It only took less than twenty-four hours into our Scotland bicycle adventure to form a solid opinion of sheep: they are exceedingly stupid… and dangerous.
Of course, there are opinions to the contrary. In a 2017 BBC article one Harriet Constable wrote: Sheep are actually surprisingly intelligent, with impressive memory and recognition skills. They build friendships, stick up for one another in fights, and feel sad when their friends are sent to slaughter. They are also one of the most destructive creatures on the planet.
Before the morning of June 16th I knew nothing about the woolly wonders, thinking them incredibly cute…even sweet. I mean, who doesn’t love those Serta® Mattress Sheep….or claymation sheep…..or…counting sheep to achieve a peaceful slumber.
So imagine the following scene that happened before my eyes….
Our group of nine cyclists were cycling along a lovely country road in Dumfries and Galloway. We had already had our group meeting and first route briefing, fueled by cups of tea and coffee and freshly baked, mouth-watering scones along with tiny jars of a lovely assortment of sweet jams. As we headed together for our first ride we stuck together. This particular ride would be our day-one orientation ride to work out potential kinks in our bike fitting and to orient ourselves to riding on the left. The latter naturally a critical skill to master, like…um… immediately! All of us had a moment of forgetting to look to the right and not the left when entering an intersection (as that’s where cars would be coming from).
We were all pedaling along nicely, getting into a lovely rhythm whilst oohing and awing over greener than green fields partitioned here and there by old dry stone walls (many are centuries old) as well as modern hedges and low wire fences. The stone walls were a marvel to me as there is little to no cement to hold them together. How they have managed to stand over hundreds of years through the fiercest of weather is astounding to me. A major feature of the Scottish countryside these stone walls serve as property boundary lines as well as keep livestock (cows and sheep) from roaming away.
In theory that is.
As we pedaled in a mostly leisurely fashion for this first ride, we rounded one corner to come upon farmland to our left. There were plenty of sheep, of course and for the most part they were preoccupied with eating…grazing. Some bleated in the distance and some who were closer to the rock wall looked up as we approached ….
Several woolly fellows crossed the road quite a bit ahead of our guide leader Jeff and my husband. They happened to be cycling side by side while the rest of us followed single file. They slowed their pace to allow ample space for the sheep to pass slowly, in a manner that suggested they did this every day, as if they were on their afternoon errands.
Then, in the space of a nano-second two sheep grazing on a spot of higher ground looked up, taking notice of us… and for some unfathomable reason they decided to hop the fence.
The incident unfolded before I could blink.
Together….in perfect synchronicity….the two hopped over the old stone wall and directly into the cyclist just inches in front of me. This would be Dr. G. a pulmonary critical care doctor from New Hampshire.
The sheep literally took him out.
I screamed as the sheep ran into Dr. G. causing him to crash and land with a heavy thud to the pavement. Our bike guide, Jeff, literally flew off his bike, as did I.
In that split second I honestly thought that the writing was on the wall for our fellow cyclist. Surely our next stop would be at a hospital.
Aye….you just had to be there dear reader….
But our Dr. G. was spared that afternoon! Miraculously he suffered only a broken helmet, road rash to one arm and a seriously large bruise that took several days to develop. And incredibly, not even the bike was damaged. But, even more remarkable to me was he did not quit his bicycle adventure. After we all calmed down over the ordeal he was given a new helmet and off we went finishing our first days’ ride of nearly 43 miles. Little did he know that he became my hero for the week. I was but a breath away from hanging up the bike before the adventure really began. The country has over a gazillion sheep after all; I wasn’t keen on the now real possibility of another sheep attack.
You can do this…came the whisper on a breeze. And so I did.
Yes, there is bliss when you’re scared sheep-less.
More to come, when time permits.
Enjoy a few photos (click on them for a better view).