unacceptable. Your father will pay for your actions.” Well, my folks hardly had money to fill the dinner plates, much less pay for frazzled livestock. That night, Daddy visited the pen to see if he could soothe the sheep. Now, Daddy played the folk harp almost all day—he never worked. He figured music would do the trick to calm the sheep, so he sang and played to them most of the night. And not only did the sheep recover, but they thrived. Mr. Gritstone said he woke the next morning to laughing baas. Come shearing, he never had such quality wool. Daddy was lazy, but he realized he had a gift. He hung out his shingle as a “livestock therapist,” playing that harp for all kinds of stock, even ducks and geese. And for as long as he lived, folks never heard a sad moo, a despondent neigh or a melancholy quack, and Daddy was getting paid to do what he’d always done for nothing. You see, in the end it was Daddy who learned to apply himself. Me? I’d been doing it all along.