Part of the charm of the rural landscape, at least in my neck of the woods, is the quaint and sometimes comical “architecture” of days gone by; ramshackle outbuildings, cobbled corrals, crooked and swaybacked board and batten homes with brush-choked trails to the outback latrine. In any practical sense these relics have mostly been retired from human occupancy in favor of modern homes. But animal husbandry on the small family farm is still very much a part of life here, and the animal abodes are often about as modern as the outhouse at the end of that brush choked trail. Slowly, but surely, tidy new structures made of pressure treated lumber and painted steel are replacing the more primitive, yet more interesting shelters of old.
I guess it is with that sentiment that I created “Sheep Shack”. It’s a reminder of the way things were, where a family with a few animals, a few acres of dirt, a bit of grass, and maybe some trees, might scratch out a bit of a living. Times are changed. Most of us need an income from something other than the farm. The folks like me, who people these small farms, have other skills that allow them to be here. But when it comes to the lives of their animals, it might as well be 1930. Or 1730. They might or might not have more modern digs, but their routines, their passings are pretty much unadulterated by modernity. They don’t care about high speed internet or the 2022 Dodge Ram pickup with heated seats, a backup camera and Global Positioning. They have a shack, (or not), a trough of water, or a creek, and a bit of grass. Their lives have barely changed while we humans aren’t even sure if we can keep up with what’s new in any given year, let alone a decade.
These are interesting times and I guess I appreciate that fact. I realize that there never was the “old west” in its own time. It was always the “new west” for the people that lived it, just like yesterday was today, yesterday. And for most farm animals where I live, there isn’t a new west. It’s still the “old west”, as it always has been.
Once in a while I envy the simple life that many of us imagine was somehow more authentic, or more rewarding. But I also know that simple is not necessarily easy.
“Sheep Shack” is obviously a play on rural nostalgia, poking a bit of fun at the practicality of the hobby farm, and I don’t apologize. It has been a part of my life. Something simple, yet kind of complex. Something real, but also artificial. Something familiar, but always changing, whether we like it or not.