Last night Teach brought home a Redbox movie for my sweetie. I knew it was definitely for him when I read a little about it online. It was called Unstoppable, and it was the story of a runaway train. I hate trains! I know this seems a bit irrational, but I do have a story to tell. I’ve mentioned before that my dad had a farm. Now on that farm he had some sheep….E.I.E.I.O…no wait, wrong story.
But we did have some sheep, about 75 head that we kept on a regular basis. That meant lambing season and shearing season and yes, we hauled hay and everything! But in the summer Dad didn’t want to feed the sheep the expensive hay, so we would have to take the sheep out and let them graze on the roadways. This was a small town, so we could usually keep them pretty contained as long as we had a kid at each end to keep them from running away. The funny thing about sheep…they are completely content to just stand around until some upstart decides it’s time to run. Then they are unstoppable!
I come from the archaic era when we still had trains and tracks that ran through all of the small towns in Utah. My brothers loved to put pennies on the track and then they were perfectly fine to stand six feet away from that dangerous enormous rolling freight train while it crushed those poor little Lincolns flatter than pancakes. The tracks ran one block west of our house and the trains came through twice a day. They blew their whistles at every intersection all the way through town, so we knew when they were coming and I could get as far away as possible.
One morning we were tending the sheep while they calmly ate grass about half a block away from the tracks. I was about 9 and my younger sister was about 7, so naturally I was in charge. The sheep were supposed to stay away from the tracks and by no means were they to get in between the tracks and the fence which was an area about 15 feet across. If they got in that particular space, the odds were high that at least one sheep and maybe more would run into the path of the on-coming train and be killed.
We heard the first train whistle and jumped to our feet. It was time to move the sheep away from the tracks and further down the street. We had six whistles before the train would be upon us. As we started hustling the sheep east along the road, that one rebel sheep turned toward the tracks. I guess she saw a clump of grass there she just couldn’t resist. When we tried to stop her, she started running faster. Soon the other sheep caught wind of the revolt and took off after her. We screamed and ran and chased, but what could two little girls do with 75 stampeding sheep? Then our greatest fears were confirmed. The sheep were crowding themselves in between the tracks and the fence.
We had counted four whistles and there was no time to try to move the stubborn sheep to safer ground. As the tears streamed down our faces, I grabbed my little sister’s hand and ran toward the dry irrigation ditch. We jumped down inside, bowed our faces into the soft dirt, and covered our hands with our ears. Whistle number six burned through our fingers and into our brains. Two little girls sent fervent pleas to Heavenly Father for themselves and the sheep. If any of them were killed we didn’t even want to contemplate the punishment Dad might deliver.
We huddled there for a full two minutes until we heard the seventh and final whistle as the train picked up speed on its way out of town. We were terrified at what we might find. Finally we climbed out of the ditch and started inspecting the sheep. They stood lazily grazing as they spread over the tracks and onto the street. Not a single sheep had been injured. We fell to our knees again and offered a simple prayer of thanks. Then we moved those rotten sheep back to the shady lane and that’s where Dad found us several hours later and none the wiser.