From woolly sheep and bucolic farm life to criminal charges and gag orders.
I look around some days and wonder how I got here from there.
BY MONTANA JONES
After a court date in March, I commented to my son on how the average murder trial would rarely amount to ten thousand pages of disclosure, yet the government’s sheepnapping case will be well over that number.
“This IS a murder trial,” he said. “A mass murder.”
He’s referring to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) killing my rare, very healthy heritage Shropshire sheep. They’ve murdered over a hundred Shrops in the last couple of years. Little lambs, rams, pregnant ewes, and their unborn. All were beautiful, and all were meant to live out their beautiful lives.
I can thank my U.K. family for getting me started in heritage sheep. This would surprise Ralph and Jan and their clan, since they are steadfast Londoners, with nary a farm animal in sight. They’ve never even had a pet rock.
In the mid ’90s, I flew over with my then teenage son for a month-long road-trip adventure with my uncle, aunt and cousins to trace our familial roots to my dad’s boyhood home in Troon, Scotland. En route we drove up through Shrewsbury and the Yorkshire Dales, in England, where my uncle proved most patient with my recurring requests to stop and let me out. I wanted to take photos every time I spotted the Kerry Hills, Cluns, Swaledales and Lonks. Not only does Great Britain have the largest variety of sheep breeds, they have the coolest names, too.
I had fallen hard for the Shropshire, a heritage breed whose origins date back to the 17th century, but specimens with true breed character were on the endangered list and hard to find back in Canada.
Dr. Tom Hutchinson, past president and director of Rare Breeds Canada, had a few rare Miller-line Shropshire ewes, which I purchased. He told me that Hugh Miller had turned the last of his famous flock over to his friend George Kelsey, another veteran Ontario Shropshire breeder. I visited George and Grace Kelsey and found both tragic and wonderful news. I was too late. All of the remaining Miller ewes had succumbed to local coyotes. “But,” George said, “there is one ol’ boy still left; he’s running with the cows, but you can’t get near him. He’s kind of wild, and he’s probably too old to do much good now anyway.” A visit to the barnyard found a single woolly sheep lying contentedly among the ruminating Herefords. He had been clever enough or lucky enough to survive the coyote raids by centering himself in the middle of the cattle.
Miller and his genetic gold went on to become the foundation ram for my Wholearth Shropshire flock.
Beneath the tangled locks that hadn’t been shorn in years was a long, sturdy, muscular body, a deep chest and impressive wide loin, shorter legs and neck, and the wool-covered ears of the old heritage-style Shropshires.
Not only did Miller have impressive presence, he turned into quite a loveable friend, as well as producer of exceptional progeny….”