On a regular basis, I visit the NH State Archives and read through the old town records for Loudon. I'm working on a Loudon Town History book and these resources are vital to my research. At my last visit, I enjoyed reading through a book simply titled "Strays". This book contained notices from the 1860's -1870's of stray animals. Each notice included where it was found, a description of the animal and an estimation of its age. Then the closing always read as follows: "The owner is requested to prove property, pay charges, and take the animal or animals away. "
The notice in the image above caught my eye since it was posted by Larry's great grandfather, Daniel L. Moore on June 12, 1874. The light bay mare was running in the road for several days and then decided to come into Daniel's barn. I imagine it's the same barn we use today. There isn't a follow up notice to indicate if Daniel kept the horse or released it back to its owner. But just reading this book of stray notices got me thinking about the difference between then and now.
Back in history, town residents elected pound keepers and fence viewers to keep animals from running at large. Evidently residents who lost animals must have known that they should check the book of strays to figure out where there animal might have gone. That is quite different from today. As my son Brad mentioned, "All the neighbors have our cell phone numbers and they know to call us if the sheep are out." Fortunately we've been using some reliable solar fence chargers and sound netting, but every now and then things don't go according to plan. If it's 10:00 pm and the cell phone rings, we know the sheep are out somewhere. Generally it can only be one of two places so that narrows down who might be calling. We're not very enthusiastic about putting sheep back in by moonlight and flashlight. It happened just once last summer. Listening to owls call to each other across the pasture was the only good part about this late night round-up.
After each sheep at-large incident, it's important to follow up with nearby landowners to resolve any problems the sheep might have caused while "on the lam". During the evening event I previously described no trouble was reported. But it's not always the case. A few years back, our sheep seemed to be fascinated with those garden gazing balls. They jostled one lovely iridescent orb causing it to tumble from its pedestal and break. Sheep are also quite interested in potted sunflowers. A table of the sunny blooms was upended on another walkabout the neighborhood. Fortunately, there aren't too many mishaps to mention. Mostly if they get out its around the farm. They do love broccoli and spinach. If they're at-large, they'll find it.
I do remember one mild fall, when the sheep were still on pasture until mid-November. We got a call that the sheep were out, but we couldn't find them immediately. My son and I found them huddled up together at the steps of the Church in our neighborhood. Even though it was getting dark due to short days and the pens back in the barn were quite a walk away, I had to smile. I imagined the sheep heard there were auditions for a live Nativity scene and they wanted to try out for the part. I remember at the time, Jeff had the good idea to walk them up to a nearby fenced enclosure for the night. The next morning, we moved them home to spend the upcoming winter months in the barn.
This year, in early November, all the sheep and cattle were moved back to the barns for the winter. Instead of foraging on pasture, they eat the dry hay and baleage we deliver to their feed bunks. When snow is in the forecast and the winds surge above 10 mph, we're glad they're tucked in the barn. For those of you with animals, we hope your hay mows are full and your barns are sturdy shelters. Above all from our family to yours, we wish you peace and joy at Christmas. We wish you a prosperous, healthy, and Happy New Year in 2022.