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Before I went off to train for ministry, I used to live in an old house in Oamaru with an acre and a half of land. I had the usual garden and lawn, but I also had about an acre and a quarter of pretty rough hillside that was planted in a variety of trees and grass. The best way I found to keep the grass down and the leaves cleaned up was to have a few sheep.

When I first moved there I had no sheep and I’d never had sheep, but one of my neighbours had too many; so off I went to her house and offered to buy three. I thought I was "home and hosed" as I walked these sheep over to my place.

These sheep were easy to control; actually these sheep were starving. I carried one lamb under each arm and the old ewe that I’d brought. On seeing some grass they made a bit of a bolt for my place and straight through the gate. Yep, shepherding was a breeze and I didn’t even need a dog.

My adventure with sheep had begun. My breed of sheep, as it turned out, were motley, cross breed, half baked, deviously cunning animals, and it was only the fact that two of them were ewes and were useful for producing more sheep that they didn’t become roasts and chops along with the wether.

Once these sheep had put on condition and gained what was a normal weight and a little energy, they were off; at the slightest chance they would push through a gap under the fences, open gates and attempt to sneak out while I was sneaking into their paddock. I had procured the Houdinis of the sheep world.

Often their previous owner would phone me and inform me that they had returned. Sometimes they disappeared like a vapor only to be found hiding in flax bushes (a bit Jacobean like) at the sewage pumping station a kilometer away down the hill. Each time I would trudge off possibly with one or both sons in tow on the great sheep roundup. I always blocked the holes closed the gates and returned the errant sheep to the paddock, bless their little wooly hearts and their empty heads.

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