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In the thick of it

Posted 7/15/2008 9:22pm by Catskill Merino.
Immediately after drenching the sheep with an anthelmintic to kill internal parasites using a drench gun that consists of a back pack and a spring loaded hand piece that refills automatically between sheep, we mark each sheep on the head with a paint stick to indicate that it has been drenched.  To drench the sheep, 20-30 head are gathered closely in a pen; I go from mouth to mouth, inserting the nozzle of the gun to dose the sheep with the dewormer, while Dominique marks heads. When all heads in the pen have a mark, we let them go and gather up another group. 
Phillips Drench Gun
The Phillips Drench Gun 
Last year, needing a new drench gun and trying to save money, I ordered a unit that was less than the industry standard made by Phillips, pictured above and available from Premier.  Monday, the new hand piece began to leak after we'd  rounded up the ewe flock on the one day of the week that Dominique gives up to help me with the sheep; and I didn't have another drench gun, nor did I have another Dominique.  I was tired and it was hot and I was loud; and in manners of speaking, I had a whitlow of being coming from a myriad of other misfortunes, real and imagined.  I felt like Jabez Stone* who becomes "sick of the whole business," and like him, I was ready to sell my soul to the Devil.
But deep from the wormy bellies of the sheep, the Devil laughed out loud at me saying he wasn't interested in my cheap old soul at any price—there was no way out for me, not even a Faustian one—fuming, I went back to the shepherd's room and cobbled together a new drench gun out of old and disparate parts; then cussing the Devil too, I put my head down and began to drench the sheep. 
Cuss on...you're having a bad day when even the Devil won't have you. 
The work lasted 11 hours, but when we finished it felt good to have treated the sheep, particularly the smaller lambs who were beginning to look anemic.  Sheep must be cared for as their needs be—that's the rule around here, whether we be devil-may-care or not.
Ewes in high grass

The day after drenching, the sheep should be moved to a fresh paddock;  here they are, over their heads in a weedy field that they will devour in a week. 

For now, I hope the only Webster I need is Noah (a school teacher in Goshen in 1782) who defined whitlow for me when I first read The Devil and Daniel Webster  by Stephen Vincent Benét.

*There was a man named Jabez Stone, lived at Cross Corners, New Hampshire. He wasn't a bad man to start with, but he was an unluckyman. If he planted corn, he got borers; if he planted potatoes, he got blight. He had good enough land, but it didn't prosper him; he had a decent wife and children, but the more children he had, the less there was to feed them. If stones cropped up in his neighbor's field, boulders boiled up in his; if he had a horse with the spavins, he'd trade it for one with the staggers and give something extra. There's some folks bound to be like that, apparently. But one day Jabez Stone got sick of the whole business. He'd been plowing that morning and he'd just broke the plowshare on a rock that he could have sworn hadn't been there yesterday. And, as he stood looking at the plowshare, the off horse began to cough-that ropy kind of cough that means sickness and horse doctors. There were two children down with the measles, his wife was ailing, and he had a whitlow on his thumb. It was about the last straw for Jabez Stone. 
From The Devil and Daniel Webster