the Orphan Lamb
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 lambs
mouth. His tiny pink tongue responded and within a couple of hours
Snowball had gained strength enough to stand on his little wobbly
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 Snowballs 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
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?
replied Grandpa. This little feller was orphaned at birth
by his mother and my grandson raised him on a bottle.
said the farm master, he should be ready for the market
along with the others I came to talk to you about. Ill 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 cant 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 someones 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
Perhaps death from the cold would have been more merciful.
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