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October 26, 1940 - Image 1

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1940-10-26

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University Of Michigan Literary Magazine




ILLY.K A-BABBY. by Charles Miller

ESPITE the fact that he was a
trcuble maker, despite the fact
that he had few friends and
many enemies despite his bellig-
erent appearance, despite his immoral
attitude towards life, despite his rebel-
liousness, ahd even despite his chronic
destructiveness, Billy Kababby was one
of the best rams Mr. Berndorf had ever
owned. His value was largely in his abil-
ity to sire good lambs. His appetite for
ewes never failed either Billy himself or
the flock of forty-odd sheep that was
Berndorf's pride as well as his peeve.
Among the sheep, Billy was respected for
the dangerous curl of his stubby horns
and for his unusual weight. His grey-
black form, all of -one hundred and
twenty pounds of egotistical mutton
muscle, wedged its undisrupted oy
through the flock. The power of his butt
was a legend on the Berndorf farm. Billy
was a ram with whom it was good to be
on the best of terms.
At the feed trough on snowy winter
evenings he would sway his great bulk
from side to side, digging ahold of the
frozen ground with his hooves, munch-
ing oats with more desperation than
delicacy, swinging from side to side and
excluding at least three bleating ewes
from their shares. After eating he would
stagger away, joining and then dominat-
ing the jagged unharmonizing flock in
their baa-as-ing for extra oats, a sheep-
ish demand that was never granted.
Billy, though he had to let his pelt out
another notch after the third share,
was still hungry.
He butted the weathered boards of
the long gate by the feed trough and
then he turned and lowered his head at
one of the young rams of the flock. With
a battering rush he spilled the astonish-
ed young ram; turning, he met the ad-
miring glance of a young ewe who had
been casting sheep's eyes at him for
several days. He drove her into a corner
where he soon relieved himself of the
challenge that she had made him. He re-
turned and languidly rammed the gate
a few times, gazed towards the barn and
its fabulous bins full of oats, and finally
he settled on his belly for an evening
rest. He looked out at his flock and at
his sheep-yard world from under a curly
mat of wool that almost covered his
beady, greedy eyes. Billy was a rebel.
Not only did the flock fear and re-
spect him, but Berndorf and the hired
men were always at war with him. It
was a jealous game to see which of them
could get the most defeats on the other.
Billy, in the four years of his prime,
was an all-county fence jumper. His
rotund wooliness could go vaulting over
almost any sag in the fence below the
five foot mark. Since the flock had a
good grassy eighteen acres on which to
graze, it was only Billy's talent for trea-
son that caused him to lead his obed-
ient followers into other fields. At night
they were usually closed in their sheep
yard, which was across the road from
the barn; its high fence, in addition to
the bundles of last autumn's corn stalks,
as dry and crisp as brown wrapping
paper, were enough to keep them in.
In the middle of the afternoon Billy
Kababby would tempt his gullible-co-
horts into trouble. At the far end of
their field was a strip of fence that
could be leapt over in privacy; it was
hidden from the house by the arch of
the hill. The field that it fenced in was
no better than their own; but the ad-

vantage of doing the wrong thing was
not to be denied. Only a dozen of the
entire flock could follow Billy over the
fence, even with a strong wind behind
their rumps; yet they all gave it a try.
The result was lame sheep, wire-slashed
sheep, or, not too often. sheep caught
hanging in the wires to flounder into
Nothing made Mr. Berndorf more
angry than to have his flock hurt
through the caprices of Billy Kababby,
despite his awareness of that ram's good
points. After a fence-tragedy, Berndorf
would violently swear that he would give
up sheep raising. Or maybe he'd use

So it was that for the rest of this par-
ticular winter Billy was merely the ram
of the flock and not the devil of the
eighteen. Besides there were other mat-
ters with which a good ram could en-
tertain himself. Of the twenty-eight ac-
cessible females in the flock not count-
ing young lambkins who would -not be
ready for that kind of entertainment
for a year at least, there were eighteen
ewes that no ram would turn his back
upon in any pasture. And there were, of
these eighteen, six comely virgin ewes
that were just about ripe for the loss of
their status. He rolled his eyes in love'4
fatigue Billy Kababby was a roue.

representative of the race of man, Carl
leaped down, picked up a piece of heavy
gate-board and went to the attack. Mr.
Berndorf was just coming out of the
barn and, hearing the vocal evidence of
battle, he hurried to the sheep yard.
Carl had just given the embattled Ka-
babby a good swat on the end of the
nose and then slipped past his dazed
frontal defenses to jump on his back.
"Get off'n that ram," bellowed ,Papa
Berndorf. "Whut d'ya wanta do, break
his back?"
"Well, he threw Jimmy right off, un
he would've stomped all over Jimmy if
I hadn't a took after him ..."
"Jimmy had no business to get on
Kababby-and you ain't either. If I
catch either one of you on that ram
another time, I'll give ya both something
to squall about."
That was the manifesto. Billy heard
it with his own black leather ears, heard
it along with the pain in his nose and
the indignity of their mis-use of him.
He didn't forget it. Whenever the boys
ventured into his yard, he disdainfully
came to the edge of the flock and pre-
tended that he was going to make a
run at them. He had them guessing all
that winter.
The spring that year came quickly.
The grass was thick and juicy, pushing
its pale green spears up through the
soggy brown wispiness of last year's
grass. The lambs had been leaping into
the air all day, as if the new warmth of
the moist Michigan air was making
them bounce off the earth, and the ewes
were busy filling the last winter-dry
corner of their bellies with wet new
Billy was nibbling along near the road
fence. A great orange sunset was widely
smoldering in the west. The tips of
grass playfully looked out at his feast-
bleary eyes, just peeped out above the
soggy brown mat of old grass and weeds.
There were great juicy sprouts of hardy
weeds under some of the thickest parts
of the matted weed-straw. Billy had
been lucky in finding them all day long.
He was half gorged and half drunk with
their watery fourth-month flavor, their
crisply bitter newness. He could hear
his great belly gurgle with the gas and
the green fluid that swoggled about in-
side of him. He smugly and audibly let
loose some gas and bent his nose to the
Suddenly he lifted his head. The men
were coming down the road in the wa-
gon. Along, the slope the rest of the
flock raised their heads and watched
the wooden-wheeled wagon being pulled
over the gravel by the evening-patient
horses. Berndorf was standing in the
wagon bed behind the spring seat as
Brownie, the hired man, drove the team.
"Just look at them ewes," Berndorf
was saying; "I've hardly ever seen such
a good coat of wool on 'em. Un the price
is purty good this spring. 'Pears like
we're gettin' a bit of luck fer a change."
He stared carefully at them as he
hauled a plug of tobacco from his over-
all pocket. "Have ya got that sheep dip
all cleaned out un set to go fer in the
"Yup, I have," said Brownie, turning
the team into the barnyard. "Whut
time'll th sheep-shearer git here?"
"Oh, he'll be here bright un early,"
growled Berndorf, "un he'd better do a
continued on Page Eleven


cyclone fence on the hilly eighteen. He
also mentioned the possibility of making
chops or roast mutton out of Billy's port-
ly anatomy.
It was probably these remarks, over-
heard at the feed-trough, that caused
Billy to bow his ram's goatee in serious
thought. If it was a case of life and
death, Billy knew quite readily that he
would choose to keep on living, even on
an un-exciting eighteen. He could re-
member a few weeks ago having bleat-
ed his eloquently intermittent bleats as
they cornered his favorite ewe and drag-
ged her squirming body, the same body
he had so ardently loved, into the barn;
and then he had heard a gurgly end to
her earthly bleats, and in a moment he
could smell her warm blood on the clean
November air. That was no way to die,
and Billy knew it.

The young Bernddrf boys were not
afraid of Billy. They would get him into
a corner, seize onto the grey wool of his
sturdy neck, throw a leg over his en-
raged back, and ride him, or try to ride
him. He would throw eight-year-old
Jimmy almost immediately, kicking his
hind legs as high as he was able and
shaking his keg-shaped body in anger;
and then he would ponderously trot
away, swaying his head from side to
side, attempting to rationalize the in-
Once, after an extra quick throw,
Jimmy got up and started after him.
Deep, under his leathery hide, Billy was
no coward. He lowered his head t%
charge the little fellow. Jim's older
brother, Carl, was sitting on the fence
and cheering him on; seeing that it was
likely. to be a defeat for that juvenile

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