There comes a time when lambs may wander, and their moms may forget them, too. Lambs sleep, moms creep, and drift away in their grazing. And so they may end up far apart.
Angel and Betty Bea wake up to find only Cinnamon beside them, nudging them with her nose. They are beside the gate to North Pasture – the lower section accessed by a short path through the woods. On this day, it is slightly ajar.
“Where’s SnoBelle?” asks Cinnamon. “She didn’t go in there, did she?” It is a rule: “Stay with the flock.” If you leave the flock, you will be lost, and to be lost, is a fearsome fate for a young sheep. So they have been told.
(Rule #2 : ) Stick with the flock!
Angel and Betty Bea look around. The flock is grazing further up the fenceline, but SnoBelle is not to be seen. They shrug their shoulders. “We don’t know.” But one thing they do know, if SnoBelle found an open gate, she wouldn’t think twice about exploring the other side. And it was a constant decision in their young lives — determining what rule applied to what occasion, if SnoBelle would ignore it, and if they should follow her. SnoBelle turns everything into a game. Play with this, explore that, leap and gambol through the air! But she doesn’t usually go off by herself. Where is SnoBelle?
* * * * *
The cote, their shed at the lower end of the fenceline, is built from large, wooden triangles, all pitched together with a peaked roof. Perched on the edge of the pasture, the earth slopes down to the woods allowing the rains to drain away. That’s a rule, too. Shady and cool in summer; it’s open on all sides with slatted railings to let the breezes in. Deep green grapevines trail through the openings and climb high to the roof where their leaves can’t be eaten. So it screens an emerald light to the space below. Cool and restful.
On this morning, the cote is alive with activity. Something else is going on up there. The lambs can hear their moms, calling. Calling loud. Not for the lambs, but for breakfast. Food! It’s one of those rules they don’t like to be broken. But where is SnoBelle? A hungry lamb would be calling, too. On this morning, she is nowhere in sight.
Near the cote, the sun arcs high above the trees, higher and higher, but no breakfast arrives. Dixie Belle, Sprinkles, Aunt Paisley, Gramma Filene, and Bambi, too, patiently wait, tentatively call, then begin an all-out shouting match at the upper gate. “Baa! BAA! BAAAH!” “BAAAAH!!!” Other ewes in the flock join in, resounding in a roar of baa’ing voices.
( Rule #1: ) Eat food. A lot! Always!
Further down the fenceline, the lambs drift away from the flock, searching for SnoBelle. Where is she? It’s a rule — stick together. “We are a flock,” says Cinnamon. “We should be with her.”
”We are friends,” says Angel. “It’s not fair.”
* * * * *
Where is SnoBelle? Back at the woods gate, the other lambs start a search. If she has found the open gate, what would she do? Well, no question there. Cinnamon, Angel and Betty Bea slide through the opening, as SnoBelle has done earlier, leaving the bright, verdant green meadows behind and silently step into the deepened green of the woods. They tread lightly down the path, and soon, in a damp, dark section, they see hoofprints. Large ones, Bambi’s, heading back to South Pasture. And small ones, like their own, heading forward to North Pasture. Baaah! SnoBelle was here. But where is she now? “SnoBelle!” they call.
Suddenly they hear running. Pounding hooves, small ones, and through the trees ahead, there she is, rounding the bend in the path. “SnoBelle!” cries Angel. “SnoBELLE!” cries Cinnamon.
SnoBelle plants her hooves and slides to a stop. “I found Greeeennn!,” SnoBelle cries.
”Green!” the others gasp. “But why didn’t you show us? We should stick together.”
SnoBelle hadn’t thought to tell them. When she first found the gate open, she only wanted to explore. And if a rule doesn’t suit her, she ignores it. Is that a mistake?
Just then their mothers’ calls loudly reach their ears.
”I hear Maa calling,” says Betty Bea.
“She doesn’t sound too happy,” frowns Angel.
Without a clue why the others were calling, they turn and leap and gambol back to the gate. Way ahead up South Pasture, they see the flock grazing. Still shrilly baaing and complaining. The lambs run ahead to join them, silently mixing in with the flock. No one knew they’d been gone.