Your Sheep

You’d complain when I hugged you

straight in from the field

and shedding your waterproofs

darkened with rain

the water still dripping from your hair

and your nose red and bright

as you hunted for a hankie

somewhere in the multitude of pockets

stuffed with bits of bailer twine,

pocket knife, pens and ear tag numbers.


‘I smell like sheep,’ you’d complain,

and you did.

Heavy and clinging

it had a way of hanging on like another layer

sinking into the skin until it engrained

after too many long days moving livestock

field to field

Foot trimmer, lamber, fleece folder,

that amount of work should have seemed insane.

To me it did

and I think you saw it too, still see it

but love it too much for anything else.


We went drawing lambs at Colehurst,

me knee deep in sheep

while you sorted them at the top

swearing at them for being difficult

but telling me you ‘bloody loved your sheep’.

Your sheep,

not dads, not ours, god knows not mine.

They were your sheep

that left my hands sticky with Lanolin

and thinking of the kitchen in Spring

warm and inviting

as you came in from the rain.




This piece turned out a lot longer than I expected to. The prompt was to write a piece using the theme of a smell that brought up the memory of something. To be honest there were a few memories I could have picked and a few scents that I could have used, but the strongest connect I’ve discovered is that the smell of sheep always reminds me of my mother. Anyone who has lived with a sheep farmer knows that the smell gets into everything and while it isn’t the most pleasant of smells, for me it’s incredibly comforting. It’s the smell of home.


  1. I admire the focus on the smell of sheep & how it evoked these memories for you ~ As a city girl, I don’t know how this smells but I can imagine it sticking like oil or smell of sun, when such smells are too ingrained in the skin ~ Thanks for the share ~


  2. The smell of cooking mutton still haunts me, as does the taste; never liked it; even a rack of lamb still has a tinge of muskiness that turns my stomach into flip-flops. I liked this piece a lot, reading it several times, not sure at first who the protagonist is/was. A tremendous sense of place is instilled, & makes me see Montana sheepmen who love each other more than their sheep (ala BROKEN MOUNTAIN). A sheep raising family make positive vibes out of musky ions, like a fisherman’s hut & brood. Your Mum sounds like a class dame. I liked your lines /somewhere in the multitude of poets/stuffed with bits of bailer twine/ pocket knife, pens & ear tag numbers/.


  3. I am so glad you wrote about the smell of sheep – so real. I have a sheepskin rug, and in a way I can empathize here….it has its own scent, not bad – just sheepy. Smiles. It is warm and inviting, despite its strongish odor. I compare it to the smell of a wet dog (I have 3), and I wouldn’t trade the smell for anything.


  4. This is a beautiful portrait of real love… And though I don’t know that smell, you made me feel that I’d experienced it just the same. A very special memory.


  5. I feel the warmth in this poem, but I can also feel, taste, and picture the images you create. Tis wonderful.


  6. Wonderful subject, sheep…distinct memories from a place in time…details only you would know that took us right there with you. Thanks for sharing.


  7. I’m glad for your explanation after your poem of who the person was who loved “their” sheep. I was surprised when you said your mother. I had just assumed it would have been a man. But what do I know about sheep farming? 🙂 I’m happy to hear that she was so happy and content with “her” sheep. Thanks for a really endearing write. I thoroughly enjoyed it.


  8. The smell of sheep, like it lingers in the fields, in homemade sweaters and in everything… I can really understand how it takes you back into that kitchen with you mom. Great writing that took me there.


  9. I think I know that smell – my ancestors were shepherds and although I never knew my great-uncles who still kept huge sheep herds, there were always some sheep around in my childhood when I went to the countryside. I like the way you emphasise ‘your sheep’, the gentle humour in it, and that first stanza – the precision of the description of coming into the warmth and the contents of the pockets. A detailed, very concrete and relatable write.


  10. I could smell the damp wool and smiled at “me knee deep in sheep” and “bloody loved your sheep”! Married to a farmer myself, I can attest that hogs stink but cattle smell… like home 🙂


  11. and your nose red and bright

    as you hunted for a hankie

    Hahahaha……..,.these lines best describe my current condition. Ooops, that bad wicked cold! This is real, I can easily relate to it. Awesome, worth reading.


    1. Thank you very much. I hope you’re feeling a bit better, I’ve just come off the tail end of a cold so I’m well aware of how horrid they can leave you feeling. Runny noses always seem to take ages to clear up as well. The best tip I’ve picked up is balsam tissues. There’s a bit more pricey but your nose doesn’t end up rubbed raw.


      1. I see…I love this part; “There’s a bit more pricey but your nose doesn’t end up rubbed raw”. Well, I’m far better now but will try your tip on “balsam tissues” if it does hit me again, which I can be sure of but definitely not now. Thanks for passing by.


  12. Pretty amazing. I only know a bit about sheep. My family from Wales where I have visited a few times.
    But more importantly, I now know this man — or your love for the extraordinary ordinariness (with giggles and foibles and strength) of this man.
    Well penned.


    1. Thank you. Though it was actually about my mother, but you’re not the only one to assume it was about a guy.
      Wales is a beautiful country, I grew up five miles from the border so most of my childhood was spent skipping back and forth across the border.


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