Oct 29 2012
Forrest M. Mims III, For The Express-News / SA
A major election will soon take place. No matter who wins, this is a good time to consider some sheep science.
In 1961, William J. Lederer published a book that claimed U.S. foreign policy was manipulated by leaders who misled the citizenry. The book was a "Nation of Sheep." It was must reading when I was studying political science at Texas A&M.
I learned when I served as an intelligence officer in Vietnam that some of Lederer's concerns were correct. But after acquiring a small flock of sheep, I learned that some of the sheep deserved more respect than suggested by the title of Lederer's book.
Consider Mohawk, who was named for a prominent spike of wool between her ears. Mohawk was our flock's watchdog, or rather watch-ewe.
Mohawk watched the surroundings while the sheep munched their way through the grass and kept an eye on her. If there was an unusual movement or sound, Mohawk pawed the ground to warn the flock. When Mohawk decided it was time to move elsewhere, she was never bossy or domineering. She simply led the way, and the flock followed.
Cab was a big, power-hungry ewe with a narcissistic personality disorder. Cab wanted to lead the flock, but she wasn't nearly as bright as Mohawk. She often demonstrated this by making a complete fool of herself.
Sometimes Cab would butt the flock away from their big feed pail. She would then jam her head into the pail until it became stuck inside. While the rest of the flock watched, Cab would blindly wander about, bouncing off tree trunks and fence posts.
In spite of Cab's disagreeable nature, she and the other ewes took very seriously the raising of their lambs. One ewe even rescued her lamb after it fell into Geronimo Creek.
We had only one ram. His name was Rambeau, and nothing good can be said about him. The ewes butted him mercilessly when he was young, but, within six months, he had married all of them. That's when he began plotting to kill me.
When I entered Rambeau's territory, the ewes stopped grazing to watch as he backed up 50 feet, pawed the ground, snorted and charged. I learned to quickly stand aside and hold a sledge hammer for him to butt. He enjoyed this so much, he often made several charges.
The world might be a better place if the training of politicians, business tycoons and spiritual leaders included time on a ranch studying Sheep Science 101. Maybe they would see the wisdom in Mohawk's reasonable approach to leadership as opposed to Cab and Rambeau's power trips.
Forrest Mims, an amateur scientist whose research has appeared in leading scientific journals, was named one of the "50 Best Brains in Science" by Discover Magazine. His science is featured at www.forrestmims.org. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.