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Tricking the Sheep
By Erin Mallory

The sun beats down on the steps of the front porch. I have been tracking its progress by watching the shadow as it creeps up the stairs towards where I sit. The long grass rustles out in the field, and I can hear a cricket chirping under the porch. In my head, the chirps repeat a word over and over again. Dead, dead, dead. The grass is dead. My mother is dead. I feel dead. I wish the cricket were dead. Momma has been gone for almost two weeks. Right after the funeral a few days ago, Daddy and I got in the car and drove for a day straight until we got to my grandparents' house out here in the middle of nowhere. The Daddy left. He didn't tell me where he went. Grandma and Grandpa won't tell me either. The chirping in my head changes to gone. Gone, gone, gone.

The screen door behind me screeches as Grandma steps out onto the porch. She walks around me and leans on the railing, pretending that she is looking for Grandpa out in the fields. I know that she only came out here to check on me. For the past few days, Grandma and Grandpa have tried to keep me from being by myself. I don't know what they think I am going to do, but they've tried to be sneaky about it. Grandma turns to me now.

"Do you want to help me bake a pie for tonight?" I don't bake. She sighs and goes quiet for a few minutes. I can still hear that cricket. Gone. Gone. Gone.

"Wonder when you grandfather is going to get back?" she says. I shrug my shoulders. I don't know and I don't care. "Why don't you go down to the barn and wait?" she asks. "I think he has some chores planned for you today."

I let out a long breath and slowly stand up. The cricket goes silent. Grandma waits until I take a few steps toward the barn before she goes back inside. I amble over to the barn and slip inside. It's dark and cool. My eyes take a minute to adjust. My nose takes longer. When I can finally see, I can make out two cows, an old horse, and some cats lazing about. There's a door open a crack towards the end of the row, and I can see some light shining through. I head back there and open the door wider. The light is coming from an open door on the other side of the room I have walked into. There is also a huge pen full of sheep in the middle of the open space. I peer over the edge at the sheep.

Most of them seem to be adults, but I can also spot a few lambs. A couple of them are playing together, jumping around and head-butting. One of them is over against the wall. He looks scrawny and underfed; I can almost count his ribs. He seems to be leaning against the wall instead of standing on his own. The other sheep are ignoring him.

"Hey." I jump about two feet in the air. Grandpa has slipped inside through the open door, and I didn't notice. He walks to the pen and climbs inside. He's carrying a huge package in his arms, and he is having a hard time keeping the sheep away from it. One grabs the wrapping with its teeth and rips it.

"Get out of there, varmint!" Grandpa pushes the sheep away. I feel a smile creeping up on my face, which I quickly kill. I'm not supposed to be having a good time. Grandpa finally makes it to the other side of the pen and grabs the lamb that I was watching before. The poor thing tries to make a run for it, but it's so weak that it almost falls over. Grandpa steadies it and starts messing with the package. Without looking at me he says, "Lost its mother." I finish the unsaid ending in my head. "Like you."

Grandpa finally gets the package open, and I can see what it is. A sheepskin. He drops the wrapper and bends over the lamb. When he steps away, I can see that he has somehow attached the skin to the lamb, almost like a cape. He climbs back over the sheep, who are now trying to eat the wrapping, and comes over to me.

"Why did you do that?" I ask.

"One of the mothers lost a baby. That's the skin from it." I stare at him, and he continues. "The mother will think that that little lamb is her baby, and she'll raise him as her own." I'm still confused.

"Won't the lamb get hot wearing that skin all the time?"

He chuckles. "No, we'll cut a little bit off at a time, so that eventually he won't be wearing it at all, and the mother will still think that he's hers."

"So you trick the sheep?" I ask after a few minutes. He lets out a huge guffaw, and I jump. "What?" I ask self-consciously.

"Nothing. That's a good way to explain it, that's all. Tricking the sheep." He laughs again and shakes his head. I let out a chuckle, then catch myself. He stares at me again.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing," I say. "It's been a long time since I laughed, that's all." He takes a long hard look at me, then nods like that makes sense. Sometimes I forget that he has lost his daughter too. He takes my little white hand in his big brown one and we walk back to the house together. I can smell the pie that Grandma is baking, and hear the cricket chirping, and I think Maybe it won't be so bad here. After all, if Grandpa and Grandma can trick a few sheep, it's possible that they might, just might, trick me.

"Tricking the Sheep" By Erin Mallory | StoryMakers 2012 | Rocky Mountain PBS
StoryMakers 2012

2012 StoryMakers Winners and Finalists

The 2012 Winners and Finalists are:

6th Grade
1st - Christian Olsen, "Without A Home" - Littleton, Goddard Middle School
2nd - Lydia MacRavey, "Little Bear's Arrow" - Centennial, Home Schooled
3rd - Elizabeth Blackmun, "Lady of the Lake" - Denver, Denver School of the Arts

Finalists
Chloe Applegate, "Rainin's River" - Denver, Denver School of the Arts
Ella Beringer, "The Chase" - Castle Rock, Soaring Hawk
Ashlyn Kofford, "The Life Necklace" - Longmont, Westview Middle School
Drew Sims, "A Little Help" - La Junta, La Junta Intermediate School
William Underhill, "Bernard" - Denver, Denver School of the Arts


7th Grade
1st - Annie Lell, "Blue Moon" - Arvada, Oberon Middle School
2nd - Mia Nelson, "Deaf Prayers"
 - Denver, Denver School of the Arts
3rd - Jake Daniel, "Through the Eyes of a Golf Ball"
 - Grand Junction, Holy Family Catholic School

Finalists

Nash Marez, "Adventure to Milkdud" - Grand Junction, Holy Family Catholic School 
Gillian Palazzini, 
"Through the Eyes of the Insane" - Merino, Home Schooled 
Clarice Reiner, 
"The Song of a Second" - Arvada, Oberon Middle School 
Britney Sarazen, "
Bullied to Bully" - Fort Lupton, Quest Academy 
Sydney Taylor,
 "Xanthe Soto, Girl Genius: Wind Power" - Denver, Homeschooled


8th Grade
1st - Erin Mallory, "Tricking the Sheep" - Windsor, Saint Joseph's Catholic School
2nd - McKinley Mueller, "Seven Days 'Til Heaven" - Ridgway, Ridgway Secondary School
3rd - Sydney Lewark, "Flying" - Denver, Denver Waldorf School

Finalists
Kinsey Brashears, "Elena Smith" - Fort Morgan, Fort Morgan Middle School
Torryn Elliot
, "The Adventures of Cedric" - Granby, East Grand Middle School
Abigail Weeks
, "Simplicity" - Centennial, West Middle School
Claire Wineman
, "The Conversion" - Denver, Denver School of the Arts
Margaux Woellner
, "The Maligned Hedgehog" - Englewood, West Middle School


Parent Testimonial

"I wanted to thank you for the Rocky Mountain PBS StoryMakers program. My daughter took part in the competition and was a runner up for the 8th grade group. The whole process was so thrilling for her to be part of. When we were at the studio for the celebration in January, she told us she felt like a movie star. She loved learning to record her story and download illustrations, but most of all I think she loved the fact that so many people were involved in the whole process, and that most were involved through volunteering. 

She was so inspired... Our children need to feel important in order to succeed, and every small step counts. This support needs to be more than just parents and teachers. When our children see other adults and important people involved in their futures, it paints a bigger picture for them. Thank you for painting part of this bigger picture." 


-The Bretts, Eaton, Co.


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Thanks to everyone submitting a story and special thanks to our major sponsor, CenturyLink.

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