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Tales from the Barks Side column: Tiny and King -- best friends forever

Welcome back to the bark side of life here in Ottertail, where last night's predicted winter storm passed quietly in the night and we didn't get hit here as hard as we expected.

Daylight has broken in splendiferous color, and cupid may not need his snowshoes to empty his quiver at unexpected victims (I know he has angel wings but it's hard to hover with three inches of snow on your feathers).

Happy Valentine's Day to you one and all, even if you are reading this column after the official holiday has come and gone.

The winds have died down, the sun has come out, and the dog days of winter are numbered... but there is terribly fierce weather still ahead and -- as Robert Frost so eloquently put it -- miles to go before we sleep; and promises to keep.

I promised to share a tale this week from Mel Hodnefield of Vergas, Minnesota that might tickle your imagination a wee bit. So far, we haven't discussed sheep in any of my columns. We've done just about every domestic animal -- and some not so domestic -- and here is a tale from a great guy and a former contributor of mine.


I don't know how this story fits into your format for this year's tales but I will let you decide if it belongs and if so, where. When I was about 12 years old, my dad was a sheep shearer in this area. This story begins when Dad and my older brother went to shear a large herd of sheep at the B-bar-B Ranch near Felton, Minn. When they were moving sheep from one pen to another they spotted a small and starving lamb; must have lost its mother.

The owner said my brother could take it home, so home it came. We fed her and kept her warm and we named her Tiny, as her growth had been stunted from lack of food as a baby. She never did get very big.

At this same time we had a very large male Chesapeake dog named King. You may know or not know that a dog is a natural predator of sheep. At first they just tolerated each other, mainly because we stood there and made sure no one got hurt, but soon they became best of buddies. As we had no pen for either of them, they could go anywhere in the area around our home at old town Clitherall; sometimes up to a quarter mile away, but always together. They would meet me almost every day as I got off the school bus.

As Tiny got older we had her bred, and one fine sunny day in May in our front yard she gave birth to a lamb. We named him Tim, so now we have Tiny and Tim. Now as you remember, Tiny and King had been best buddies for the best part of two years. Now King, not knowing what this little thing on the ground was all about, came to catch a smell of it. The mother's instinct of Tiny took over and to protect her lamb from a natural enemy, a dog, she butted him with all she could; knocking him for roll.

The poor dog stood 20 some feet away and tried to figure out what happened. His best friend just hit him and did not want anything to do with him. In about a week they made up, and instead of just the two of them wandering the area, it became three. The three of them always met me at the bus when I came home from school. I got off the bus many times to the tune, thanks to the other kids on the bus, of "Melvin has a little lamb."

We can see here that Tiny's instinct took over at first to protect her young, but then reasoning returned, as she knew King was a friend and not an enemy and would not hurt her lamb. Their longtime friendship prevailed in the end. They were friends for many years after, but after that we had more sheep, so Tiny was kept in a pen with the other sheep and King was not, so the situation never came up again.

Thanks, Mel, for a really good story. They say politics makes strange bedfellows? I believe that given time and lots of love, most animals can cohabitate together and not try to kill each other. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule of mine -- I just don't know what they are yet.

You can still enter the "Logic vs. Instinct" contest by writing to me at Keith Alan Ross, Richville MN 56576, e-mailing me at, or if you so choose, phoning me at 218-495-2195.

You can purchase a copy of my book, Tales From The Bark Side, at the Red Willow in Detroit Lakes at both their locations -- in the mall or down the hill on Washington Avenue at the intersection of Willow Street. It makes a great present and has large print for easy reading. That does it for this week.

Until next time...