“Toe-clippers,” he replied, “and I am going to examine the sheeps’ hoofs. You know we’ve had warm, moist weather all through July, and I’m afraid of foot-rot. Then they’re sometimes troubled with overgrown hoofs.”
“What do you do if they get foot-rot?” asked Miss Laura.
“I’ve various cures,” he said. “Paring and clipping, and dipping the hoof in blue vitriol and vinegar, or rubbing it on, as the English shepherds do. It destroys the diseased part, but doesn’t affect the sound.”
“Do sheep have many diseases?” asked Miss Laura. “I know one of them myself—that is the scab.”
“A nasty thing that,” said Mr. Wood, vigorously; “and a man that builds up a flock from a stockyard often finds it out to his cost.”
“What is it like?” asked Miss Laura.
“The sheep get scabby from a microbe under the skin, which causes them to itch fearfully, and they lose their wool.”
“And can’t it be cured?”
“Oh, yes! with time and attention. There are different remedies. I believe petroleum is the best.”
By this time we had got to a wide gate that opened into the pasture. As Mr. Wood let Miss Laura go through and then closed it behind her, he said, “You are looking at that gate. You want to know why it is so long, don’t you?”
“Yes, uncle,” she said; “but I can’t bear to ask so many questions.”
“Ask as many as you like,” he said, good-naturedly. “I don’t mind answering them. Have you ever seen sheep pass through a gate or door?”
“Oh, yes, often.”
“And how do they act?”
“Oh, so silly, uncle. They hang back, and one waits for another; and, finally, they all try to go at once.”
“Precisely; when one goes they all want to go, if it was to jump into a bottomless pit. Many sheep are injured by overcrowding, so I have my gates and doors very wide. Now, let us call them up.” There wasn’t one in sight, but when Mr. Wood lifted up his voice and cried: “Ca nan, nan, nan!” black faces began to peer out from among the bushes; and little black legs, carrying white bodies, came hurrying up the stony paths from the cooler parts of the pasture. Oh, how glad they were to get the salt! Mr. Wood let Miss Laura spread it on some flat rocks, then they sat down on a log under a tree and watched them eating it and licking the rocks when it was all gone. Miss Laura sat fanning herself with her hat and smiling at them. “You funny, woolly things,” she said; “You’re not so stupid as some people think you are. Lie still, Joe. If you show yourself, they may run away.”
I crouched behind the log, and only lifted my head occasionally to see what the sheep were doing. Some of them went back into the woods, for it was very hot in this bare part of the pasture, but the most of them would not leave Mr. Wood, and stood staring at him. “That’s a fine sheep, isn’t it?” said Miss Laura, pointing to one with the blackest face, and the blackest legs, and largest body of those near us.