There are sheep everywhere in Skye; the United Kingdom has over 33 million of them, the eighth largest stock of any country in the world. Scotland’s Freedom to Roam Law is a beautiful thing, and it was likely inspired by these damn puffy bastards, who are aground across the country, from the lush green hillocks to the wet mountainous valleys, and especially in what I imagined was the heather, the huge open swathes of hillside painted various shades of auburn. Farmers let their sheep roam free of shepherding and mostly free of fences; you see them on the wrong side of the fenceposts everywhere, in fact. The law says farmers must shear them once a year, though our guide told us that in years when the price of wool dips you’ll see many with afros. The average Scottish sheep weighs between 100 to 300 pounds, lives ten to twelve years, breeds seasonally and, somewhere inside its stupid, thick skull, thinks it’s an absolutely magnificent creature, even though its noise is called a bleat and it shits its little miniature droppings all over the place. This is because, in Scotland, it has no natural predators. Except for us sheep chasers.
I chased after them whenever I could. Seeing them there ruminating on the nothingness of their lives, which involves the aforementioned shitting wherever they want, eating grass and roaming the countryside, with occasional stints blocking country roads and refusing to move until all sheep have agreed to the decision using Robert’s Rules of Order, induced a fever in my brain, and planted a firm resolution in my mind to unsettle the bastards. By chasing madly after them. There was no logic behind it.
“Who’s better off, sheep?” I asked, often aloud. We humans get HD TVs and aged sirloins rubbed with coffee grounds. And yet I still felt the need to chase them, because every time I looked into ones’ eyes I could see he was feeling superior. Possibly because of his wool output per year, which is likely larger than mine.
Cow tipping has a mystical quality and is physically possible. Sheep catching is done only by dogs that have adrenaline glands the size of baseballs.
We sheep chasers quickly learn a universal truth: you cannot catch a sheep. (The exception to this rule is sick bastards who have other intentions when they chase sheep, and who, our guide told us, use velcro kneepads to accomplish their horrible ends.) Sheep chasing is the odious cousin to cow tipping. Cow tipping has a mystical quality and is physically possible. Sheep catching is done only by dogs that have adrenaline glands the size of baseballs. You might think you are better than a sheep in many ways, but one thing will be proven to you if you chase one: you will never catch him.
Which is why you’ll chase them, like I did. They’re maddening. There I was, swaddled in heavy Gore Tex and breathable rainproof shells, miserable, the outdoor sections of the trip ruined by the last gasp of Hurricane Gonzalo, that Caribbean-bred twit. There the sheep were, flocked far as the eye could see, no shelter in sight. They didn’t need it. They looked so damn contented, save for one sad one we saw huddled under a rock ledge. I felt bad for him; he brought a shade of humanity to the game, but he didn’t lessen my zealotry, not for long at least.
So I chased them to try to ruin their contentedness. And chased and chased and chased. And never once did I come anywhere close to grabbing the bastards by their smelly, oily fur. Nothing worked: outright chase, ambush from rocky crags below, crawling on my belly like a marine sniper, headlong rushes toward the cliffs. And so the sheep proved themselves superior, and I got over it and convinced myself I was bored when really I was just inferior. “Go to hell, you wool-factory roughshod bahhh-billies”, I’d yell. They’d stare at me like they didn’t understand.
In Edinburgh, I had my revenge: I ignored the wool and splurged on an expensive cashmere scarf, even though I couldn’t afford it, and a goat once headbutted me in the stomach when I was a child.