Rose was already gone, back up the hill. I ran through the snow to find her, and at first I couldn’t, but then, about 20 yards from where we had found the ewe, she was sitting over a small figure covered in snow. Ice was forming on her head.
Like a ship out at sea in a sudden fog, the farmhouse and its lights had vanished in the snow, as if all of the life in the world had been blown away.
I set down the light and picked up the lamb. It was just us.
I held the lamb in my lap, and it was then that I realized that this one was gone.
I was surprised, shaken, and numb, feeling so many things out there in that snowy pasture. Rose and I sat quietly over the dead body, this lamb that was our responsibility. Just a few minutes ago I had been asleep in bed. It was hard to get my bearings in that field, on that night.
Rose, too, I think, was uncharacteristically thrown off balance. She was not so sure about the world now. She had never seen a dead sheep before, never seen something in her charge die, nor had I. It was an awful feeling, not so much of grief, but of failure and sadness. I should have known, should have been better prepared, should have avoided this.
That night, on that hill, Rose and I did not yet know much about farms, about animals, about the nature of life. Rose, who kept a census of all things on the farm, was utterly professional and dispassionate about it that night. But it was not the same after that. Our world had changed.
I left Rose alone to sit up on the hill with the lamb for as long as she wished. Even then, I had this instinct to let Rose work things out, to see her amazing ability to process things and move forward, something I have struggled almost all of my life to learn how to do.
I came down to the barn to make sure my first lamb was healthy, which thankfully it was. A little later, I went to the rear of the barn, surprised that Rose had not come down yet to check on things.
The barn floodlight was on, and I turned the flashlight on the dark hill. There was Rose lying down next to the dead lamb, and looking down at the barn, at me.
Excerpted from The Story of Rose by Jon Katz. Copyright 2012 by Jon Katz. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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