Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Snowball the Orphan Lamb

William Franklin Andrews

To those of you who have ever fallen in love with an animal of some kind to have to lose it later and feel the sadness that comes with this loss –

I first found Snowball in a snowy, frozen pasture, although he had no name at the time, in the dead of winter where his mother had deserted him as mother sheep were prone to do on occasion. He was almost dead. At first I thought he was completely frozen to death, but upon picking him up I noticed just a bit of movement. I rushed home with him tucked safely under my thin coat. Upon reaching the warmth of the fire in the living room, Snowball had begun to respond to the heat of my body. I quickly warmed some milk and started dipping my fingers and putting them to the lamb’s mouth. His tiny pink tongue responded and within a couple of hours Snowball had gained strength enough to stand on his little wobbly legs.

From this time on Snowball and I were inseparable. On some occasions I even sneaked him to bed with me where we both slept cozily together under lots of cover.

As spring came to our farm that year, Snowball had to leave the warm confines of the house and go live in the yard. I fed him several times a day with a nipple on a bottle. It was no trouble to find him. All I had to do was walk into the yard and start yelling “lammie, lammie,” and he would burst out of hiding with such enthusiasm that at times he would almost knock me off my feet. Snowball grew and grew and began to eat from the green grass that grew profusely in our yard.

To this time no one had ever questioned my ownership of Snowball. After all he was only an orphan that at first would never live so it was just fine if I wanted to waste my time on him – just so long as all my other chores were completed on time. But with Snowball’s response to my loving care and affection, he now became endangered daily with leaving the farm with the other crop of spring lambs. I tried to tell Snowball to stop getting so fat. All the running and kicking up heels he did would not stop his growth. Soon it became obvious that some plan would have to be devised to hide him from the “bad master” of our farm who would surely see him and suggest a “ride” to the market.

I was successful only for a little while.

One day as Snowball was gleefully playing in the yard, the farm master came to see Grandpa on some other business. Upon seeing this robust lamb he asked, “Mr. Sullivan, what is the meaning of this? Have you stolen one of my lambs?”

“No,” replied Grandpa. “This little feller was orphaned at birth by his mother and my grandson raised him on a bottle.”

“Well,” said the farm master, “he should be ready for the market along with the others I came to talk to you about. I’ll have a truck here in a few days. What do you say we split the money on this one?”

Grandpa was afraid to say “Well, this lamb would have died without being discovered by my grandson. Why can’t we just keep him here as a pet?”

Grandpa tried very hard to tell me in an easy way that Snowball would have to go to market. Nothing he could say would ease the pain of our coming separation. Bitter tears could not erase the knowledge that my bouncing inseparable friend would soon be lamb chops on someone’s dinner table.

Throughout the next several days I fed and watered Snowball, taking great pains to keep him happy. I brushed his wool, polished his small black hooves, and loved him daily.

That terrible, fateful day arrived sooner than I thought possible! A large green truck with a great frame bed rolled into the farmyard and at once I knew that Snowball was leaving me. Time will never erase the memory I have of two mournful, brown eyes staring from beneath two slats on that truck and begging, bleatingly for one last bottle of milk from the hand that had once saved him from certain death.

Perhaps death from the cold would have been more merciful.


William Franklin Andrews, lifelong poet, was raised by sharecropper grandparents on a farm in Williamson County, Tennessee. His first book of poems and short stories, From Humble Beginnings: Songs of a Native Son, in which "Snowball the Orphan Lamb" originally appeared, was published by Chronic Discontent Books in 2005. Andrews is vice president of Andrews Appraisal Service, Inc. in Franklin, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife Carolyn.

© William Franklin Andrews

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012